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Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival

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Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival

The 18th Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival continues Friday through Thursday, November 13 through 19, at the Village. Advance tickets can be purchased at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, between 10 am and 6 pm on weekdays, and between noon and 5 pm on Saturday; same-day tickets can be purchased at the venue box office starting a half hour before the first show of the day. Tickets are $7, with discount passes available. For more information call 773-384-5533 or the festival hot line at 312-409-4919. Commentary by Fred Camper (FC), Ted Shen (TS), Lawrence Bommer (LB), Carol Burbank (CB), Jack Helbig (JH), and Albert Williams (AW).

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13

We're Funny That Way

This video documentary was made for Canadian TV, but it offers so many insights into gay and lesbian stand-up comedians that its mainstream style is easily forgiven. David Adkin cuts between comedy bits and interviews with the performers backstage at the first queer comedy festival in Toronto. Lea DeLaria, Kate Clinton, and Scott Capurro are the brilliant headliners, and Christopher Peterson's female impersonation is good shtick and great improvisation. One of the more obvious tricks--juxtaposing a performer's tragic life story and a stand-up version of the same events--is annoying at first, but it quickly turns into a revealing look at the way comedy is created--not simply out of pain but out of politicized experience. This glitzy, funny look at the healing power of subversive laughter is entertaining, thought provoking, and inspiring. (CB) (7:00)

Spiced Sausages

Eight links of gay erotica, by Michael Lantz, Brad Robinson, Dean Slotar, Bill Westmoreland, John McCabe, Lane McCabe, Jonathan Wald, and Pierre Yves Clouin. (7:15)

Party Monster

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are clearly counting on the audience's voyeuristic fascination with gruesome murders and campy costumes to justify this flat video documentary about the short party-promoting career of club kid Michael Alig. Using obvious reenactments, photomontages, and strategically edited interview footage, it shows Alig's slide from flamboyant upstart queen of New York nightlife to heroin addict and convicted killer. His on-screen confession is as affectless as his friends' rambling reminiscences about his nightclub spectacles, and the baldly fake images of a floating box, the reimagined resting place of Alig's dismembered victim's torso, keep deflating the melodrama. This is a cul-de-sac of queer history that confuses drug-addled glitz with glamorous transgression--the video makers treat this story of shocking murder, mountains of drugs, fabulous costume parties, and public rudeness as if it were a cross between America's Most Wanted and Ripley's Believe It or Not. In the end Alig's vicious narcissism is more pitiful than scary. On the same program, Jeffrey Arsenault's Dracula's Guest, a black-and-white film that adds a gay twist to the story of Jonathan Harker's first visit to Dracula's castle on the outskirts of New York City--a gay-goth dream, with a kinder, gentler Dracula seducing the hunky Harker. There's too much New York-film-student earnestness in this sexy confection, but it's intelligent enough to suggest more than it shows, with touches of irony that neatly skewer both pornography and the vampire genre. (CB) (9:00)

Girl Dreams

Short films about lesbian fantasy, by Beverly Seckinger, Mishann Lau, Louise Wadley, Claudine Sartain, Nayla el Solh, Judith Cobb, and Laurie Schmidt. (9:15)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14

Queer Cartoons

Animated cartoons are frequently among the richest, most playful, and most daring entries in a film festival. Certainly that's the case with this collection of animated shorts by queer artists from around the world. Every style of animation imaginable is here--Claymation, computer animation, pixilation--and the array of topics and themes is dizzying. The tone of these gems varies widely, from outright comic (Corky Quakenbush's Sex Toy Story) to moody and meditative (May Trubuhovich's essay on sex and loneliness, Feline). One of the most moving pieces is Jefferey Norris's Forbidden Love, a dark portrait of urban life made entirely of images cut from books, magazines, and Superman and true-romance comic books. But for sheer visual exuberance you can't beat Lewis Klahr's Pony Glass, which uses an army of toys to tell the story of a little runaway doll lost in the evil city. (JH) (1:00)

Gay Courage: 100 Years of the Gay Movement in Germany and Beyond

Rosa von Praunheim's 92-minute video documentary begins in Germany, birthplace of the modern gay movement a century ago, and ends up in "the heart of queerdom," contemporary San Francisco. Its first half juxtaposes earnestly academic text with provocative, even outlandish imagery, as narrators describe how homosexuality flourished in classical Greece and suffered under medieval Christianity while performers act out theatrical tableaux in drag, leather, period costumes, or nothing at all. The most interesting segment focuses on Magnus Hirschfeld, the gay Jewish socialist and sexologist who in 1897 founded the world's first known gay-rights organization, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, and was later driven into exile by the Nazis. Former colleagues and patients recall Hirschfeld's era, and a concentration camp survivor warns that "fascism can come back." The film concludes with von Praunheim seeking the future of activism in San Francisco, depicted here as a patchwork of sexual special-interest groups (interviewees include two ex-Chicagoans, transvestite performance artist Joan Jett Blakk and activist Irwin Keller, seen in drag as spokesperson for the campy "Kinsey Sicks" singing group). The city by the bay makes for a great travelogue, but von Praunheim tends to confuse colorful flamboyance with radical engagement; Gay Courage finally spins out of control, the work of a dazzled tourist trying to shoot as much fabulously freaky footage as possible. (AW) (1:15)

Sex Crossings

Chris Straayer, associate professor of cinema studies at New York University, presents a lecture/screening focusing on female-to-male transsexuals. Films to be screened include Kiki and Herb: Total Eclipse of the Heart (1997) by Victoria Leacock, Pansexual Public Porn by British filmmaker Del LaGrace Volcano, P(l)ain Truth (1993) by Finnish director Ilppo Pohjola, and Boy Frankenstein (1994) by Susana Donovan. (3:00)

The Physics of Love

Lana Lin's 56-minute Almost the Cocktail Hour is a personal meditation on writer Jane Bowles: a young New York woman revisits places Bowles lived, while we hear excerpts from her work on the sound track. We learn less about Bowles than about how unknowable she is--an increasingly common theme in personal documentaries--and the black-and-white cinematography wavers between movingly evoking impenetrability and becoming self-indulgent. On the same program is Jorge Oliver's Written, a clever send-up of fundamentalist homophobes that uses the Bible to contradict them, though the images of stained-glass and candles are trite. Diane Bonder's The Physics of Love is an interesting attempt to use physics principles such as Newton's laws as metaphors for human interaction; at times suggestive, it can also seem strained. (FC) (3:15)

Roe vs. Roe

If ever there were a story to shake one's faith in political dogma, it's Roe vs. Roe (1997), a video documentary about the adult life of Norma Rae McCorvey, best known as Jane Roe of the groundbreaking abortion case Roe v. Wade. When McCorvey came out publicly as Roe she did sound bites for the feminist movement, and when she became a pro-life fundamentalist she did the same thing for antiabortionists. Video makers Meghan O'Hara, Ilene Findler, and Shannon Malone Descarfino show the complex transformation of the plainspoken, working-class McCorvey and her partner of 28 years, Connie Gonzales--and it's a remarkable journey. The interviews with McCorvey, Gonzales, and leading figures in both movements make you long to see the segments that ended up on the cutting-room floor; the video makers had such an unobtrusive but obvious intimacy with their subjects that any simplistic notions the viewer might have about abortion, religion, and love fade away. On the same program, Todd Nelson's Surviving Friendly Fire (1997). (CB) (5:00)

American Cowboy

Christian Haren, who once appeared on TV as the Marlboro Man, was a fixture in San Francisco's Castro district when Nancy Kates interviewed him for her short video Castro Cowboy (1993). Still fit and trim, he'd had AIDS for seven years and was relishing his role as a lecturer on safe sex--though he does declare, "I don't want to be admired. I want to get laid." Far more polished and informative is Kyle Henry's video American Cowboy (1997), an affectionate, angst-free portrait of a 39-year-old professional rodeo rider named Gene, who's from a small town in south Texas. Gene and his boyfriend Stephen come across as regular guys--chatting with friends, coping with Gene's broken leg and the death of his favorite horse, discussing the consequences of coming out and getting married. Their life on the circuit culminates with a gay rodeo where Gene grabs the brass ring despite having one leg in cast--a victory Henry equates with his overcoming other handicaps. American Cowboy more effectively argues for gay rights than the half-hour documentary Our Private Idaho (1997), which preaches to the converted as it chronicles a 1994 political battle in Boise, Idaho, over an anti-gay-rights initiative. This fairly pedestrian account by Clare Muller and Daniel Gallagher shows both sides debating ad nauseam with conviction, but it's also obvious which camp the video makers are in. (TS) (5:15)

Celestial Rhapsody

Based on Mark Anthony McNease's play Necropolis, Celestial Rhapsody never transcends its roots as theater. The story concerns a clinically depressed gay man who's literally haunted by the ghosts of his mother, his lover, and his lover's boorish father. McNease adapted his own play but doesn't grasp the differences between the two media, and director Sal Romeo consistently neglects the power of visual imagery, depending instead on McNease's often overwritten dialogue. Scenes that might have soared onstage--such as the protagonist's long, moving monologue near the end of the play about his lover's death--just fall flat. It doesn't help that McNease never leavens his relentless examination of a man in deep mourning with even a little comedy, or that the cast rarely succeeds in plumbing the depths of the characters--Michael Nehring is particularly flat and uninteresting as the film's protagonist. Still, the story was nicely shot by Jeff Blosser. (JH) (7:00)

Way Out There

A program of films about gays from outlying areas and the prejudice they endure. In Michael Burke's Fish Belly White a rural boy in his early teens who barely realizes that he's gay flees in terrified recognition from a cow milking; in a particularly lyrical scene the boy tentatively explores an older youth underneath a railroad bridge, the shadows and their perch above a river proving effective metaphors for the boy's precarious position. In David Kittredge's Fairy Tale, a young man brings his lover home to meet his cold, homophobic parents; taut editing and framing underline their oppressive behavior and make the man's anonymous trick in the woods seem like a necessary escape. Tony Ayres parodies bluenoses in Ms. Craddock's Complaint (1997), about an older woman expressing outrage at the excessive traffic in a public men's room near her home. On the same program: David Brown's Rural Heat (1997), Sarah Abbott's Why I Hate Bees, and Wendy Bednarz's Aurora (1997), a sensitive treatment of a teenage lesbian whose mother has Alzheimer's. (FC) (7:15)

Erotica: A Journey Into Female Sexuality

Maya Gallus's 1997 Canadian video documentary posits a broad definition of female sexuality, challenging the boundaries between erotica and pornography. Includes interviews with rap artist Ligue, porn star Candida Royale, and Pauline Reage, who wrote Story of O. (9:15)

Amos Guttman, Filmmaker

Amos Guttman died of AIDS in 1993 at age 39, and while he's no household name, his works have won a devoted posthumous following in Israel. This 1997 Israeli video documentary pays fulsome tribute to the iconoclastic director, a free spirit and enemy of political correctness who wasn't afraid to irritate Israel's 320,000 gays by depicting them as drug-taking, promiscuous backbiters. Apparently Guttman was the kind of director who wouldn't tell an actor that the main character was gay until he figured it out for himself, who divided actors into those with cheekbones and those without. He also drew heavily from his own life: in the documentary his lover shares his surprise at encountering entire phrases from their conversations in a script, while Guttman's father is shocked to see his resistance to his son's homosexuality portrayed in the film Drifting. Ran Kotzer's portrait reveals that Israel isn't as open-minded about homosexuality as its integrated military might suggest. (LB) (9:30)

Chasing Andy

At 60 minutes, this appallingly tasteless soft-core fantasy-exploitation video is an hour too long. Director Phil Tarley follows serial killer Andrew Cunanan (reimagined as a brooding, steroid-heavy muscle man) from San Diego to Chicago to Miami Beach, where he kills Gianni Versace and then himself. The video makes grotesque allusions to Cunanan's gun as a phallus and spins erotic variations on his suicide in a houseboat. Tarley concludes with a Babbitt-like pronouncement that, despite all the unpleasantness, "life goes on" in amoral, narcissistic South Beach. Tell that to the Miglin family. (LB) (11:00)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15

The Female Closet

Barbara Hammer's video The Female Closet, closer to a mainstream documentary than her earlier avant-garde work, is an engaging exploration of the complex lives of three women artists. Turn-of-the-century photographer Alice Austen was apparently lesbian--her photos alone are good evidence, and Hammer offers much more--yet the keepers of her museum want to deny it. The inspired and poetic collage artist Hannah Hšch had affairs with men and at least one woman, and young New Yorker Nicole Eisenman makes explicitly lesbian paintings. Hammer treats each with affection, even as she reveals some of the contradictions of their lives. On the same program, Joyce Warshow's Some Ground to Stand On, a video documentary about longtime activist Blue Lunden, whose multiple arrests for cross-dressing in 1950s New Orleans led her to move to New York. She seems a wonderfully strong and vivacious woman, which makes the one moment where she breaks down--recalling restaurants that threw her out decades ago for being lesbian--a truly moving testimony to the devastating power of discrimination. (FC) (1:00)

Collisions

I couldn't discern much of a thread in the films available for preview, but the longest two on this program are worth seeing. Daniel MacIvor's Permission is shot in bland TV style, but its script is heavily layered: dad won't buy his young son the doll he wants, but encounters with his inane "normal" neighbors cause him to question his own mainstream values, and soon he's proudly defending his possibly feminine son. Destroying Angel, by Wayne Salazar and Philip Hoffman, interweaves the fatal illness of Hoffman's wife with Salazar's AIDS and gay marriage. The high point of the wedding ceremony is a powerful speech from Salazar's once-abusive father, yet while the film can be affecting, it too often falls back on shots of waves coming in. Robert Little's Good Son, a story of two teens' tentative sexual encounter and sad parting, has been done many times before. On the same program, Jeff Frederick's Collision. (FC) (1:15)

The Cream Will Rise

Gigi Gaston directed this video documentary about musician Sophie B. Hawkins, focusing on how her traumatic childhood has informed her art and colored her experience with fame. (3:00)

DIVA TV

The video makers of DIVA TV--Damned Interfering Video Activists, founded in 1989 as an ACT UP affinity group--serve two different functions within the movement. The group has a scholarly mission: documenting ACT UP demonstrations. Yet recording footage of events the mainstream would rather ignore is by its very nature a revolutionary act. The person with a video camera at a demonstration is in a dangerous position, as this evening's worth of footage from ACT UP events illustrates. He or she is often singled out by the police, treated unusually roughly, or pushed to the side. At the 1992 Ashes Action, video makers were caught in a crowd of protesters who were being pushed into a metal fence, and they captured the event--the shouts, the waves of fear and defiance, the sudden movements--in a way no objective TV cameraman, sitting on a van a safe distance away, ever could have. On the same program, four short documentaries assembled by DIVA TV, all infused with an energy, excitement, power, and sense of danger rarely found in conventional documentary work. (JH) (3:15)

Love Story

This 1997 BBC video by Catrine Clay documents the wartime romance between Lilly Wurst, the model mother of four Aryan boys in World War II-era Berlin, and Felice Schraderheim, a Jewish anti-Nazi activist. While its mixing of still photos, archival footage, and contemporary interviews is familiar, the story is quite moving. When Felice finally "comes out" as a Jew, Lilly responds, "I'll love you even more," and they write their own marriage contracts. There's something uncommonly spooky about seeing Hitler and Goebbels intercut with this unusual women's story; the horror of Nazism becomes freshly personalized when we learn of Felice's arrest, an event prefigured in the video by her absence from the present-day sequences. On the same program, Alisa Lebow and Cynthia Madansky's Treyf tells the story of two Jewish lesbians in New York City; its raw handheld camera work personalizes it but ultimately becomes distracting, and the film's celebratory tone seems almost trite. (FC) (5:00)

Parting the Jaded Peach

The best entry in this anthology of homoerotica directed by Asians is also the shortest. In Seeker--a superb three-minute montage of haunting images, Chinese ideograms, and English words--Kian Kuan muses about his migration from a rigid, traditional world to a liberal, chaotic one that allows him to explore his sexual identity but sees him as an outsider. Puri, by Arif Noorani and Kevin D'Souza, is a brief sequence of sexual fantasies by young Indian men that relies on fleeting images and whispering voices to attain an almost pornographic feel. The three video installments of Wayne Yung's The Queen's Cantonese, which promotes promiscuity as well as cross-cultural understanding, are a gleeful but ultimately bewildering and cheesy amalgam of attitude and platitude. Raymond Yeung's Yellow Fever is a 20-minute sitcom about a neurotic young Chinese-American gay who falls in love with a gay neighbor from Taiwan in spite of himself; it has droll moments, but most of the jokes and sight gags are sophomoric. By the way, the anthology's title is a Chinese euphemism for a sex act. (TS) (5:15)

Leaving the Shadows Behind

K. Brent Hill's 51-minute Dancing on Pearls is a lively mix of portraits of nine gay black men in Philadelphia, each of whom displays a wonderfully individualistic personal style and expresses different cultural attitudes--one prefers to sleep with black men, another "doesn't see color." The film makes no attempt to reconcile these differences, but rather celebrates them. A parody quiz show, in which the game is to guess who's gay by the way each contestant answers a question, is intercut throughout, further stressing the undefinability of gay identity. The men's stories inevitably include encounters with homophobia, which are oddly absent from Mary Morten's Leaving the Shadows Behind, a boosterish piece on the links between the struggles for civil rights and gay rights that's set partly in Chicago. (FC) (7:00)

Desperadas

Two works about women outside the law. Cache, by Carolyn Coal, uses a splintered narrative to examine four women who rob a bank. Tinge Krishnan and Beth Kotler's 1997 British narrative Groove on a Stanley Knife concerns two women trapped in a public toilet together as they hide from violent crack dealers in northern England. (7:15)

Word Is Out

A 1978 documentary from San Francisco concerning gay life in and out of the closet. Produced by the Mariposa Film Group; to be shown on video. (9:15)

Goodnight, I Love You

Toronto-based writer and performer Daniel MacIvor excels at playing assholes, specifically the kinds of assholes who think they're not like other assholes. In his 1997 solo comic performance piece Here Lies Henry, he played a guy trying to lie his way through a supposedly honest, confessional one-man show about a recent breakup and not doing a very good job of it. In Until I Hear From You, the first film on this bill of shorts, MacIvor plays a similar asshole, Rob, a self-pitying jilted lover who begins a video diary, ostensibly to apologize to his ex-lover for his unnamed sins. But as the diary progresses, the camera captures him doing the very things--drinking too much, lying to himself, whoring after every man he meets--that drove his lover away. This hilarious portrait of a serial loser is coupled with Goodnight, I Love You, a bittersweet, partly animated short about a guy trying to deal with the fact that he and his boyfriend are trapped in a never-ending cycle of breakup and reconciliation, and Positive, a beautiful, heartbreaking portrait of two male lovers in the early days of the AIDS plague. (JH) (9:00)

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16

Homo Heights

Wildly imaginative and louder than life, this deliriously incoherent confection pits one magnificently mugging drag queen against another before running out of steam. Otherworldly gay guru Malcolm (Quentin Crisp, looking alternately bored and bewildered) is kidnapped by "the Donna," a gay Mafia queen whose "transsexual goon squad" includes three humorless Jackie O look-alikes in pink dresses and pillbox hats. The running joke is that Malcolm must be amused with movie memorabilia, like Vivien Leigh's pill container, Nancy Sinatra's boots, the toilet that Judy Garland died on, and finally a real-life Carol Channing. Director Sara Moore, a former clown, sets up more premises than she can deliver on; possibly she ran out of film, though you're likely to run out of patience first. (LB) (7:00)

PosiTiVe

Three videos about being HIV-positive. In PosiTiVe, an hour-long variety show by Eric Gupton and Patrick Scully, comedy skits are interspersed with documentary discussions among HIV-positive men about health, HIV status, and medication. A fake commercial for Toys "4" Us pushes safe-sex devices such as a urethra plug; a man asked to select his drug cocktail accepts or rejects drugs based on how much he likes the man in the ad ("I'm going to have what he's drinking"). When someone cracks an AIDS joke that falls flat, we're reminded that this is still a life-or-death struggle. Scully's short Faith, Hope and Ambivalence is heavy-handed: a man with HIV seeks solace in a church where the priest offers him a communion cup studded with AIDS drugs. Erik Deutchman's somewhat Felliniesque short Split centers on a young man whose dreams of decaying flesh and slashed clothing could be metaphors for physical self-loathing brought on by AIDS. (FC) (7:15)

K.D. Lang--Live in Sydney

Caz Gorham and Francis Dickenson directed this 1997 British concert video of the lesbian crooner's "All You Can Eat" tour. (9:00)

Lone Star Hate

Hate murder is always good copy, but telejournalists rarely take the time to examine the root causes and ramifications of the hate. The folks who put together Lone Star Hate, commissioned for British TV, took the time. Their probing, intelligent, clear-eyed video uses the 1993 gay bashing and murder of Nicolas West in Tyler, Texas, to explore the town's homophobic culture--the fundamentalist churches that teach hate, the almost religious devotion to macho pursuits such as football, the bands of young men who see gay men as easy targets and think nothing of letting robbery escalate into murder. As in the recent murder of Matthew Shepard, West's killers said they'd planned only to rough West up a bit after taking his wallet, but then "things got a little out of control." Even the local media have a role, playing up the most lurid elements of the murder and then trivializing it with a glib headline, "Guns, gays, and God." Paul Yule packs his documentary with in-depth interviews as he tells West's story, and he includes a riveting re-creation of West's last hours, shown entirely from his point of view. (JH) (9:15)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17

The Real Ellen Story

"She [made] history as the first gay lead in an American sitcom . . . a television event not measured by ratings but by one woman's desire to tell the truth." With that solemn, self-important introduction, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's slick 52-minute video recounts how comedian Ellen DeGeneres outed both herself and her on-screen alter ego, an action taken not for publicity, we're assured, but for DeGeneres's mental well-being. The video follows DeGeneres and her extended family (including lover Anne Heche) from the heavily hyped coming-out episode through the series's dwindling popularity and cancellation, suggesting that it was sabotaged by the network to placate Christian conservatives. ("You know," says right-wing activist Lou Sheldon, "if she hadn't told you she was lesbian, you'd say she could be in a Miss America contest.") DeGeneres apparently thought an industry driven by ratings would welcome her nonconformism. Whether the star's perplexed idealism is sincere or self-serving, her indignation that the show was labeled "too gay" is terribly timely in the wake of the Matthew Shepard murder. "Everybody's saying, OK, enough already," she says. "If it was enough already we wouldn't have . . . the hate crimes. It's not enough already. It's not nearly enough." (AW) (7:00)

Out Dancing

Resonance, an Australian film by Steven Cummins and Simon Hunt, tells a story of gay bashing in Sydney by choreographing the action and integrating it with the editing and camera movement. A violent attack in the opening minutes leads to self-defense classes and nude embraces; the film's intertitles are enigmatic but add to the mood. Christos Dimas's Breath presents a death fantasy with choreographed action, but in this case the music and imagery are operatic and portentous. In David Weissman's Song From an Angel, Rodney Price of the performance group Angels of Light gives a final, admirably good-natured performance from his wheelchair, singing about his own AIDS. On the same program, Black Angel, by Cynthia Wells. (FC) (7:15)

Girls by the Lake

This collection of video shorts amounts to an evening of self-indulgent work by Chicago-area lesbian video makers. The best is a mere trifle, the charming but frivolous Lisa Lisa, in which Melissa Levin records the answers women gave to the question "Have you ever dated a Lisa?" Nothing else on the bill rises to this height, though Hyunseon Park's Video-Letters Between comes close. It's a touching little piece about a two lesbians--one living in the U.S., the other in Korea--who communicate solely by video letters, and it tugs at the heart when the friend in Korea learns that her former lover now has a boyfriend in Chicago. Most of the other works are either unwatchable or intriguing but ultimately disappointing, including Riot Grrrandmas!!!: A Videozine, an unstructured anthology of short pieces that's a mere shadow of what it could have been. (JH) (9:00)

Transgendered Heroes

Jack Lewis and Thulanie Phungula's 52-minute video Sando to Samantha: Aka the Art of Dikvel is an engaging portrait of a young drag queen drafted into the South African army, where he promptly finds several "husbands." He's given an AIDS test without his knowledge, and when the positive results are made public he's forcibly isolated. Based on a true story, this docudrama mixes the reenacted story with interviews with the real Sando in the hospital, the strongest things in the piece--Sando speaks with a striking mix of singsong and stop-start rhythms, and his face frequently shows complex mixes of emotion no actor could equal. The real Sando died soon after, at 22. On the same program, Christos Dimas's short video documentary Tender, about a Greek drag queen who turns tricks, doesn't quite come off. (FC) (9:15)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18

Bocage: The Triumph of Love

Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage isn't well-known outside the Portuguese-speaking world, yet if the English translations of his poetry in the subtitles of this Brazilian film are any indication, he was a poet of rare gifts--powerful, erotic, and utterly uninhibited. Born in 1765, Bocage was very much a man of the late Enlightenment; he was passionate, revolutionary, freedom loving. Too bad he lived in a country that hadn't progressed far beyond the Inquisition. He was persecuted, imprisoned, and ultimately banished for his satiric and obscene poetry; a true pansexual, Bocage never met an orifice he didn't like. Djalma Limongi Batista's sexy, gorgeous film attempts to re-create the highly charged world of Bocage's poetry--the glorious landscapes, the luxuriously attired women, the beautiful, smooth-skinned, round-rumped boys. Structured like one long, fevered dream, the film brazenly leaps back and forth in time and in and out of Bocage's poetry. There is a thin narrative line, but it hardly matters. Having never read Bocage's poetry, I have no idea how successful or faithful Batista has been, but his film was so entrancing I didn't care. (JH) (7:00)

Sexy, Wiggy, Desserty: The Wild NY Underground World of Tom Rubnitz

A dozen short videos by Tom Rubnitz (Wigstock: The Movie), who used New York musicians, artists, and drag queens to parody pop culture. Featuring Ann Magnuson, the B-52s, and Quentin Crisp. (7:15)

Boys by the Lake

Five short videos by local artists. In Lawrence Lenza's sweetly knowing Birthday Boy a young man and his gay "auntie" (the wonderful Ted Hoerl) share a birthday celebration and exchange wry advice about lockstep fidelity versus emotional experimentation. In Jon Schluenz's Safe, gay Chicagoans express their sensible anger over gay bashings, noting the irony that gays who moved to Lakeview for safety may lose their hard-won streets to bullies and bigots. The Package That Is Dominic Hamilton-Little (1997) is Michelle Clarkin's tribute to the performance artist, theater critic, and HIV survivor. The 15-minute film offers tempting excerpts from Hamilton-Little's Fey Ways at Bailiwick Repertory and less persuasive testimonials to his irreverence; he may have been a poor man's Quentin Crisp (himself a poor man's Oscar Wilde), but you can't deny his talent for self-promotion. Cyril Zajac and Yves J. Menou's In God We Trust, in Leather We Lust documents Chuck Renslow's International Mr. Leather competition, an annual "ruggedness pageant"; the film is a crash course in the S-M lifestyle and the alleged pleasure of pain. Not for the chiffon inclined. On the same program, Peter McDowell's I Dream of Dorothy (1991). (LB) (9:00)

Lethal Lesbians

B. Ruby Rich, author of Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement, lectures on the phenomenon of killer women in the cinema, presenting clips from such films as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, The Ceremony, and Sister My Sister. (9:15)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Woubi, Cheri

Contemporary Ivory Coast society, this video documentary reveals, isn't divided into straight and gay--it's a much more complex web that includes transvestite men, or woubis, who try to attract protective husbands; bisexual men, yossis, who sometimes pair up with woubis, sometimes with women, sometimes with both; and controus, the tradition-bound Promise Keepers of the culture, who categorically decline to participate in queer culture. Made for French TV by Philip Brooks and Laurent Bocahut, this is a beautifully shot, well-edited exercise in cinema verite. Early sections threaten to descend into the aimlessness that afflicts a lot of verite documentaries--for a while Brooks and Bocahut simply interview one woubi or yossi after another. But in the second half of the video they focus on Barbara, a beautiful, charismatic woubi whose sole mission in life is to create a sense of community among Abidjan gays. It's inspirational watching her make her way through the city, talking to woubis, yossis, and controus, trying to convert them to her warm, loving, all-embracing point of view. (JH) (7:00)

World of Butch

A program of shorts celebrating varieties of butch: dykes who would like to be men, who role-play as gay men, who are happy being aggressive women, and more. The best and most original, Stephanie Wynne and Ta'shia Asanti's Train Station, tells the story of a pickup in 1950s Chicago; quirky distancing devices like self-conscious narration and silhouettes in a love scene make the film less an escapist narrative than a romantic dream. The rawness of Meredith Holch's I Got the Red is appropriate to its subjects: various women clowning raunchily for the camera on the streets of New York. The girls in Steak House and Louanne Ponder's Lez Be Friends--A Biker Bitch Hate Story don't want to be your friends at all: this is an aggressive tale of marauding dykes who kidnap and torture people. Slow-motion sequences and cartoonish intertitles lend some style to the film, which celebrates power for its own sake. Ricky Lee's Butch Girls, Reservoir Dykes and Faggot Whores and Shoshana Rosenfeld's Scent uVa Butch document a range of butch behavior, as women talk about their lives and demonstrate their dildos. On the same program, Liza Johnson's Giftwrap. (FC) (7:15)

Dakan

Though it's become a formula, the "coming-out story" can have a sharper impact when set against a different culture. Reportedly the first feature in West Africa to deal with homosexuality, this 87-minute drama by Guinean director Mohamed Camara traces the love affair between Sori, the rich son of a fishing merchant, and Manga, his poorer classmate. Their distraught parents try to prevent the men's dakan, or destiny. Manga's anguished mother tries sorcery, then Manga marries a white woman, an intriguing twist that weighs miscegenation against homosexuality. Sori fathers a squalling child to a mutely resentful wife. Finally the men discover that they need each other more than anyone else--a revelation that might have spared the wives had it come sooner. Camara shot the film on the sly; his courage in making it and the impassioned performances are reason enough to see it. To be shown on video. (LB) (9:00)

Breaking the Code

See Critic's Choice. (9:15)

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