Gay film fest lineup is safe and sincere
What a difference a decade makes. In the last 10 years, there have been more and more so-called gay films in big festivals, and while that's a good thing, it's made a gay-festival programmer's job that much harder.
The 21st Annual Boston Gay & Lesbian Film/Video Festival begins Wednesday at the Museum of Fine Arts, and while sincerely programmed, its roster includes numerous works that would be interesting side attractions in a bigger, further-reaching event. But the 17 features and documentaries and two shorts programs are the stars for all 11 days.
Taken together, the films imply that a gay and lesbian film festival is not an artistic bazaar but a self-help workshop. Old tales have new tellers, but if you're not careful, it's easy to think it's still 1995. With a few exceptions, the films in this year's lineup focus on finding love, coming out, and staying out. These often seem like Sisyphean feats, which is often as they are in life, but what you're left longing for is artistry or an original voice to reshape or reflect life. There's little adventure, sensibility, or risk.
What Boston's festival is missing is a film with something powerful to say, a point of view to put across, ground to break, or a need to entertain without apology. Absent from the festival are films like ''Mysterious Skin," ''The Dying Gaul," ''Loggerheads," ''Happy Endings," ''Harry and Max," ''Transamerica," and ''The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," all of which in some way advance the conversation about what being gay is or can be in the movies. I don't like them all, but each is forward-thinking.
Boston's gay festival circuit might have to head back underground and find new people who can restore the danger and thrill of art to the cinema. The last thing anyone should want from a festival, any festival, is to leave flattered, to feel safe.
The following is an overview of the festival's roster, in order of play dates.
''Saving Face" The women's opening-night film is an endearingly overstaffed intergenerational romantic comedy set amid the Chinese community of Flushing, Queens. For an hour or so, writer and director Alice Wu juggles her stories with aplomb, centering most of the story on a surgeon (Michelle Krusiec), the ballerina (Lynn Chen) she falls for, and the surgeon's mother (Joan Chen), who moves into her apartment. But the usual pileup of deadlines and bad news turns the film too tidy. Still, Wu insists, commendably, that all her characters live without shame.
''Dorian Blues" Any movie that begins with its protagonist's announcement that ''the first thing you should know about me is that I'm gay" should be a cue to about-face. But Tennyson Bardwell's feature manages to wring some zip out of a banal coming-out scenario thanks to some good dialogue and better acting from his star, Michael McMillan, who appears to have gotten his arch boyishness from the same store as Topher Grace and Tobey Maguire. Continued...