Quickie Queer Fest

NewFest best screen in Brooklyn’s Rose Cinema

Film festivals are fun, but often frustrating. There are so many movies to see and yet so little time to see them.

Such was the case at this year’s NewFest, one of New York’s most popular queer movie series. More than two hundred films were presented in just 11 days in June.

If you missed any of the highlights, or merely wish to view your favorites again, check out the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual “Best of NewFest.”

Most of the films in the series are documentaries about complicated and timely issues.

“Cruel & Unusual” looks at how our prison system fails its transgendered female inmates. Because they are placed with men, transgendered women are the targets of physical and sexual abuse. They are also refused hormones and psychological counseling, both of which they need to complete their transformations.

Some dykes think female-to-male transitioning is just a fad, while others think transmen are traitors to feminism. The negative and unfair ways transgendered men are perceived by lesbians are treated in “Boy I Am.” If nothing else, this film is bound to go beyond that silly Max/Moira storyline on “The L Word.”

Divergent worlds come together in “Camp Out” and “Pick Up the Mic.”

“Pick Up the Mic” director Alex Hinton introduces his audience to an obscure but emergent musical genre, queer hip-hop. And just why is it obscure? Because the hip-hop community—filled to the brim with fragile machismo—does not take kindly to queer rappers. This film features interviews and performances.

Queer Christian camp is the focus of “Camp Out,” a compelling piece of work exploring the feelings about sex and religion among the young participants. Purple-haired Scancy, for instance, is comfortable being queer, but feels stung by the way her religious community has rejected her. Thomas, on the other hand, is very devout, but uncomfortable discussing gay sexuality—his or anyone else’s.

The film’s best story is that of Tim, a frequently depressed, sarcastic, and shy gay boy brought out of his shell by his camp friends.

Religious devotion of another sort is explored in the light-hearted “For the Love of Dolly.” Dolly Parton, who more closely resembles a drag queen with each passing year, is a favorite among gay men. And it’s not just because she’s so talented. It’s also because she’s one of the few country stars who openly support queers. Remember her soundtrack contribution to “Transamerica?” This film shows us five of her most fanatical fans, including two gay men who have such a large collection of Parton memorabilia that they’re contemplating moving into their garage.

The more serious “White Shadows” tells the story of renowned hairdresser Dalee Henderson, a man who manages to stay upbeat while dealing with the many challenges AIDS has dealt him.

“MOM” features two wildly different characters, Kelly (Emily Burton), a wannabe TV reporter who’s got a huge stick up her butt, and Linda (Julie Goldman), a butch who’s as cool as a cucumber. While working together on a market research project, they get stuck in the town of Little Hope. Think of this as the queer—or queerer—version of “Laverne & Shirley.”

The two lead actors in “Rag Tag” have wonderful sexual chemistry.” While this drama about friends who become lovers has too many storylines, and at times the heavy accents are hard to understand, it’s worth seeing, since cinematic black gay couples are so rare.

The West Indian Rag (Danny Parsons) and Nigerian Tag (Damola Adelaja) lead strikingly different lives as boys. Tag’s parents care for him, while Rag’s mother is psychologically incapable of looking after her son. Rag’s father is deceased. But even though Rag has to mostly fend for himself, he does all right.

Rag and Tag’s friendship crosses a boundary and someone doesn’t like that. This person rats out Rag’s mom to social workers, knowing that they will take Rag away. Rag is soon sent to live with his grandmother.

A decade later, Rag shows up on Tag’s doorstep. That old closeness returns, and with it, something entirely new—sexual attraction. But Tag doesn’t know if he should pursue Rag: He’s worried about what other people—especially his own parents—might think. He’s confused about his sexuality. And, the movie implies, he does not believe Rag is a suitable partner, because Rag is of a lower class.

Unlike “Camp Out,” “Rag Tag” isn’t slated for any other festivals. Festival movies don’t always get released on DVD, or if they do, can be hard to find. This second chance to view “Rag Tag” may be the last.

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