Saturday, March 22, 2008

London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival preview

Posters for London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; photo by Val Phoenix27 March - 10 April

Less than a week to go before the 22nd LLGFF at London's South Bank and there is much to anticipate, from Alek Keshishian's rom-com Love and Other Disasters to Angelina Maccarone's sensitive drama, Vivere.

Between these two bookends one finds an array of new queer films and material ripe for reconsideration, with films by Seidelman, Bergman and Altman given an airing.

Among the new offerings that catch the eye are: Otto, the latest from aging enfant terrible Bruce LaBruce, in which a queer zombie runs amok in Berlin; Viva, Anna Biller's feminist satire on 1970s' sexual mores; A Jihad for Love, Parvez Sharma's doc which investigates the intersection of Islam and queer identity; and Derek, Isaac Julien's doc on auteur Derek Jarman.

Experimental filmmakers Bev Zalcock and Su Friedrich get retrospectives looking at their decades-long practice, while other strands looks at Queer Dance and Lezploitation. And there's even an all-night musical programme, featuring such guilty pleasures as Can't Stop the Music, for those who don't want to go to bed.

Of the films I have seen, highlights include the closing night gala, Vivere, previously reviewed and recommended. Angelina Maccarone has built up an enviable body of work as a writer/director and it's a mystery to me why she is not as feted as Fatih Akin and other celebrated young German directors and why her work has not reached a wider audience. Having appeared at the LLGFF in 2006 with the brilliant Unveiled, she returns with three intertwined stories of women on the road from Germany to Rotterdam over an eventful Christmas.

Zero Chou won the Teddy at the 2007 Berlinale with Spider Lilies, a highly stylised depiction of online lust and troubling reality between two women in Taiwan.

Lucia Puenzo's XXY, Argentina's entry for the Academy Award, is a ponderously paced but engaging drama of intersex identity and family relations on an island off Uruguay.

The World Unseen (dir Shamim Sarif) features beautiful cinematography and smouldering drama in South Africa. Adapted from her own novel, Sarif's film looks at a growing attraction between two Asian women in 1950s South Africa. As she explained to me, it's partly based on stories her parents told her of living under apartheid and negotiating the thorny social structures. Enjoyable, although the two leads appear to be acting in two different films.

A Walk into the Sea is a very personal film by Esther Robinson exploring her uncle Danny Williams' troubled and mysterious life. A fringe member of Warhol's Factory, Williams shot several short films before he disappeared in 1966 while on a visit home. Robinson explained to me she wanted to make space for his films in her documentary, and his previously unknown footage appears for the first time, alongside sometimes conflicting interviews with survivors of the Warhol scene.

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