Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“TRUMAN AND TENNESSEE: AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION”— Two Literary Giants

“TRUMAN AND TENNESSEE: AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION”

Two Literary Giants

Amos Lassen

Both Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams left indelible impressions on the world. They both challenged notions of American life, sexuality and gender, and both struggled with substance abuse before their deaths. They were close friends throughout their lives and they occasionally vacationed and wrote together.

Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland takes us inside the private lives and friendships of the two men in ‘Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation”. She utilizes archive footage, excerpts of the written works of both men, and their private diaries and correspondence to show us the friendship between them. Actors Zachary Quinto (Williams) and Jim Parsons (Capote) narrate the men’s words. The film draws on the many parallels between the men: their sexuality, their Southern upbringing, their vices, their subjects, and the way their private lives translate into their text. The film prefers to look at the written words of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, which are much more interesting and insightful than what we see in film adaptations. The documentary will probably send viewers to bookstores or libraries to look up and read some of the works that they wrote.It is quite clear that the directorread all of their books and plays before turning to their archives looking for original material to use in the film.

Both Parsons and Quinto, read extensively from their writings and capture not only their Southern accents but also the tenor of their voices. The result is that we feel that we have spent 90 minutes in the company of two captivating and amazing personalities.

Both authors knew at a young age that they wanted to be writers, both came from the Deep South, and both came from broken families and while this is biographical information that documentary is not a biopic.

Both writers discuss their homosexuality, both men traveled abroad extensively, occasionally crossing paths. Both visited Paul and Jane Bowles in Tangier, but at different times and we see the moments when their histories collide. The film is really about the inner workings of these men=== their weaknesses, their passions, their creative processes, and how difficult it is to be creative and to maintain it. They speak openly about addiction and depression.

“Truman & Tennessee” also includes clips from many of the films made from Williams’s plays, among them “A Streetcar Named Desire” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Williams admitted he was almost always disappointed by the film adaptations of his plays.

There are many photographs of Capote taken at his Brooklyn Heights home by David Attie. The film is almost a live reading of both writers’ diaries, except Vreeland highlights particularly poetic bits of wisdom and framing them around a uniting theme. The visuals are mostly of still photos and talk-show footage. The narrative is framed around their relationship and the film illuminates new sides of both authors.

Visually striking is the moment in the film that introduces fascinating found footage from interviews with David Frost. Vreeland and editor Bernardine Colish split the screen as Frost introduces each man. When placed side by side, it’s amazing to see Williams and Capote take the stage and sit down with similar mannerisms, and demeanors. The two men become knowable and their greatness is shadowed briefly by familiarity.

Vreeland also looks at each man’s great love: The actor Frank Merlo, Williams’ partner of 14 years, and the writer Jack Dunphy, whom Capote called “the only person I will love until the day I die.” Each man’s observations of the other in love are catty, with Williams annoyed at Capote’s hanging onto Dunphy, and Capote finding Merlo somewhat dull.

Both men had personal and professional challenges — both struggled with alcoholism, weak writing periods, loneliness, and disappointed fathers. Both visited the original infamous “Dr. Feelgood”. and a late-in-life filmed interview with Capote finds him ruminating quite profoundly on the nature of addiction, comparing recovery to remission from cancer. They also shared a deep superstitious streak, belief in the occult, and irrational phobias. Some of us know much of what we see in the film but it is great fun to be reminded of it all.

 

“THEM” An Original Docu-Series for Trans Day of Remembrance

THEM”

An Original Docu-Series for Trans Day of Remembrance

Amos Lassen

Revry, the first global LGBTQ+ TV network, debuts its newest original, Them, a docu-series focusing on the “T” in LGBTQIA+ in observance of today’s Trans Day of Remembrance 2020.  Them provides inspirational and uplifting stories from people within the trans / gender non-conforming community.

 

“The euphoria of feeling aligned in your body and your mind…” Kai Wes, actor/producer, identifies as non-binary and trans-masculine. “That is a real privilege if you’ve never experienced that discomfort. And that’s why it’s so, so important to understand that transitioning is more than just about physicality.”

 

The dynamic three episode docu-series illuminates and uplifts the colorful gender spectrum as well as the non-binary/transgender community in all the glory they represent. Appealing to outsiders, allies and non-trans members of the LGBTQIA+ alike, Themenlightens the subject because it comes from the perspective of the trans/non-binary community themselves.

 

“Much of the LGBTQ community is represented but within that, the “T” is so underrepresented.” Irish-Italian queer pop sensation FLAVIA orchestrated the docu-series on set for her latest music video, “Them”. “Trans people have the highest number of homelessness and unemployment…and people just don’t know.”

 

“Trans Day of Remembrance is such an important moment of reflection–especially in light of the present threats to the health, safety, and freedoms of trans and non-binary people,” says Revry co-founder and Chief Business Officer, Christopher J. Rodriguez, Esq., “As a diversely queer-owned and operated network, Revry is honored to share these raw true stories of the trans experience with the world to help foster understanding, acceptance, and empathy.”

Hand on your chest teach me how to respect your figure – Flavia, Them 
One in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives and more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias and discrimination. The Trevor Project also tells us that 40% of transgender adults reported have made a suicide attempt, most attempts being made before the age of 25. Knowing that the LGBTQI+ youth are struggling today in our society, what can we do about it?

 

“I think it’s important for kids to see the trans and non binary experience in the media and see it as something positive, something to look forward to.” Sara Stanger identifies as transgender and non-binary. “I do believe a lot of it has to do with how they are seeing it in the media.”

In an effort to help youth around the world feel less alone, FLAVIA sought out trans and non-binary supportive art and artists to include in the series. “I looked for art. Trans supportive art – and I couldn’t find it. Because it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s that the media doesn’t cover them enough.”

 

This uplifting three-part series was directed and edited by Basil Mironer, captured on set of FLAVIA’s music video, “Them.” The video is is a colorful, evocative number choreographed by Carlena Britch and features close to 50 individuals who all identify as trans, gender non-conforming, or non-binary.

 

FLAVIA explains, “I wrote “Them” based on a relationship I had was with someone who identified as trans-masculine and non-binary. I learned through their openness how powerful language truly is, and how impactful a word choice can be for someone. Whether it’s delineating between the use of ‘chest’ instead of ‘breasts’, or using someone’s correct pronouns, it can be the tiniest shift in our language that makes someone feel seen, validated and respected.  “Them” is intended to be inclusive of the entire trans/gender nonconforming/non-binary community. My hope was that “Them” could help uplift the voices of the T in LGBTQ+ that is so often wildly underrepresented in popular media.”

 

Them, the docu-series premieres today, November 20th, on-demand for free on Revry at watch.revry.tv.

Ask me who I’m with, I’m with them; body was a woman now a real gentleman; don’t need a label when I’m lying on your skin; ask me who I’m with, I’m with them. – FLAVIA, “Them

 

*Support from Trans Wellness Center, Trans Chorus LA, LGBTQ Center LA, SRLP (Silvia Rivera Law Project), Billboard, Freeform, Vents, Flaunt, Grimy Goods, Earmilk, Ladygunn

 

*Support from major influencers: ALOK, Mads Paige, Jacob Tobia, Zackary Drucker, Kai Wes

 

 

ABOUT REVRY

 

Watch Queer TV 24/7 with the first LGBTQ+ digital cable TV network. Revry offers free live TV channels and on-demand viewing of its global library featuring LGBTQ+ movies, shows, music, podcasts, news, and exclusive originals all in one place! Revry is currently available globally in over 250+ million households and devices and on seven OTT, mobile, and Desktop platforms. Revry can also be viewed on nine live and on-demand channels and Connected TVs including: The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, Comcast Xfinity X1, Dell, XUMO TV, Zapping TV, STIRR, TiVo+, and as the first LGBTQ+ virtual reality channel on Rad (available on PlayStation devices). The company–an inaugural member of the Goldman Sachs Black and LatinX Cohort–is headquartered in Los Angeles and led by a diverse founding team who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @revrytv, Revry.tv

 

“GHOSTS OF THE RÉPUBLIQUE”—Starting a Family

“GHOSTS OF THE RÉPUBLIQUE”

Starting a Family

Amos Lassen

“Ghosts of the République” directed by Jonathon Narducci is a documentary film that tells the story of a newlywed gay couple in France who are forced to break French law during their journey to have a child. With no support from the government, Nicolas and Aurelien turned to the U.S. to have a baby through a surrogate. Their surrogate gave birth to a healthy baby girl on October 15th, but the future of their unborn baby’s life is unknown. When confronted by France’s conservative surrogacy laws, the two men decided to use their last option by coming to Las Vegas to start a family of their own through international surrogacy. Through one family, this film shows the lengths that many gay couples go to have children and at the same time highlights the controversial surrogacy industry.

Adoption and surrogacy are outlawed in many countries. The system is complicated, unregulated, and very expensive. But for some couples, it’s their only hope. In addition to bringing their baby back to France, Nicolas and Aurelien must face the very real possibility that their baby will not be recognized as their own, or even as a citizen, when they return home. “Ghosts of the République”  brings us the story of the modern families that are being created every day around the world. We look at commercial surrogacy, the technological advancement, its regulation, and the emotional investment of “hope”. The film gained inside access to every step of the process to have a child via surrogate, from selecting an egg donor through the birth of the child to give us an exclusive look into an international surrogacy at such a crucial moment in the lives of Nicolas and Aurelien and in global history.

Thejourney began back in 2004 when the couple first met in Paris, France. They were married in France on July 5, 2014. They knew from the beginning that they wanted to start a family, but their options were limited. Today, Nicolas & Aurelien live in France with their daughter.

This film documents a critical time in history and engages provocative subject matter. Those involved are passionate, and often polarized about the topic making it difficult to present the topic. We get multiple perspectives and begin to understand the risks involved.

In theory same-sex couples in France are allowed by law to adopt children, but the reality is that no-one will facilitate that. There are militant so-called pro-family groups that make it difficult in both society and the French Parliament to make sure  that the odds are stacked against us.Surrogacy is also not a possibility since France is one of many countries who have made this illegal.  There have been no in depth study of the physiological and medical effects of surrogacy,  but there are those who espouse very negative symptoms and the danger that can be caused to both donor and child.

This does not affect Aurelien and Nicolas’s determination, and with their own families’ support and encouragement, they go to Las Vegas and the camera trails them everywhere. They decided that there should both be an egg donor and a surrogate and in this way they reasoned as it would not  actually be the surrogate’s own baby , they would be less risk of her bonding and not wanting to allow them to take the baby.

The fertility clinic and all the people involved are there to help but the cost is great.  They chose both the egg donor and surrogate an even though this strictly a business arrangement they soon develop bonds with both women.

The actual pregnancy is not smooth and the possibilities of their daughter being denied entry or even worse. It is even possible that she will be taken away from them at the airport. Because theFrench Government refuse to recognize surrogate children born abroad, they are stateless— the Ghosts of the République. Even though they realize their dream, their story is not finished.

 

“50 YEARS”— A Life Together

“50 YEARS”

A Life Together

Amos Lassen

“50 Years” is the story of award winning artist Ralph Hodgdon and writer Paul McMahon (a dancer and Marlena Dietrich’s show manager for 13 years) and their 50 plus years together. We learn about their long life together, their problems, triumphs and how they came to the decision to get married. They show that being committed to stay together is not easy, but love wins out in the end. Made up of interviews conducted over several years and at budget of under 100$, the film is fascinating.

I had never heard about Paul and Ralph before seeing this film but as soon as the film started, I y began to care about them and their stories. In their 50 years together, they were part of history, had interesting professions and were respected for their exceptional talents. We don’t hear about many couples staying together happily for that long these days. This is a beautiful love story in real life and the two men are proof that true love transcends all.

 

 

“DIRTWOMAN”— Donnie Corker, a Richmond, Virginia institution and Cult Figure in the LGBT Community

“DIRTWOMAN”

Donnie Corker, a Richmond, Virginia institution and Cult Figure in the LGBT Community

Amos Lassen

Jerry Williams’ documentary about Donnie Corker, “Dirtwoman” is a look at a man who lived his life like as a cult figure right out of a John Waters movie. I had never heard of Corker before so I had no idea what to expect from this film. It took me quite a while to understand the title but it all made sense when I learned that Corker’s mother in trying to speak about his childhood illness found it difficult to say spinal meningitis. Regardless of the issue, Corker managed to live a life that insured that he would be remembered by his home town. He was a very big and very loud drag queen with few inhibitions. He was a well-known (and well-loved) fixture of the LGBT community in central Virginia.

Donnie seemed to have always been big—as an adult he weighted 300+ pounds and he seemed to have always had a big mouth and loved to wear women’s clothing. Naturally this caused him to face problems growing up and he was thought to be mentally disabled. Others picked on and tormented him for being gay and was raped by several men. Yet he showed his strength and his defiance was to proudly walk the streets looking for sex and he would protect his neighbors by being able to defusing criminal encounters. The cops even looked to him as a guy with street smarts who kept them informed of oncoming trouble.

This film shares all of this with us by using a combination of interviews and shots of Corker on the street living as he did. We see how he was named (you’ll have to see the film), his performances when he danced and some pretty horrible episodes of his life. He hungered for fame and found it in strange places (or it found him).  His last days were not happy and his death was unpleasant but we also feel the love the filmmaker has for him.

I can’t say that I loved this film but I found it both interesting and fascinating. I just wish that some of the stories we see and hear do not seem any point. There is also something said about respecting diversity and we realize that our world is made up of all kinds of different people and we can learn to accept them all. Donnie died in 2017 and he is missed by many. He was a local legend who will not be forgotten soon.

“MADAME”— A Personal Documentary

“MADAME”

A Personal Documentary

Amos Lassen

Stephane Riethauser’s “Madame” is personal documentary in which he introduces us to his 90-year-old grandmother Caroline. The film explores the development of personal and gender identity in a patriarchal environment. 

Based on private archive footage, the film introduces us  to a strong and extravagant female figure who was the most successful businesswoman in Switzerland at a time when women stayed in the kitchen and at home and did not have the right to vote. She was independent and knew how to stand on her own in front of all the men around her. Her grandson who was raised to be the heir to the family business. He is a conservative alpha male and homophobe who suddenly comes out of the closet. Two people from the same family challenge the taboos of gender and sexuality.

Riethauser gives usan extremely honest and unflinching portrait of an aspect of his past.Caroline, the director’s grandmother (and muse) is an elderly woman who is anything but resigned. She seems to a controlled and bourgeois individual with a surprising strength of character. 

The film shows us the close and, at times, difficult relationship between the director and his grandmother who is a model of courage and determination. The direct and wholly sincere dialogue which establishes itself between these two beings, who veer between hypersensitivity and self-control, is explored through the rich family archives: short films shot in super 8 (filmed by the director’s father, but also by the filmmaker himself when we was just a small boy), footage of Riethauser and his grandmother (“Madame”) and slides and photographs of the family. 

Riethauser uses this film to give meaning to a particular aspect of his past which isn’t always linear or glorious. His current status as a director and spokesperson for the LGBT cause comes out of the suffering he has had to endure in the past. He felt obliged for a very long time to conform to a patriarchal, bourgeois version of society dominated by alpha males— a standardized version of “masculinity” which is both gruesome and ludicrous. Men, as described by the director’s father, should “have balls”, be courageous, fight for their family and their country.

Through his film, Riethauser not only paints a picture of the strong bond he shared with his grandmother but crucially, he also explores the patriarchal and bourgeois society within which genders must be interpreted and performed by being extremely careful not to upset the status quo. The young Stéphane ended up creating his own alter ego called “Riton”, a façade of pure arrogance and machismo behind which he could hide and self-annihilate. In ways such as this, the clichés surrounding gender are revealed. The director converses with the affluent, grandiose and complicated character of his grandmother, but he also voices his own inner dialogue, looking for traces of the “self” hidden beneath the hiding that he had to do as a result of a past governed by bourgeois respectability. 

Riethauser’s examination of his past and of his family is sincere and filled with humor. The power of this documentary is in the balance between intimacy and meticulousness, between the humor and the tragedy that is inherent to a reality based on appearances. He tells us at the beginning of the movie that the medium of film lets him express all those things that he was unable to say about love and sex during his childhood and adolescence. It’s his best way for taking a dispassionate and ironic look at how things used to be and gives him a liberated voice to a past that was dominated by “things unsaid”.The story of the relationship between the director and his grandmother relationship is the main crux of this documentary.

His grandmother, the matriarch of the family, was always a major influence in his life right from an early age.  She was a fiercely independent self-made woman who finally escaped the tyranny of her father who pushed her into marriage at 16 and that of her thug of a first husband.  Now 94 years old, she openly discusses her bad luck with men and with not a sign of bitterness.

The director looks back at all his personal turmoils of accepting his sexuality in a family environment where he was encouraged to be an alpha male in every sense of the world.  He uses this film to remind himself of how rough that  journey  was and  how after he finally accepts it himself, he can share the news with his family, and in particular, his grandmother.

The film is not just a cathartic journey for Riethauser, who as well as becoming a filmmaker is also a lawyer and gay activist, but also a glimpse into the remarkable relationship he shared with his grandmother. 

Riethauser’s facility with language makes us see sex roles in new ways: “a conception of women as mystical, helpless, and revered; men as controlling, aggressive and entitled, with shame and hate the fate of anyone who dares to move beyond the constructs.”

“THE TRIUMPH OF SODOM” (“El Triunfo de Sodoma”)— Underground Queer Cinema

“THE TRIUMPH OF SODOM” (“El Triunfo de Sodoma”)

Underground Queer Cinema

Amos Lassen

Goyo Anchou’s “The Triumph of Sodom” is thought-provoking underground queer cinema and a contemporary LGBTQ political work that combines social manifestos about gender, performance art and pornography.

The film begins with documenting demonstrations on the streets of Buenos Aires. From there we are taken to the Queer Club for a Spoken Word performance. If there is a plot, it is best explained by a feminist poet who explains to a horny straight guy, how he can become a feminist, a vegan and why he should be castrated to advance the world revolution.

The documentary was made in the margins of the Argentine audiovisual community (from which some of the creative team have been effectively blacklisted). It was produced according to the precepts of guerrilla film making and it is something of  a romantic torch song. Guerrilla film making in the Latin America origins of its practice is as an act of cultural resistance that uses production constraints as a starting point to reshape its very language.

Thus, marginality goes from limitation to facilitation. The result is always original, because the reality with which the production is confronted is always original. The originality of the film is part of its nature: rare and subversive. It is ajourney of consciousness that is filled with power.

“BARE”— Eleven Naked Men Dancing

“BARE”

Eleven Naked Men Dancing

Amos Lassen

The documentary “Bare” is a celebration ofthe male body in all its complexity, might, and vulnerability. It chronicles the preparations for Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits’ provocative dance piece “Anima Ardens” (Burning Soul”) which features 11 male dancers, all of whom appear completely nude for the duration of the performance. The film features men of all shapes, heights, builds, and penis sizes. The dancers bounce, jump, roll, and wiggle around the pristine white backdrop and stage.

Director Aleksandr M. Vinogradov begins with auditions bringing us a unique dynamic that transforms as the film progresses. We see Smits asking his prospective dancers if they have read the performance description in full and understand that the piece is to be done in the nude. Several dancers are visibly surprised and uncomfortable as they begin crossing their fully clothed legs as Smits makes clear that he is choosing men based on their dancing ability and the audition scenes are a challenge as the top dancers distinguish themselves through technique, form, and confidence.

 The dancers must abandon all sense of squeamishness and prudishness. The choreography directly confronts notions of masculinity and sexuality as it brings men together to create a uniquely homosocial space in which the dancers writhe on the floor or connect their bodies to create pyramids of strength. Notions of queerness and masculinity are torn away as the dance numbers have the men explore one another’s bodies, riding them of all insecurity about brushing a colleague’s genitalia in the service of art.

We see images of birth and renewal as the dancers crawl between the bodies of other dancers. Smits implores the dancers to loosen up and discover new energy as two men merge to form a birth canal through which a third dancer wiggles and emerges. The dancers scream, moan, and squat as they use their bodies to evoke the physical feat of child labor.

There are scenes of the dance troupe between excerpts of the performances that are as revealing as the dance sequences with their deconstruction of masculinity and gender norms. From the auditions to the final performance, we are present atthe ends of insecurity as some dancers take time to emerge from their shells. As the rehearsals move toward opening night, the men become looser on stage and open up with each other. 

The excerpts of “Animus Ardens” come across as a series of aimless compositions. Even the dancers complain to Smits that the piece lacks narrative coherence. The film explores the tensions within the troupe and the personal explorations of the self each that dancer goes through as he opens himself to the world. Ideas of masculinity, gender, and sexuality, create something new and exciting.

Aleksandr Vinogradov attempts to free the male form, as well as abstract it. The film is political in the depiction of a world “overrun by right-wing and neoliberal” ideals, conflating the unabashed nudity with leftism. The claims of freedom do have weight. It is provocative yet at times it is boring once the initial shock is over. Re-contextualizing this imagery through manhood is the closest the nude dancing comes to provocative and we never know if that’s what the film is trying to show.

The dance sequences are beautifully shot, fluid, and a contrast to a blank backdrop. The white walls stand out from the stage. The close-ups of skin reinforce a vulnerability as if the film is trying to reinforce masculinity rather than separate men from gendered traits.

The penis is on screen constantly, moving independently of the dancer’s body, almost like its own character. Even the most sex-positive viewer may struggle to engage with a film that so heavily draws the eye here and that stops challenging how long we can look at the exposed body.

“TO DECADENCE WITH LOVE, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!”— Two Drag Queens

“TO DECADENCE WITH LOVE, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!”

Two Drag Queens

Amos Lassen

 “To Decadence with Love” looks at “the lives of two drag queen extraordinaire, Laveau Contraire and Franky as they prepare for a weekend of New Orleans’ queer celebration of identity, Southern Decadence. While getting a behind-the-scenes view of “gender fuckery art,” we see Southern artists challenging social norms and the boundaries of self-expression all while being a part of a rich community of artists. Both a display of the diversity New Orleans is known for and a lesson on knowing your worth, this film provides a personal perspective not only from the performer’s point of view but also that of the production side as Laveau strives to create more opportunities for BIPOC performance artists. From drag queens to burlesque performers and everything in between, To Decadence with Love, Thanks for Everything! is a lively portrayal of the diversity and utter freedom that comes with being yourself, jam-packed into a weekend in the lives of Decadence performers.” – Elizabeth Myles

 

“MARRY ME HOWEVER”— Religion, LGBT and Marriage in Israel

“MARRY ME HOWEVER”

Religion, LGBT and Marriage

Amos Lassen

A new documentary from Israel looks at men and women from the LGBT community who for religious reasons choose to marry contrary to their tendency, to obey the laws of the Torah, and to be accepted into the religious society and families they grew up in. Sometimes they shared their sexuality and sometimes hide it. They deal with the internal conflict with religion and religious laws, with the family and the religious community, with exposure to society and children, and with the search for a partner. The characters go through a journey of self-acceptance, and engage in activities designed to change consciousness in the religious environment. Divorced gay couples, as well as rabbis and psychologists, seek solutions to unresolved conflict.