Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“DUANE MICHALS: THE MAN WHO INVENTED HIMSELF”— A Master Photographer and Story Teller

duane michals

“Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself”

A Master Photographer and Story Teller

Amos Lassen

Duane Michals has been hailed as one of the American masters of photography and he is also a natural-born storyteller who incorporates hand-written texts to his images to add another dimension of meaning. His work is internationally known and respected and there are pieces in major collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, among many others. This film, “Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself”, follows him around his favorite locations (Pittsburgh, New York, Vermont) and explores his use of universal themes such as love, desire, death and immortality.

What is interesting about him for the gay community is that even though he was never really involved in gay civil rights or particularly vocal about his sexuality, his photography has addressed many gay themes. He has been in a relationship with his partner for well over 50 years. Michals is a brilliant portrait photographer as well. He has photographed filmmakers Pier Paolo Pasolini and Roman Polanski and artists such as Rene Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico. Because he was never in the spotlight nor did he want to be, we know relatively little about him and this film fills in some of that gap by giving us a look at the artist behind the work.

“EYE ON THE GUY: ALAN B. STONE & THE AGE OF BEEFCAKE”— A Pioneer

eye on the guy

“Eye on the Guy: Alan B. Stone & the Age of Beefcake”

A Pioneer

Amos Lassen

Alan B. Stone was an astute businessman, quiet suburbanite and master of the homoerotic pin-up. “Eye on the Guy: Alan B. Stone & the Age of Beefcake” looks at the little-known world of Montreal’s physique photography scene – a distinct gay subculture that emerged in the ’50s and ’60s – through the life and work of one of Stone.

Before the first wave of gay liberation, and long before Calvin Klein, Stone took hundreds of erotic photos of men and running an international mail-order business from his Montreal basement.

The film tells about his life, times and achievements in a short, but comprehensive film. It consists of vintage footage, old pictures, and varied interviews that reveal a quiet photographer and businessman, suffering from excruciatingly painfully arthritis since his late teenage years but who became his time’s master of homo-erotic photography, while remaining in many ways a common man living in the suburbs. Even though he loved the suburbs of Montreal, he also loved the city itself. He quietly revolted against the moral conventions of post World War II Canada, exposing the beauty of thousands of body builders, fishermen, construction workers, cowboys, and the like, at a time when extreme discretion was required. His “muscle” magazines of the 50s and 60s gave way to the openly porn gay films and magazines that followed.

These ‘beefcake’ pictures (as they were called) were the porn of that time. before Playgirl, et al came into being. It was only when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau declared in 1967 that the government would no longer have a role in the bedrooms of Canadians that the full frontal porn we know of today took off.

The sheer volume of his work was amazing and artfully done. Montreal had been a center for male-physique photography in the ’50s and ’60s. But aside from the male-physique photography, Stone captured a broad spectrum of other subjects in his work. He also did extensive travel and landscape photography and he seemed to have a sense of humor in much of his nude work. Some of the photos are great fun.

HEART WRENCHING NEW TRAILER: “UPSTAIRS INFERNO”: Film about gay mass murder, like you’ve never seen before

 

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HEART WRENCHING NEW TRAILER: “UPSTAIRS INFERNO”: Film about gay mass murder, like you’ve never seen before

http://vimeo.com/112226651

November 19, 2014 – Camina Entertainment is excited to release the second highly emotional teaser trailer for the eagerly awaited documentary, UPSTAIRS INFERNO. 

http://vimeo.com/112226651

An IndieGoGo fundraising campaign also runs through Sunday, November 23rd to help offset the incredibly expensive licensing fees for newspaper photos and newsreel footage. (http://igg.me/at/Upstairs-Inferno-Film/x/83651) Following November 23rd, a PayPal link will be on the film’s website to facilitate donations. (www.upstairsinferno.com)

On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to a gay bar in New Orleans called the Up Stairs Lounge. The result was the largest gay mass murder in U.S. history. Despite the staggering historical significance, few people know about the tragedy. Thirty-two people were killed and some bodies were never identified because their families were ashamed that the victims were gay. No one was ever charged with the crime. The tragedy did not stop at the loss of lives. There were also the delayed injuries: lost jobs, fear, public ridicule and severed families. The devastation was compounded by the homophobic reactions and utter lack of concern by the general public, government and religious leaders. The fire permanently altered lives and was the root of many lifelong struggles.

The new trailer for UPSTAIRS INFERNO is very personal. It brings humanity into the headlines by shining a light on the very painful effect the tragedy had on survivors, witnesses and loved ones. It’s noteworthy to mention that it includes a heart wrenching interview of a survivor who lost her lover, Reggie Adams in the blaze. As part of her long healing process, she legally changed her name to “Regina Adams” in honor of her “one true love”. In addition, the trailer includes Ricky Everett and Francis Dufrene (two survivors who barely escaped the inferno), the son of one of the victims, Reverend Troy Perry, and more.

UPSTAIRS INFERNO is poised to be the most comprehensive and authoritative film on the fire. Interviews with survivors and witnesses to the aftermath have been heart wrenching and insightful. Some of the people we interviewed haven’t discussed the fire until now, especially on camera. I’m thrilled to say that many granted us exclusive on-camera interviews. The documentary also features interviews with historians, experts and current leaders of the New Orleans LGBT community. UPSTAIRS INFERNO will be the only documentary about the fire to feature these pivotal players in one place. Police reports, crime scene photographs, personal photographs, newspaper clippings and video clips from local news stations are also featured in the film. The previous, highly publicized trailer is located at http://vimeo.com/94905654.

Because a historical film cannot exist without historical photos and footage, the licensing fees are the only things delaying the release of the film. People can donate to UPSTAIRS INFERNO and help preserve history on film by following the link on www.upstairsinferno.com or directly at http://igg.me/at/Upstairs-Inferno-Film/x/83651

Camina’s previous documentary, “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” recounted the widely publicized and controversial June 28, 2009 police raid of a Fort Worth, Texas gay bar that resulted in multiple arrests and serious injuries. The film, narrated by TV icon Meredith Baxter, continues to engage sold-out audiences across the country! Over the past 15 months, the documentary has screened over 35 times, including 29 mainstream and LGBT film festivals across the United States, Mexico and Canada. The film has won several awards including 5 “Best” Film and 3 “Audience Choice” Awards. The film also received attention from the Office of the White House, Department of Justice and a division of the U.S. State Department. (www.RaidoftheRainbowLounge.com)
UPSTAIRS INFERNO
Anticipated release: 2015
Estimated run time: 90 minutes.
Directed and produced by Robert L. Camina (“Raid of the Rainbow Lounge”)

More information is available at www.upstairsinferno.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UpstairsInferno
Twitter page: @UpstairsInferno

Robert L. Camina
Writer/Director/Producer
RCamina@CaminaEntertainment.com

“THE RIGHT TO LOVE : AN AMERICAN FAMILY”— A Loving Family

the right to love

“THE RIGHT TO LOVE : AN AMERICAN FAMILY”

A Loving Family

Amos Lassen

Thirteen years ago Jay Foxworthy and Bryan Leffew became good friends, fell in love and had a Civil Union. Along the way, they fostered and adopted Daniel and his sister Selena. When gay marriage was legalized in California in 2008, Jay and Bryan married each other at City Hall in San Francisco. Both men come from blue-collar families and both are churchgoers in San Diego where they live. They were not politically active until

Protect Marriage Organization was able to get Proposition 8 on the Ballot in an attempt to ban same-sex marriage. They became frustrated and angry, worried that their marriage may be invalidated. Jay and Brian made a series of videos about their everyday life that they published on Youtube and called them Gay Family Values They wanted put a human face on the gay marriage debate.  They felt that the overriding criticism of the ‘No To 8′ Campaign was the ill-advised choice of not featuring any happily married gay couples at all when stating their argument and their series of ‘home movies’ shows how very wrong the ‘No’ organizers had been.

The Leffew family is a regular family that consists of an articulate and passionate pair of attractive men who were prepared to step outside their own comfort zone to safeguard their families future. The film shows us the anger and desperation that was caused by Proposition 8. Director Cassie has brought all of this together here. We also see and hear Rachel Maddow simply point out that as marriage was a ‘right’ for all, then the Constitution made it illegal for any state to withhold those rights from anyone.  We know this to be true since the recent Supreme Court Ruling.   As a result of the videos that were posted on YouTube by these gays and others, public opinion began to shift in favor of gay marriage. Now society is able to see who we are and that our values are the same as others.

“INREALLIFE’— The Internet and Youth

in real life

“InRealLife”

The Internet and Youth

Amos Lassen

“InRealLife” (yes, all one word) takes us on a journey from the bedrooms of British teenagers to the world of Silicon Valley, to find out what exactly the Internet is doing to our children. Filmmaker Beeban Kidron suggests that rather than the promise of free and open connectivity, young people are becoming increasingly trapped in a commercial world. What seems tempting and exciting can actually alienating and addictive. “InRealLife” asks if we can afford to stand by while children, trapped in their 24/7 connectivity, are being outsourced to the net?

The film examines how children are adapting to the technological world we live in. This is an eye-opening and sometimes shocking documentary that examines the constantly developing relationship between technology and psychology. It features some very important people that include Julian Assange, Nicolas Negroponte, Jimmy Wales, Luis Von Ahn, Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr and Maggie Jackson.

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We have learned that western civilizations are vastly ignorant over the repercussions of their online activities. What’s more, the influence the web has on its into its present users doesn’t begin to show how this will affect years to come. Youth today has become web-dependent and we see this by following disturbing accounts from internet-addicted teens.

 We are given an ambiguous collection of horror stories that showcase the frailty of the human condition in the hands of corporate computer companies. The director uses a sustained journalistic approach that collates an unabridged cache of industry professionals, commentators and users. Teenage case studies to explore their online deviations. Opening with 15-year-old Ryan, the director inquires what the boy enjoys most about the web. Unsurprisingly, Ryan tells us about his fixation with online pornography. We see that this is a very common reply but what we hear from Ryan is much deeper than boyish innocence. With the aid of Kidron’s reassuring interview style, Ryan realizes his secularization from experiencing real-life emotions – love, intimacy – fuelled by his sexual voyeurism. There are other stories like Ryan’s that are cleverly interspersed with the appropriate intellectual scaremongering one would expect from a topic as universal as Internet addiction. Julian Assange preaches of libertarian democracy from his Ecuadoran embassy impound, while other speakers such as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Sherry Turkle highlight the damaging nature of the digital age upon our youth.

 “InRealLife” whittles down to highlighting macro issues on a desperately micro scale. Every tale told is enough to merit its own feature length analysis. Alternatively, we see each point of concern —the reality of cyber-bullying, addictive insecurities, corporate monopolization, etc. This is very much like a science-fiction horror story except that this is not fiction. It is cinematic storytelling and is in fact, a documentary feature that reels you into a genuinely creepy-crawly world. It presents us with a reality in which children are stripped of humanity and it doesn’t get scarier than this.

We witness how kids filter their contact and communication with others via an insidious online assault upon their individuality (“or, as the best dystopian science fiction will always have us believe, their very souls”).

The movie is compelling and terrifying and diverting as it is, we face something here head-on. Though a 90-minute feature film can only glance upon the surface of such a huge subject, director Kidron does so with such mesmerizing commitment the picture moves us forward and keeps our eyes glued to the screen.

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 Several of the stories are downright horrific and as such, they are presented with clear, simple compositions and just the right off-camera questions and conversation to let the kids do what they need to do and say. The same goes for the interviews with all the various experts in the fields of psychology, engineering, marketing and, of course, the various cyber worlds of texting, gaming, social networking, net surfing and face-to-face communications as explained and opined upon by said experts.

 There is a girl’s tale than when she relates how, upon finally acquiring a cell phone it’s snatched from her by a teenage boy who leads her back to a flat where she is forced to endure a gang-bang to get her phone back. But there is also the opposite— a gay teen that engages in a long-distance online relationship with another lad. Neither of the boys had met each other, yet when Kidron follows one of the boys on his long journey to finally meet his online lover and we see genuine warmth, endearment and respect that offer a sense of hope to gray world of cyber communication.

 We meet a variety of kids: for example, two young boys so addicted to internet porn that they happily and somewhat innocently expect women to look like porn stars and to perform sex acts identical to those they watch on their computer monitors. They express that anything less in real life would be a horrible disappointment. Then there’s a clearly brilliant young man who has messed up his otherwise promising academic standing at Oxford with his online addictions and now spends virtually every waking hour in front of a computer – social networking or gaming. When asked what he’d do if these options were not available, he admits, somewhat disappointedly, that he’d “probably” have to “read a book”.

 The tales continue, but are alternated with y a series of interviews with the experts who provide information and analysis that many of us probably know and/or ignore. What is really frightening is just how many parents have no idea of what their kids are up to and this is certainly reflected in a nasty case of cyber bullying Kidron shows us, one that escalates into every parent’s worst nightmare.

 The film hammers home a series of basic facts – most of which seem perfectly reasonable under the circumstances. Websites are designed to track us and the threat to privacy has never been direr. The sites are there to collect date and with all this information comes power.

“ULTRASUEDE : IN SEARCH OF HALSTON”— A Man for All Seasons

ultrasuede

“ULTRASUEDE : IN SEARCH OF HALSTON”

A Man for All Seasons

Amos Lassen

Halston was the first American first haute couturier to be taken seriously.  He progressed from milliner to revered iconic fashion designer in a very short time. He was a flamboyant and fun-loving man who firmly put his sartorial stamp on everything in the Studio 54 era so that his ‘star’ on Fashion’s Walk of Fame in New York says rightly that “The 70’s Belonged to Halston”. Unfortunately this movie by socialite Whitney Smith does not do him justice.

 Smith was totally unversed in fashion but he managed to get some interviews with industry luminaries such as Andre Leon Tally, Diane von Furstenberg and Stephen Burrows but s his own personal agenda caused these great opportunities to be wasted.  He even failed to listen to Liza Minnelli when she pleaded with him to go do some research into Halston’s life and work.

 Nonetheless Halston’s legacy still manages to come through with some wonderful archival footage that reveals exactly how truly wonderful the clothes he created were.  In his public private life, Halston was a dedicated partygoer and showman that ran with a very fast crowd but his innovative and elegant fashion that he produced on the Runway was stunningly chic and totally wearable. Because he was dressing a young Jacqueline Kennedy as First Lady at the same time as he clothed some of New York society’s dowagers and as well as the party girls at Studio 54 says a great deal about his talent.

It seemed appropriate that he be chosen to be the first high-end designer to make a mass-market collection for J C Penney’s which sadly failed but he did  pave the way for all the designers of today who cannot wait to do work for the likes of stores such as Target and H and M.

He loved life to the fullest, having the most strikingly beautiful contemporary house designed and built in Manhattan and he was known to spend some $100,000 a year on orchids alone shows the kind of person that he was. His boyfriend was Victor Hugo and it is said that he was the crazier of Halston’s group. Looking at how they lived them makes today seem so mild and tame.

Halston’s story ends sadly— greedy corporations bought and sold Halston’s business several times thereby denying the man himself the right to use the very talents that they had paid big bucks for. After that Halston became one of the first of the famous casualties of the AIDS epidemic in 1990. Maybe the day will come when we have the kind of film that does justice to the man and his name.

“DECODING ALAN TURING”— Remembering Turing

decoding poster

“Decoding Alan Turing”

Remembering Turing

Amos Lassen

2014 has been a good year for Alan Turing and it is too bad that he is not around to appreciate it. We lost Turning to death by his own hand because he could not deal with the punishment that the British government gave to him –medical castration or life in prison. Turing was a brilliant mathematician, logician, cryptographer, computer scientist and a world-class runner. He was a Cambridge graduate, who was fundamental to cracking the Nazi’s Enigma Code during World War II and who’s momentous paper, “On Computable Numbers” created the basis for the modern programmable computer.

Alan Turing was also a gay male. He was a victim of the intolerance and legal prosecution of his time. He went though hormone therapy in attempt to change his behavior and suffered their side effects – and the consequences. His death was shrouded in mystery and was a tragic loss to Great Britain and the world. Who knows where his mind would have taken the science of Mathematics or the world of modern computing?

Posthumously, he has been lauded. Universities around the world have programs and buildings in his name. He has earned an English Heritage Blue Plate on his childhood home. And, since 1966, an award in his name has been given each year by the Association for Computing Machinery, widely considered to be the computing world’s equivalence of the Nobel

 On September 9, 2009 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an apology on behalf of the British Government for the treatment and persecution of Alan Turing and recognizing his invaluable contributions to the world. Queen Elizabeth also pardoned him posthumously.

Turing affected modern society more than any other individual to date. Turing was drafted into service during WWII to work at Bletchley Park and helped crack the Nazi Enigma Code and turn the tide of WWII for the Allies. A hero many times over, he was later persecuted by the same country he fought to protect for being a homosexual. It is rumored that the Apple Computer logo— the apple with a bite missing that adorns so many of our most prized electronics is a nod to those in the know about Alan Mathison Turing, an English Mathematician (widely hailed as the father of the modern computer) who was found dead at age 41 with a poisoned apple laying next to his bed.

Like so many, Turing grew up gay and felt alone and different. Little did he know what a role model he would become.

“JULIAN”— Who was Julian?

julian

“Julian”

Who was Julian?

Amos Lassen

Julian has been called many things— a philosopher, a hedonist, a sage and a charlatan.  Friends, associates and scholars lend their opinions in this look into Julian’s controversial ideas, his secrets and his public persona.  Was he a cult leader or simply a clever performance artist?  He was cut down at the height of his fame, vanished and presumed dead yet Julian is still the enigma today that he was in the prime of his short career. The film, “Julian”, directed by Michael Yates,  is about a failed attempt to revive the primitive role of art as a means of worship; much like the pagan Emperor Julian (“Julian the Apostate”) tried to hold back the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of Rome.  This is a movie about failure yet it is very interesting. Movies about failure aren’t that popular, but I think they’re often more interesting.

Julian had brains but he did not really know how to deal with his intelligence. He was an intellectual with a humanistic worldview and tried  being a cult leader in order to reach an audience beyond academia and mainstream culture. He really had no formal education and he did not need followers but they came.  

His philosophy combined Carl Sagan, Gore Vidal, Norman O. Brown, Marshall McLuhan and Alan Watts.  It is opposite to the apocalyptic paranoia of Manson and Jim Jones, and it was not inherently compatible with a discipleship. This is from where the main tension comes in this film—somewhere between the aspirations of Julian and the reality that falls short.  It was not about this character as much as about the perceptions that others had of him.

 The film is loosely structured and intuitive.  It is not a narrative drama and is difficult to classify. It is part scripted, part improvised, part mockumentary, and part video essay.

“WHAT NOW? REMIND ME”— Looking Back

what now remind me

“What Now? Remind Me” (“E Agora? Lembra-me”)

Looking Back

Amos Lassen

Joaquin Pinto been living with HIV for more than twenty years looks back at his life in cinema, at his friendships and loves, at the mysteries of art and nature all the while he undergoes an experimental drug treatment. He turned the camera on himself and his partner, Nuno Leonel for a year and this film is the result of that. It is also a tribute to importance of Portuguese cinema. This is a record of Pinto’s experience taking experimental drugs designed to combat HIV and Hepatitis C, both of with he has been living with for a long time. As the film rolls Pinto gives poetic and philosophical reflections via voice-over narration that accompany scenes of him and Leonel visiting the hospital, playing with their dogs, working on their farm and even making love.

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We see Pinto’s humor and we feel his sensitivity in this revealing self-portrait and what we really get from this film is a look at how to live life well. Joaquim Pinto has had a prolific career predominantly in sound editing as well as a considerable filmography of directing features. He began the idea of turning the camera on himself as a way to document a year of experimental clinical trials in treatment for HIV and Hepatitis C, debilitating conditions with which he is living.

He speaks about the changes his body is undergoing because of the side-effects of the drug combinations, as well as the liability he has agreed to for the period in which he will essentially be a human guinea pig. He has placed himself in an interesting position but one that is not uncommon for those suffering from a long-term illness in that in reaching towards better health in the future, his short-term experience of life is severely diminished. His focus is on taking apart the nature of naturally occurring and artificial viruses, and musing on the life he has lead so far with his husband, Nuno. Living in rural Portugal with four dogs, the pair spend time in their garden planting.

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Along with what he is dealing with at present as seen in the film, Pinto uses footage shot over the years of he and Nuno’s younger selves and the community of filmmakers and artists who have entered and departed their lives due to the same affliction. He names Derek Jarman, amongst others who were struck down by “the disease killing homosexuals” in the 1980s. We might say that the film is also a tribute to “friends departed and those who remain”. This is not just a film about HIV; it is about living. We get a bit of narrative tension by Pinto’s dilemma of whether to continue with the drug trials or stop and accept liability and yet, the consequences of his choice either way will soon become secondary to more general insights regarding community and creativity.

We see what companionship is all about by watching Pinto and Nuno who are not only lovers but best friends. What surprised me is the almost methodical approach to life, where the seemingly simple components of tenderness, play and touch – both from their pack of personable dogs and each other – are a daily reminder of the very things that life is worth living for. It is so beautiful in its simplicity.

I understand that the impetus for the film came in November 2011 when the filmmaker went to Madrid to begin a yearlong experimental regimen to treat his HIV. This philosophical documentary charts his life over that time, capturing the painful side effects of both the disease and its treatment. We learn that Pinto has undergone a number of treatments throughout his life, first in the ’90s when he was first diagnosed with HIV, and then again in 2001 and 2004. So while Pinto’s 2011 treatment gives this film its underlying narrative, it’s only one aspect of the documentary. The film is ultimately becomes less a chronicle about one man’s attempt to defeat an illness than it does one about living with disease generally, particularly one that modern medicine can keep at bay but not completely destroy.

The documentary is mainly made up of Pinto filming his daily life and Nuno as he works on their farm. Pinto sometimes speaks directly to the camera, using it as a diary, but for the most part we learn his thoughts and feelings through voiceover. He covers many topics from his personal history, to his embracing of Christianity, to his philosophical reflections on time, humanity, and nature. The film runs just less than three hours but it never bores.

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Its length is a direct and justified consequence of Pinto’s unwavering commitment to disclosing the most intimate parts of his life. Also, the repetitive rhythms of Pinto’s daily routines give the film a sense of serenity that is in stark contrast to his underlying anxiety and his dealing with the possibility of an imminent and untimely death. Even the more stressful cycles of Pinto’s treatment—the trips to the hospital for blood analyses, his daily medication—are less stressful than we might expect. This could be because they’re portrayed as just another part of Pinto’s regular life, but also because he seems to have been living with the prospect of death for so long that his experience of that reality is now defined less by fear than by a search for peace and understanding.

Yet we do have a sense of death hanging over nearly every scene in the film and in the beginning Pinto apologizes for his voice, explaining that his HIV treatment ruined his teeth and he still has not gotten used to speaking with his new dentures (His medication destroyed his teeth). As the film moves forward, we watch Pinto confront both his physical decline and fear about a deeper mental and spiritual deterioration. “I’m afraid that I’ll lose so much, my senses, my logic, that I will be incapable of deciding anything at all,” he tells the camera. “That I will lose the notion that I exist.” Pinto’s decline in health is evident but he has had to deal with the encroaching shadow of it since 1997 and what has threatened to overtake him has been held at bay. But with each failed treatment it returns. and then loomed again with each failed treatment. It might continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, by the end, Pinto appears more resigned than when the film began: The film that began as a mix of memoir, diary, and documentary seems to end as a but by a last will and testimony.

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Where the film could’ve had either too much self-pity or too much self-righteousness, Pinto chooses to look beyond the confines of his disease to enjoy and revel in a fascinating life. Hew is a man who has always loved the movies and he talks about having seen some of the early forays into porn, “Emmanuelle” or “Deep Throat” in a theater. There are lots of anecdotal moments and introspective scenes in which he seems to dwell on existentialism but ultimately, Pinto has created a unique film.

“FAMILY TIME” (“Z’MAN MISHPACHA”)— A Road Trip

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 “FAMILY TIME” (“Z’MAN MISHPACHA”)

A Road Trip

Amos Lassen

There is nothing like a road trip for exposing family secrets. Nitzan Gilady, an Israeli moviemaker and his family—his parents, his two older brothers and his sister all got into an RV and planned to travel across the United States for a week and they headed towards the Grand Canyon. A lot happens as they ride as they all took out their dirty laundry to air. Most of what they dealt with were issues that they had been keeping within.

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Nitzan’s father went to Israel from Yemen when he was very young and because of the death of his mother, was sent to a boarding school (Israeli boarding schools are not the fancy places elsewhere and work is part of the education received there). His father had to grow up tough and he developed great determination to succeed in life. The very same determination meant that he wanted his wife and his children to have every opportunity in life especially Those that he had not been able to have. (This is obviously a Jewish tradition as my father did the same’ also like my father, Nitzan’s dad was uncomfortable showing or dealing with any of his feelings).

We learn that Nitzan’s older brother was a rebel in his youth and this pained his father. He refused to take life seriously. He did marry but the marriage fell apart soon after the road trip. Nitzan’s younger brother had served time in the Israeli Army and was now suffering from shell shock.  He was diffident, moody and very temperamental and was struggled to deal with life in general.  The family understood that he would always need to live at home with the parents because he was too volatile to live in his own and be left to his own resources.

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Nitzan left Israel so that he could come out and be free with his homosexuality.  He did so in New York City when he was 30 and it took another five years for him to be able to tell his parents. They knew he is gay but refused to talk about it. Then one night on the trip Nitzan forces the issue and makes his father and father confront their bigotry (His mother was better at it than his father). When this moment comes on the screen we see raw emotion and opposing views: one was based in ignorance and real fear, and other rational one from an unhappy filmmaker who just wants his father’s love and acceptance. It is difficult to watch because it is so heart wrenching and emotional. When I lived in Israel I had many friends from Yemenite families and in most cases these are religious people. Even so, Yemen is a Muslim country and no doubt that also influences the way Yemenis view homosexuality. In these families the father is the ruler and he must be obeyed and perhaps that is why the scene with Nitzan talking to his parents hit me so hard.

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Nitzan’s father is rigid and slow to budge on ideas that he holds sacred. We see that he loves his sons even though he may never be able to actually come to terms with the fact that none of them have turned out how he really wanted them to be. Because they were all in a RV for a week, they were forced to speak as a family. The father stayed strict throughout but I believe that deep down inside he has the desire to change but just does not know how to do so.

Most of us have been where this film goes and it reminds us that families are families no matter what. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.