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Gay Film Series At The Jacob Burns Film Center

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in PHILADELPHIATom Hanks and Denzel Washington in PHILADELPHIA 

Thursday, May 15-----The timing could not be more perfect. On the same day that the California Supreme Court issued a historic reversal against the ban on gay marriage, the Jacob Burns Film Center in New York's Westchester County is launching its annual Out At The Movie series, focusing on films made by and targed to the gay and lesbian community (and those who love and admire them).

Whatever one's position on the subject of gay marriage, the civil rights of gay couples is an issue that goes beyond the legal. It is a matter of dignity and decency. It is a testament to how far the United States still needs to go in this regard that the film chosen to lead off the series, which screens this evening, was the winner for Best Documentary Short Subject in this year's Oscar race.

FREEHELD follows the legal battle of Lt. Laurel Hester, a New Jersey police officer dying of cancer, as she desperately fights to transfer her pension to her domestic partner. After spending 25 years investigating crimes and protecting the rights of victims, Hester finds herself pitted against shockingly reactionary local officials. This bracing film was directed by Cynthia Wade, who will be present at the screening for a question-and-answer session.

The film series is mainly made up of documentaries, including such Festival favorites as FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO (2007) by Daniel Karlake, which focuses on five religious Christian families— including that of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinson—who must learn to reconcile their fundamentalist religious beliefs with their love for their own gay or lesbian child; A JIHAD FOR LOVEA JIHAD FOR LOVEA JIHAD FOR LOVE (2007) by Parvez Sharma, the first documentary exploring the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality, and the risk that Muslim gay men and women take when they are public about their personal lives; BLACK, WHITE & GRAY (2007) by James Crump, an intimate look at the relationship between celebrated and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethore and his much older patron and manager Sam Wagstaff; and CHRIS AND DON (2007) by Tina Mascara and Guido Santi, which chronicles the relationship between internationally famous author Christopher Isherwood and his much younger paramour Don Bachardytwo openly and unapologetically gay men in an era before it was common to be out.

WATER LILIESWATER LILIESSeveral dramatic features are also highlighted in the series. WATER LILIES, by French director Celine Sciamma, is a hip, energetic drama of desire, competition, and sexual awakening among teenage girls over one hot and sultry summer. SATURN IN OPPOSITION is the latest film from Turkish-Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek. The film is a sensitive exploration of friendship and family in modern Italy, focusing on a 30-something hottie, his partner and their circle of gay and straight friends. BOYSTOWN by Spanish director Juan Flahn is a riotous romp about a smug Madrid real-estate agent who develops a plan to cash in on the creation of an upscale "gayborhood", until he is opposed by the existing occupants, mostly elderly grandmothers, who have no intention of leaving.

One of the highlights of the series will be a rare big screen presentation of the Oscar-winning PHILADELPHIA (1993) by director Jonathan Demme. The film was the first major Hollywood story to confront AIDS and homophobia. Tom Hanks, whose film career had mainly been in knockabout comedies, won the first of his two Oscars playing a gay lawyer who develops AIDS and is fired from his stuffy law firm. Denzel Washington is equally memorable as an initially uptight attorney who learns about friendship and courage when he takes on the controversial case. The film will be introduced by screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, whose screenplay received nominations for the Oscar, Golden Globe and Writers Guild awards.

For more information on the full series, log on to: http://www.burnsfilmcenter.com/films/0806series_outatthemovies.html

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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