Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
San Diego International Film Festival outs the best in LGBT films
A five-day festival of the best of what’s happening in the film world displayed a wide variety of talent in studio films, shorts, documentaries and foreign films. Held Oct. 10–14, the San Diego International Film Festival offered plenty of genres to choose from, but the LGBT movies especially made an impact on this year’s festival with gripping films that made you laugh, cry, celebrate, mourn and cringe.
Beautiful and compelling. Passionate and compassionate. “Marguerite,” a 2017 short film from Canada by Marianne Farley, tells an inspiring story about an aging woman and her relationship with her health care worker. Marguerite’s (Beatrice Picard) health is failing and she refuses to go on dialysis, preferring to live the rest of her life in peace. Although living all alone, she finds solace with Rachel (Sandra Bisson), who comes by every day to help her bathe, dress, tend to her wounds and provide company. Overhearing Rachel on a phone call from her lover, Marguerite finds out that Rachel is a lesbian. This brings up past emotions in Marguerite, and she spends her days going through an old photo album and looking at pictures of her best friend Cecile, that chronicles their lives together until Cecile’s marriage.
One day, Marguerite gets up the nerve and asks Rachel what it is like to make love to a woman. With sympathetic eyes, Rachel tells her, “It’s beautiful.” You can see the joy that this brings to Marguerite and the compassion of Rachel is undeniable. One night, as Rachel tucks Marguerite into bed, she tells Rachel that she also once loved a woman, Cecile. But things were different then and it was considered a mortal sin. Rachel, with tears in her eyes, leans over and gives Marguerite a kiss on the mouth. She immediately opens her eyes with joy in her eyes and then closes them. The film ends with Rachel crawling into bed with Marguerite and holding her as she falls to sleep, perhaps for the last time.
Interviews intercut with flashbacks of actual events in “Boy Boy Girl Girl” by Andy Kauffman. Co-written by Ross Kauffman and Addie Morfoot, the film is a dark comedy that tells the true story of a gay couple that, after four tries, is in the attempt to adopt a baby of their own. After many failed attempts, Oliver (Scott Organ) is optimistic but his husband Tom (Ajay Naidu) is quite the opposite, still holding on to the dream of having a child with his husband. This time, they find a lesbian couple sympathetic to gay adoption. Both drug addicts, Holly (Katie Holmes) is seven months along and her girlfriend Susie (Tara Summers) is abusive. Tom worries more about what they might be dealing with, while Oliver looks for every way to make the adoption happen. Holmes is perfection here playing a drug addict that wants nothing more than “to get this baby out of me.”
After some stormy confrontations and Holly and Susie’s inability to leave the drug-infested lifestyle, Tom worries more about their lifestyle and its effect on the baby. When he realizes that this really might be the adoption opportunity that works, Oliver decides to quit his job to spend the last two months with the couple 24 hours a day until the baby is born. Although Oliver questions his decision — giving up everything and knowing that the adoption could go horribly wrong — his heart leads him to follow through. His biggest question is, “Was it worth it to lose everything just to have a baby?” After seeing them with their beautiful adolescent daughter, the answer is emphatically “Yes.”
A remarkable story that chronicles the lives of three childhood friends and the beauty and obstacles they face is “Learning to Swim.” Directed by Krystal Dawkins, the short film is deeply rooted in Jamaican culture. Nordia (Rushiene Dierick), Everton (Marlon Walker), and Charlie (Nicholas Amore), experience the bonding of childhood and the unexpected course their lives take together. Nordia falls in love with Everton as a child, and he is also enamored by her presence. At a party, Everton and Nordia have sex, resulting in a pregnancy. It is then you find that Everton and Charlie are already lovers.
As adults, Nordia and Everton co-parent their daughter Gisele (Tatiana Fearon), but Nordia’s deep Christian beliefs keep her from allowing Everton the rights of his fatherhood. Love, friendship, and faith are tested as Everton wants to send Gisele to a private school, meaning she would have to move in with he and Charlie. A little at a time, they learn to swim through the prejudices, emotions and divisions to work together in raising a daughter. “Learning to Swim” earned the San Diego International Film Festival’s Best Student Film Award.
A frightfully gripping film that gives you an inside look at what the Pulse nightclub shooting was like for one person, “Masks” — written and directed by Mahaliyah Ayla O — takes you through the journey of a medical student, Saba (Mojan Nourbaksh). She is in the process of no longer being able to keep her romantic relationship with Maya (Joey Marie Urbina) a secret. As Saba goes through the internal struggles of trying to keep the truth from her family, she is also trying her best to keep her relationship going with Maya. Both are opposites, with Saba being more conservative, and Maya full of life and loving the life she lives. Saba agrees to go out with her that fateful evening to a local nightclub and they get caught in a deadly mass shooting. As enticing as this film was, there were parts that were hard to watch, made you cry, and brought a fear of what was and what could be. A scene with several cell phones ringing on a bloody nightclub floor — as people tried to reach their loved ones that might have been caught in the bloody massacre — depicted the atrocity with such detail in such a few seconds. Remarkable, but blood curdling.
In the confusion, they were separated, and not knowing the fate of Maya, Saba struggles to keep up with her and her family, still keeping the secret. While attending a family wedding the day after the shooting, she is still waiting to find out Maya’s fate, and finally uncontrollably breaks down. Her mother, Meira (Sharareh Shahbazi) is the one who is there to help and drops everything to help her find the truth.
“Wild Nights with Emily,” written and directed by Madeleine Olnek, stars Molly Shannon as Emily who shares an undeniable love with her best childhood friend Susan (Susan Ziegler). The comedy is based on the poems of Emily Dickinson that portrays her life — not as a social recluse, but as a vibrant woman full of love and passion. Being from a prominent family, the Dickinsons were on the forefront of everything in their town. In order to retain a lifetime relationship with Emily, Susan marries Emily’s cousin so that she can forever be by her side, and still be her lover. She is Emily’s muse, confidant and one of the few that continues to push her in continuing her writing.
This film brings out a story of a brave woman with her own mind — fighting the politics of the day to become published, against the odds of a male-controlled world. It’s a riveting comedy of love, sex, betrayal and more using the poetry of Dickinson and her love letters to Susan, which she wrote nearly every day. This film hooks you early on just to see what will happen next and there is no disappointment from beginning to end.
“Boy Erased,” starring Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe is about a preacher’s son that is outed to his parents, his father a minister. He is forced to go through conversion therapy or leave home. This drama is one to see and opens in select theater’s on Nov. 2.
—Albert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.