Friday, March 30, 2012

LLGFF: Alarm Bells

production photo from Alice Walker: Beauty in TruthThe world premiere work-in-progress screening of Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth must have hit the audience just right. So mellow was everyone taking in the good vibes of Walker's presence on screen, accompanied by conversation between director Pratibha Parmar and programmer Naz Jamal that when a fire alarm went off during the first audience question, there was scattered laughter, applause and then a very jovial exit from the cinema. Kind of a bummer to end on, but all good things must come to an end. The seven clips screened included readings by Walker, reflective interivews with the writer and comments from the great and good, including Jewelle Gomez, Quincy Jones and her ex-husband. Parmar hopes to complete work on the doc in the autumn.

The previous evening the same director hosted a programme comprising her 1991 doc A Place of Rage, accompanied by two new shorts made for a deluxe DVD. Not having seen this film since its original release, I was curious to see how it would stand up and found that the interviews with Walker, Angela Davis and the late June Jordan still hit home, explaining their activist work and writings as black women. The two new shorts find Davis reflecting on her life and one of Jordan's poems collected into one reading.

The day started with me finally finishing my aborted viewing of Yes Or No, having wrestled with the unreliable DVD players all week. This Thai film is unexpectedly sweet and a tad twee, almost an Asian 90210, what with its bratty teens, disapproving Moms, and budding young love. Kim, a tom, and Pie, a girly girl, are thrown together as college roomies, Pie having escaped from lipstick lesbian Jane, who turns her attentions to Kim. Surely Pie, who can't stand toms, won't mind? But she does.... No points for guessing the ending, but it was surprisingly sturdy as a comedy, despite the terrible pop interludes meant to illustrate our heroines' inner turmoil.

Now if I could just manage to finish Vito... I got almost to the end before time ran out. But the first 80 minutes or so of this doc flew by. Having known of Vito Russo as the author of The Celluloid Closet (which I picked up at a used bookstore in San Francisco in 1991, and which disappeared from my collection a few years later), I wasn't aware of his history as an activist prominent in post-Stonewall NYC and a founder of GLAAD and ACT UP. The archive footage shows him to be a thoughtful critic and powerful speaker lost, like so many others, before his time to AIDS.

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