Sunday, April 01, 2012

LLGFF: Sisters in Struggle

Still from Joe + BelleHappy April Fool's Day. There will be no pranks played in this post, which winds up my coverage of the 26th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Saturday's viewing started with a DVD of Joe + Belle, a real find and one of the highlights of the festival for me. An Israeli comic drama directed by Veronica Kedar, the film finds drug runner Joe going on the run with psychiatric patient Belle, who had broken into the former's flat in order to commit suicide. Joe's reaction to finding this stranger in her bathtub, razor in hand, is exquisitely deadpan, setting the tone for the rest of the picture. As they get deeper and deeper in trouble with the law, their relationship also deepens, setting up a most cryptic finale.

Second highlight of the day was Icelandic drama Jitters (dir Baldvin Z), which also had comic elements amid its teenaged highjinks and parental disapproval. Sensitive Gabriel has an encounter with fellow student Markus while on a school trip to Manchester. Returning home to join his group of friends, he finds himself called upon to solve all of their problems while keeping his own uncertainty at bay. What I really liked about this film is that it gave free rein to teenaged passions, especially drink and sex, while at the same time allowing the kids intelligence and sensitivity. The adults were shown to be distant or out of touch with their offspring, while trying to be authority figures, which really rang true.

And then on to the concluding programme and most problematic of the day: Mommy Is Coming + Sisterhood, two films from Berlin, both related to queer feminist porn. MIC is the latest from Cheryl Dunye, one of my favourite filmmakers since the 1990s, and is an odd mix of screwball comedy and porn, or, as I decided, screwball with the emphasis on the screw. Gender-bending, a fish out of water, and adopted identities provide the humour, while visits to a sex club provide the porn element, as well as the atrociously bad acting. Even Dunye, as the cab driver who picks up all of the characters, over-acts. Maybe it was meant to be a parody of trad porn. Anyway, that and her use of to-camera interviews proved to be quite irritating, tripping up the comedic moments time and again. Odd, really that Dunye and co-writer Sarah Schulman should choose to do porn at this time in their illustrious careers. And a very thin piece it is, too, at only 67 mins.

The companion piece, Sisterhood, directed by Marit Östberg, is a doc on her gang of collaborators who make queer feminist porn in Berlin. It references a film of hers, Share, which showed last year at the festival, but which I have not seen, making the actors' constant nods to it less than illuminating. And, quite frankly, it was a bit dull. While I admire the performers' thoughfulness on their participation in porn and what makes it compelling for them, I do not share that interest and found my attention wandering to the dog, Billie, which was in all of the group interview shots. How did it stay still so long? How did it stay awake?

So, not the best end to the festival, but a sign that many, many tastes are being catered for. Oh, and the Dyke March ending up at the BFI lent a rather surreal air to the proceedings. Emerging from a shorts programme, I wandered in a daze through the throng, wondering, "Where did all these women come from?" Spirits were high, and though the sun had long since departed, a warm glow suffused the hall.

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