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The Ultimate Guide To Film, Video and Entertainment In New York City

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New York's Shade of Lavender

 

EYES WIDE OPEN (Israel) 

After a mercilessly cold and snowy winter, spring has finally sprung in New York, with its explosion of flowers, smells and colors. Amidst the ruby reds, the dazzling yellows and the intoxicating shades of green, there is a distinct shade of lavender, as gay and lesbian films make their annual pilgrimage to the city and its environs in the run-up to the area's gay pride celebrations in June.

First out of the starting gate is the Jacob Burns Film Center, the inestimable arthouse complex located in Westchester County north of New York City. The Center is in the midst of its Out At The Movies festivalof lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films (does that leave anyone out? oh yeah, the straights). The series which runs through June 2nd is programmed by curator Basil Tsiokos, the former head of NEWFEST, the New York LGBT Film Festival, and now a programmer for hire for various film festivals and film societies.

The series kicked off on May 20 with AMERICAN PRIMITIVE, a down-to-earth drama set in 1970s Cape Cod. Director Gwen Wynne brings an understated passion to this story of the emotional fireworks that result when a widower father moves his brood of two teenage girls to Cape Cod for a fresh start. As the girls adjust to their new life and the father sets up a furniture-making business, the secret is revealed that dad's business partner is more than just a business associate. Character actors Tate Donovan and Adam Pascal bring a warm resonance and earthy sex appeal to the lead roles. The Opening Night was attended by the director who participated in a lively question and answer session following the screening moderated by Basil Tsiokos.

The rest of the program is a mix of American and international films. From Peru and Colombia comes UNDERTOW, a feverish love story about a secret affair between a fisherman and his painter lover, directed by Javier Fuentes-Leon. From France, director Francois Ozon continues his unconventional career as a film stylist with LE REFUGE, a roundelay of deep-seated emotions between a woman whose lover has committed suicide and his gay younger brother. In the Argentinian film PLAN B, director Marco Berger presents a witty concoction about a man's desperate attempt to win back the heart of his girlfriend who has discovered her true sexual longing. In EYES WIDE OPEN, a provocative Israeli film that has been a hit on the gay and lesbian circuit this year, the setting is the ultra-orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, where a forbidden love deepens between a married butcher and a troubled young student. Director Haim Tabakman takes us inside the morals and condemnations of an environment where the love that dare not speak its name cannot even utter it in a whisper.

 

Colin Firth in A SINGLE MAN

Religion also plays a role in OFF AND RUNNING a documentary by Nicole Opper that examines the travails of an African-American teen raised by adoptive Jewish lesbian parents. As the young woman searches for her biological mother, conflicts of race and religion threaten the family bond. Veteran lesbian filmmaker Cheryl Dunye brings a knowing sense of human passions to THE OWLS, a liberation tale-cum-thriller about a group of older lesbians who are bound by a terrible secret. Stories of lesbian life are also exlored in HANNAH FREE, an emotional film that traces the lifelong relationship between two elders, directed by Wendy Jo Carlton and EDIE & THEA: A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, the true story of two women who met in the closeted early 1960s and have lived to see the possibility of marriage sanctifying their relationship.

As the nation prepares to see the demise of the reviled "don't ask, don't tell" policy preventing openly gay men (and women) from servicing in the US military, the conflict of gay men to realize their full potential as human being is especially timely. In RIVER WASH OVER ME, director John G. Young offers a sensitive story of gay teenage life far away from the urban centers of tolerance and acceptability. In THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM by director Andy Blubaugh, a May/December romance between a teenager and his much older partner explores the still taboo subject of intergenerational romance. Similar angst is explored in the Oscar nominated A SINGLE MAN, fashion designer Tom Ford's debut feature which offers a showcase for actor Colin Firth in the role of a repressed teacher who must find a way to recover from the loss of his partner in a 1960s California where such relationships can only be hinted at.

For more information on these and other films in the series, visit: www.burnsfilmcenter.org. In a subsequent article, I will focus on the offerings at this year's NewFest, one of the nation's most well attended gay and lesbian film events. For a sneak peek, visit their website: www.newfest.org

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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