In the just-finished election cycle, the idea of a rebel was hijacked by the not-so-rebellious Republican Party and the, um, mavericky ways of its presidential nominee and his pristinely dressed running mate. Never fear: Santa Barbara’s 17th Annual OUTrageous LGBTQ (Lesban Gay Bisexual Transsexual Queer) Film Festival is here to restore your faith that true rebels go against the grain and stand up for their beliefs.
This year’s festival-starting today, Thursday, November 6, and running through Sunday, November 9, at downtown’s Metro 4-is chock-full of shorts and feature-length films that will make you laugh, cry, and deeply examine issues of love and loss. As always, the folks at the festival have managed to snag great guests for the screenings, like Butch Jaime director/actress Michelle Ehlen (showing Friday night), and Don Bachardy, star of Chris and Don, which chronicles the very public 34-year love affair between writer Christopher Isherwood and Bachardy (showing Saturday at 4 p.m.). Sunday promises to be equal parts poignant, with 2 p.m.’s A Finished Life, and musical, with the closing-night film a heartwarming song-and-dance rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream called Were the World Mine. It’s an eclectic lineup that should appeal to a wide variety of people. If you plan on going to more than one show, you should consider purchasing a festival pass, which is a deal at $75 and also gets you into Saturday night’s reception. Visit outrageousfilmfestival.org for more information.
After a sex-and-drug binge, Mark (Chad Allen), at the urging of his brother, goes to Genesis House, an isolated ranch home that specializes in repairing sexual brokenness (read: makes gay men heterosexual). Although initially resistant, Mark eventually comes to care for the other men in the group and the couple who run the home (Stephen Lang and Judith Light of Who’s the Boss? fame, who is brilliant as the determined-to-a-fault house mother). Mark becomes close friends with Scott (Queer as Folk’s Robert Gant), which develops into a passionate affair that some of the other men learn about. One night, Scott leaves the house, requiring Mark to choose between his new love and what he sees as a restorative path away from his addictions. Save Me treats difficult subjects with the necessary delicate brushstrokes; it is neither a polemic against the ex-gay movement or religion nor an attack on the gay characters who choose to leave the home. The issues discussed and the characters develop beyond caricature and avoid black-or-white perspectives, which make the film stronger for allowing each perspective to have positive and negative attributes.
How Do I Say This? I’m Gay!
This adorable musical short finds a mother dropping off her daughter as she returns to college and her butch “roommate” greets them. Offended that their relationship wasn’t disclosed to the mom, the girlfriend leaves, which inspires the daughter to tell her mom that she’s gay. “I’m gay” never sounded so good set to music.
Starring stand-up comedian Michelle Ehlen, Butch Jaime follows the title character as she looks for work in Los Angeles. Although she reads for parts largely as “femme Jaime,” it is her reading in her everyday style that gets her cast as a man in a low-budget indie film, the gender-bending unbeknownst to her fellow cast and crew. Interwoven with a hilarious relationship between Jaime and her bisexual roommate, who is obsessed with the acting career of her pet cat, is the always-entertaining predicament of mistaken identity and the creation of outrageous lies to cover up the truth. Despite some very honest observations about sexuality and relationships, Butch Jaime stays safely within the genre of comedy, much to the delight of this reviewer.
A Finished Life: The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour
This documentary opens with two small children, one of whom explains that Uncle Gregg is going on a cross-country trip “because he’s going to die from AIDS” and wants to say goodbye to all his friends and family. After watching his partner, Jeff, die of the same disease, Gregg comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t want to “waste away,” so when his doctors want to switch his medications, Gregg decides to stop taking them and let nature take its course, saying he will end his own life when physical and emotional suffering become too much to bear. Despite the terminal nature of Gregg’s illness and the audience’s knowledge from the outset that this movie will not have a Hollywood-happy ending, A Finished Life is one of the most positive, life-affirming films out there.
Were the World Mine
A defiant high school drama teacher (Twin Peaks‘ Wendy Robie) at an all-boys high school decides that A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be the school play and demands everyone’s participation, including the rugby team, much to the chagrin of Coach Driskill (Christian Stolte). After being cast in the lead role, Timothy (Tanner Cohen)-an out student who is mocked by his fellow classmates and shunned by his close-minded community for being gay-finds and concocts a love potion in Shakespeare’s play and uses it to make people at his school and town fall in love with each other. Although a musical (and the first full-length gay musical ever shown at S.B.’s fest), writer/director Tom Gustafson keeps the film moving along at a natural pace and there are no awkward, you-guys-really-shouldn’t-be-singing-right-now moments.
To Each Her Own
Jess (Hannah Hogan) is a young woman trying to get pregnant with her high school sweetheart husband; Casey (Tracy Rae) is a young lesbian who can’t be bothered with a long-term (as in, more than a week) relationship. Sparks fly after these two go out for coffee one afternoon, and from there on out, it’s all about covering up an adulterous liaison, a study in internalized homophobia, learning what it means to truly love someone, and a girl’s first steps into being comfortable in her own skin. This film reminds viewers of the beauty and rawness of a DIY production that embraces its aesthetics, and has the ability to recall for the audience the complicated and elated feelings of first love.
Santa Barbara’s OUTrageous LGBTQ Film Festival takes place at Metro 4 Theatre (618 State St.) Thursday-Sunday, November 6-9. Visit outrageousfilmfestival.org.