Sunday, June 17, 2007

AFI SilverDocs: Shorts 3: You & Me

The AFI Silverdocs Shorts 3 Program on Sunday was called “You & Me” and dealt with LGBT situations and issues.

I Just Wanted to Be Somebody (2007, dir, Jay Rosenblatt, 10 min, 4:3) tells the story of orange juice queen Anita Bryant, who led the campaign to repeal an ordinance in Miami / Dade County Fl to protect gays and lesbians from housing and employment discrimination. Early on, she is shown draining an orange in a grove near Orlando with a bizarre contraption. The campaign is presented as downright nasty, with Jerry Falwell weighing in, and as an effort to “protect our children” and “protect the family.” Of course, what they are “protecting” is the emotional sensibility underlying the family. Bryant won the battle and lost the war, eventually her marriage, and she would declare bankruptcy twice. The film has plenty of archival footage. In 1978, Californians would be back a referendum to ban gay teachers, and the then governor Ronald Reagan actually would oppose the Briggs initiative. That would make a good subject for another documentary.

Monsieur Borges and I (2007, dir. Jasmin Gordon, 22 min) is a testimonial of university professor Jean-Pierre Bernes, platonic companion of writer Jorge Louis Borges, of Argentina, and later Switzerland and France, known for bringing ultraism to Argentine writing. Most of the wide screen short is shot in the French home, quite gaudym where Berne describes his friend’s life and his marriage, and the desire of the widow to keep certain writing secret after Borges’s death in 1986 (he went blind from glaucoma in 1955). Bernes, however, plans to publish his own biography, according to the filmmaker, which legally he may do.

Freeheld (2007, Lieutenant, dir. Cynthia Wade, 38 min, 4:3) is a “reality TV” style account of the battle in Ocean County, NJ to win domestic partner pension benefits for Stacie Andree, lesbian partner of police officer Laurel Hester, as she comes to an agonizing death (depicted quite graphically with the chemotherapy, the loss of voice and breathing tubes) from lung cancer. Six other counties in New Jersey had voted to allow county partners full domestic partner pension benefits, but Ocean County “freeholders” held out, arguing that they could not change public policy out of sympathy. Yes, they talked about “sanctity of marriage.” The abstract arguments about “family values” do seem cruel here, but the bigger picture would allow more questions to be asked. The film does maintain a rooting interest and has that definite beginning, middle and end. As a living documentary, it is very well done.

Pictures: from DC Gay Pride June 2007 (no relation to film)

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