Behind the scenes at FilmOutTop Highlights, Entertainment Feature Thursday, May 31st, 2012
The 14th annual FilmOut Film Festival being held at the Birch North Park Theatre, from May 30 through June 3, is the very epitome of celebrating excellence in queer cinema.
There are more than 40 features, coupled with short subjects, highlighting a truly diverse look inside our world by a multitude of different eyes and voices, courtesy of directors, writers and actors. However, prior to the curtain rising, there is a great deal of preparation that goes into making FilmOut happen, according to the organization’s festival programmer, Michael McQuiggan.
“It is definitely a labor of love,” he explained. “I am glad that we provide these films and festivals to the citizens of San Diego and beyond.”
Even if that means literally countless man-hours spent disseminating which films will hit the big screen.
“I figured at some point that I watch over 600 films a year (including short films),” McQuiggan summarized. “Our film festival receives a minimum of 300 titles per year – sometimes more. I watch every single screener that is submitted. I can usually tell within 30 minutes, if it will go on the yes, no or maybe list.”
But, McQuiggan is not a lone wolf in his endeavors, as he cited fellow FilmOut teammates Ana Pines, Kaleb James, Michael Mance, Kim Rescate and Rick Goldenstein as being “a tremendous help.”
He and co-programmer Pines are also on the hunt for “that special film that may be overlooked,” by “constantly checking out other festivals” for world, U.S., West Coast and San Diego premieres.”
Men To Kiss falls into that category and features Frank Christian Marx, who is actor, writer and producer on the comedy.
The German-born triple threat, who portrays Ernst in front of the camera, recanted that festival circuits, as a whole, have been “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” especially since it’s his first time at this particular rodeo.
“I mean for a first time filmmaker, it’s incredible what we accomplished so far and we never expected this,” he stated. “But an independent film, especially when it’s a really small film like ours doesn’t have that kind of money.
“We need good reviews, press coverage and good word of mouth and the festivals I’ve been to so far are doing a pretty good job to keep the people interested in all of their films.”
Another way to garner buzz is by having a film that’s worthy of such adoration; and Men has its inspiration drawn from films of yesteryear, and has become a festival darling.
“The snappy dialogue scenes between the two main characters are somehow inspired by all these great screwball comedies from the past, like Bringing Up Baby or What’s Up Doc?”
This past aspect, and another Hollywood-based creation, give Männer zum knutschen a definite international language that stands on its own merit.
“I was a big fan of Will and Grace and the way Sean Hayes portrayed this flamboyant character. So you can say the character of Tobias is kind of a German Jack,” Marx explained. “You don’t expect this kind of comedy in a German film. And we’re all very proud of that.”
Another example of taking pride in being all-inclusive is FilmOut’s ability to let everybody in on the fun.
Speaking of that, there will a special spotlight glare on Sordid Lives director Del Shores, who is receiving The Del Shores Tribute Screening/Career Achievement Award.
The Thursday evening event, hosted by Dixie Longate, has Shores expressing “gratitude” about the accolade.
The consummate Southern yarn spinner – second-only to frequent star Leslie Jordan –writes and directs his opus’ to all things white trash.
“I am a storyteller so if I had to pick, I guess it would be writing,” he said of which process he favors. “But nothing makes me happier than directing my own writing. The directing has become part of my writing process.”
Sordid Lives, which will be screened on his special night, is a textbook case of a little independent film that could, and does, delight audiences throughout the years.
“I think everybody can recognize a relative or two and the theme of acceptance hits hard with the gay audience and beyond,” he reflected on the movie’s appeal. “Well we sure love our big haired women, don’t we?”
There is another female-centric entry that offers up a unique take of the L set of our community’s acronym.
The opening night drama Cloudburst stars Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as an octogenarian couple, who go on a trek to be married in Canada; thanks to a jailbreak from their nursing home.
The role of Stella, a rip-roaring and foul-mouthed gal, seems like it was tailor-made for Dukakis, as it’s in great company with other performances in her feisty dames wheelhouse.
The Oscar-winning actress stars in one of the few films – aside from last year’s Beginners with Christopher Plummer – to focus on the older gay set. But she was drawn to the material for what’s at the heart of the project
“The humor and that it’s a wonderful story,” she said.
Dukakis has done a great deal to promote the LGBT lifestyle, both on television and in movies in a positive light.
She relayed that she is attracted to portraying all facets of life under the rainbow, while making her work a slice of the humanity pie.
And who can forget her turn as 28 Barbary Lane’s transgendered landlady Anna Madrigal, in the three Tales of the City miniseries.
Unfortunately, Showtime is not game to explore the remaining three books in the original series, which means there’s a possibility that Dukakis may never don her character’s signature turban and kimono ensemble again.
“I miss her terribly,” she said of that prospect.
She is hopeful that the two latter books, Michael Tolliver Lives and Mary Ann In Autumn could get the page-to-stage treatment. Dukakis has also starred in her fair share of gay adjacent works, including her Oscar-winning role as Cher’s mother in Moonstruck.
She walked away with a great impression of working with the icon.
“She was very thoughtful, considerate and kind,” she reflected.
Dukakis said that she would be game to capture cinematic magic in a bottle again, citing “that would be great,” should the opportunity arise.
Of course, there was her turn as Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias, the 1989 dramedy featuring a stellar all-female cast, including Sally Field, Julia Roberts and her onscreen nemesis, Shirley MacLaine.
One of their exchanges, in which she informs MacLaine’s Ouiser Boudreaux that “I love you more than my luggage,” became one of the movie’s most recited lines.
And 23 years later in her personal life, she offered up what she is fonder of than Samsonite.
“My children always!” Dukakis professed, calling them her proudest achievement.
Her extended Steel Magnolias family radiated the trials and tribulations of many a sibling rivalry, but she attributes the chemistry captured on celluloid, thusly.
“We knew that film depended on our working together,” she stressed.
With that sentiment, the 80-year-old actress perfectly encapsulated the mission statement of FilmOut’s endeavor to bring movies to the masses; not only with their monthly programs, but also with each year that sees its success continue to grow.
For show times and tickets, please log onto filmoutsandiego.com.
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