By Don Simpson | October 15, 2013
The 26th Annual Polari Film Festival will run October 16–20, 2013 in Austin, TX. Founded in 1987 (making it Austin’s oldest film festival) as the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (AGLIFF), the festival was rebranded to Polari in 2012 for its 25th Anniversary.
The theme of the 26th annual festival — “Don’t Just Sit There: Indulge. Engage. Create” — promises to offer a space of active involvement, pleasure and participation…with some dancing thrown in for good measure. Boasting a slate of just shy of 100 films produced in countries as distinct as Mexico and Cambodia, the diverse and cutting-edge programming provides a well-rounded cinematic experience for every L, G, B, T, Q and A in the audience.
Regardless of your gender and sexual orientation, there probably plenty of films on the Polari26 slate that you should see. If you are looking for some recommendations, well Polari26 just happens to be screening a few of my favorite films of 2013:
PJ Raval’s observational documentary Before You Know It immerses itself into the lives of three gay men who are navigating their golden years. These three men have wrestled with their sexual identity at different stages of their lives, now they must also face the facts of an aging life… Everyone will be able to discover their own favorite, because Raval — with the assistance of the masterful editing of Kyle Henry — does such a tremendous job at balancing the three stories. Patience is the true virtue of the editing structure, as we spend an admirable amount of time with each subject before cutting to the next. This narrative approach gives the audience more of a chance to establish emotional attachments with each of the subjects. First and foremost, Raval is able to capture extremely pivotal moments in the lives of his three subjects. (Full review of Before You Know It.)
When James Franco and Travis Mathews first announced that they were going to attempt to recreate the 40 minutes of footage in William Friedkin’s Cruising that was deemed inappropriate by the censors of the day, everyone was skeptical. Such a project could easily tank Franco’s career just like I’m Still Here was almost Joaquin Phoenix’s demise. Sure, Franco’s apparent crusade to expose United States audiences to different shades of sexuality is quite commendable, but there could also be a enormous backlash. Val Lauren — Franco’s choice to reenact the Al Pacino role — was adamantly opposed to Franco’s plan, but he opted to play along with Franco nonetheless; because, if anything, Franco had a lot more to lose. Interior. Leather Bar. begins with those initial discussions about the project — or maybe it is a scripted recreation of those discussions; but as it turns out, Interior. Leather Bar. is about the moral issues faced during the making of the film not the resulting re-creation. Clocking in at a mere 60 minutes, there is nothing simple about this film; it rapidly becomes as meta as a post modern treatise in its layering and blurring of presumed realities and re-creations. (Full review of Interior. Leather Bar..)
Andy’s (Drew Denny) father has recently died; she has enlisted Liv (Sarah Hagan) to be her co-pilot on a drive across the Southwestern United States. En route from Los Angeles to Austin, the two childhood friends stop at one picturesque location after another to scatter his ashes… As writer-director Drew Denny’s The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On explores Andy and Liv’s differing personalities, it becomes increasingly evident how they alternately feed and agitate each other… One of those anxieties is an inherent sexual tension between the two friends as they contend with gender politics and social conventions. Andy and Liv each push the boundaries of gender in their own unique ways. Neither of them are shy about co-opting male traits to take control of situations whenever necessary. The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On blurs the definitions of gender roles and sexual orientation, just as “good girl” and “bad girl” are intertwined; as I see it, Andy and Liv each exist at different points along the rainbow of sexuality, and those points may or may not be fixed. Denny purposefully showcases two female characters who are completely free from the confines of romantic relationships, specifically boyfriends; and it is not as if Andy and Liv are pining over whom they want to date, either. (Full review of The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On.)
Yen Tan’s Pit Stop reveals an Altmanesque finesse in developing so many characters equally. Adequately developing this many characters is certainly not an easy task — I have seen many more directors fail than succeed at doing this. Tan’s secret is that he views all of his characters as equals. More importantly, their personalities and personal histories are intriguing to Tan, and he passes that intrigue along to us… The various gay relationships in Pit Stop are cleverly juxtaposed with the clumsy romance of Shannon and Winston. Tan’s intimate portrayals of the relationships establish a normalcy of the gay lifestyle. When two men hook up — or fall in love — it is no stranger than the connection between a man and a woman. This is where Pit Stop truly excels, in creating a world in which everyone is portrayed as normal, independent of their sexual orientation or skin color. (Full review of Pit Stop.)
Oh, and let’s not forget the all important ticketing information.