Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reel Affirmations 2015 opens with "Those People" and "While You Weren't Looking"

The Reel Affirmations film festival for 2015 kicked off Friday evening, in the restored Tivoli Theater at the Columbia Road stop (a newly gentrified area) on the Green Line in Washington DC.  I recall the area bit from my childhood, and seeing movies at the old Trans Lux theater (which is actually a bit South) with my mother and cousin.  The Tivoli is a historic theater, built in the 20s, and it withstood the 1968 riots on 14th Street.  Nearby there used to exist the Knickerbocker, which collapse in a historic blizzard in 1928.
The most impressive (for me, at least) film of the evening was (as “Opening Night’s Men;s Film”) the “Those People” at 9 PM, by Joey Kuhn, set in the Upper East Side, with characters that could have come from “Gossip Girl”.  This is one of those scenarios where everybody is white, clean-cut, well dressed, muscular, soft-skinned but hairy at the same time, and in every way perfect according to old fantasies right out of “The Advocate”.  The whole universe is gay, and procreation is the responsibility of others connected from parallel worlds.  Actually, the protagonist Charlie (Jonathan Gordon) is adorable, just celebrating his 23rd birthday, and doing family honors at Jewish New Year in September. He paints, and is pursuing his MFA somewhere in the City.  His best friend is Sebastian (Jason Ralph), with whom he might want a relationship.  Sebastian (which is often a name for a cat) wonders if he can be a good person and take advantage of what is left of his father’s money.  The trouble is, his dad (Daniel Gerroll) is in fibbie prison for life for massive securities fraud, and the pattern reminds one of Bernie Madoff.  Sebastian visits dad in prison, and the relationship with “faggot” son is painful for dad, because Sebastian actually care about financial and personal ethics, and admits not saying anything when he first learned of dad’s illegal activity.  Dad still wants Sebastian to use secret offshore accounts to live off of, and Sebastian realizes he may have to start off with nothing in life and depend on friends, or lovers.

But Charlie also catches the eye of an “older” pianist, Tim (Haaz Sleiman). There’s a concert scene where Tim plays Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto.  “Older” means about age 40, as Tim is tall and lean and still physically compelling. The typical love triangle develops, maybe not as silly as in “Days of our Lives”. It gets heated toward the end as Charlie is tempted to move to San Francisco with Tim, when Sebastian’s greatest need surfaces. There's a wonderful scene where Charlie's mother asks him, "How did you become such a man?" as Charlie makes all of his own decisions. 

The official site is here  The film does not list a distributor yet, but this is a “larger” film and would presumably fit the portfolio of companies like IFC, Strand and Wolfe/TLA.  It carries NYC and NYState film association trademarks.

The film often uses the music of Gilbert and Sullivan in the background as a moniker for plot points.
The feature was announced by a 3-minute short “Best” (William Oldroyd) which was a kind of one-minute stand.

Earlier, the festival had opened (7 PM) with the Opening Night’s Women’s Film, “While You Weren’t Looking”, by Catherine Stewart.  The film, set in post-apartheid South Africa, around Capetown, unfolds in Robert Altman-like fashion as it conveys several (at least three) gay relationships where character from different strata of society come together. Cmillla Lilly Waldman, for all her social posturing, resents the fact that her black wife, a real estate agent, cheats on her.  A progressive professor who equates “queer” with freedom for everybody chases a boyfriend, but the most disturbing sequence involves a transgender (woman to man) from the “suburban” ghetto.  There is indirect commentary on South Africa’s tremendous crime problems.

The official site is here and is sponsored by “Out in Africa”.

The short was “The Other Woman” (Marie Ka), presents a middle-aged housewife developing a relationship with a woman while her husband is away.  The film was shot in Senegal and ends with a shot of the harbor in Dakar.


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