“I AM SYD STONE”— Iris Prize Nominated Gay-Themed Short Film

“I Am Syd Stone”

Iris Prize Nominated Gay-Themed Short Film

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‘A Hollywood heartthrob returns home for his ten-year high school reunion with the intention of rekindling a closeted relationship.’

In his director’s statement on the film’s website, helmer Denis Theriault comments, “In the film, Syd is at a point in his life where he’s achieved all he’s ever dreamed of. At 27 years old he has hit his peak. That’s a dangerous position to be in. How does one react to that? We always set goals and tell ourselves that when they’re achieved, our lives will be better for it. Oftentimes, that’s not the case. We get to that milestone or goal and we’re still left feeling empty. That’s where we find ourselves at the beginning of the film. Syd’s achieved this success, but has no one with whom to share it.

“I’m also incredibly fascinated by the public personas put on by celebrities. They’re never truly themselves other than when they’re alone or with loved ones (I guess, in a sense, we’re all actors).

“Ultimately, this film is a catharsis for me. The person I was, even 5 years ago, would never have believed that he would be tackling a gay subject in film, especially in such a personal way. I now am an out-and-proud man. All of the people I was afraid of telling either know or don’t care enough to ask. All they’re concerned with is if I’m talented, that’s it. As it often happens in life, we make bigger deals of situations than we really need to. But in that moment, it doesn’t matter. We feel like the whole world will come down on us.”

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KABBALAH ME”—- Opens August 22 in New York, Opens September 5 in Los Angeles

First Run Features presents

Opens August 22 in New York
Opens September 5 in Los Angeles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Run Features is proud to present the theatrical premiere ofKabbalah Me, a new documentary feature directed by Steven Bram and Judah Lazarus. The film will open on August 22 in New York City and September 5 in Los Angeles.

Kabbalah Me follows a personal journey into the spiritual phenomenon known as Kabbalah. Rooted in the Torah and Talmud, Kabbalah has been studied by leading Judaic scholars for many centuries, but many Jews are unaware or uninformed about Kabbalah and its significance. The film tells the story of how co-director Steven Bram, feeling a spiritual void in his life, immerses himself into the world of Kabbalah.

Raised in New York as a secular Jew and without much interest in organized religion, Steven grew up to lead a conventional life – marrying a nice Jewish woman from the suburbs, fathering two beautiful daughters, living on the Upper West Side, and working at a sports and entertainment company. But after 9/11, he felt a longing for a deeper and more fulfilling spiritual life. This longing leads Steven on a five year journey that includes reconnecting with his Hasidic family members, studying with Judaic scholars, and taking a pilgrimage to Israel, where he immerses himself in the history and traditions of the Holy Land and meets with charismatic Rabbis, Talmudic scholars and spiritual leaders.

As Steven’s spiritual journey progresses, the mystical and complex world of Kabbalah, with its varying interpretations and myriad rituals and lessons, slowly unfolds, leading to profound changes in all aspects of his life.

KABBALAH ME Opens August 22 at the Quad Cinema in NYC
Co-Director Steven Bram will be in person at select opening weekend shows.

KABBALAH ME Opens September 5 at Laemmle Theatres in LA
Co-Director Steven Bram will be in person at select opening weekend shows.

Steven Bram has been the COO of New York-based Bombo Sports & Entertainment, LLC since its founding in 1999. He has produced over 50 sports films for television, DVD and digital release. Steven also sits on the board of the Aish Center in New York.

Judah Lazarus is a music video director whose work includes videos by AZ, Reakwon of the Wu Tang Clan and Trick Daddy. As an actor Judah played opposite Tim Robbins in Noise. Judah also developed the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The Believer, starring Ryan Gosling. Judah and his partner Moshe Lazarus now run High Line Productions, which is developing a TV series about Brooklyn’s Hassidic Hipster subculture.

KABBALAH ME 
80 minutes, English, Documentary, 2014
Produced & Directed Steven E. Bram
Directed by Judah Lazarus
Edited by Neco Turkienicz, Adam Zucker
Associate Producers Ilana Ellis Klein, Rina Perkel
Original Music by Jamie Saft
Original Story by Steven E. Bram, Rabbi Adam Jacobs
Story Consultant Jack Youngelson
Written by Steven E. Bram, Judah Lazarus , Adam Zucker

 

“Favorite Son” by Will Freshwater— Learning Who He Is

favorite son

Freshwater, Will. “Favorite Son”, Dreamspinner Press, 2014.

Learning Who He Is

Amos Lassen

John Wells came from a working class family but he has managed to really pull himself up. When we meet him, he is chief-of-staff to the most powerful lawmaker on Capitol Hill and everything seems to be great about him. He is handsome, well built, has a wonderful boyfriend, a great best friend and is living what we might call the perfect life. He just doesn’t seem to understand  how this all happened to him and therefore he can easily lose it and he does. He became his work and because of that he could not handle a close relationship. It just took one day for him to lose it all and when that happens he has no idea of what to do and he has no one to talk to about what has happened. On the spur of the moment he heads to Provincetown and there John becomes Peter.

He rents a small place and shuts himself off from the outside world aside from a group of people that he calls his friends but that really have nothing in common with him (or anyone else for that matter). They, like him, have all suffered some kind of loss. John/Peter gets a volunteer job helping a local named Daniel to restore an old chapel. Daniel was not much of a conversationalist and did not talk much about his life and we sense that he is dealing with some kind of pain and/or loss. Daniel tells Peter that he is straight but only after they have spend time working together and becoming friends. But as they got to know each other better, Daniel does open up to Peter and talks of what he has lost in life and why he would not admit to Peter that he was gay. They soon were involved with each other and a relationship begins. But then quiet suddenly John is called back to Washington and he goes. At first he thinks it is wonderful to be back and to have power but then he begins to miss Provincetown and Daniel.

It is hard to believe that this is a first novel but I safely predict that we shall be hearing more and more from Will Freshwater. He has created a main character that we love on one page and hate on the next. Having John/Peter narrate the story is a stroke of literary genius in that he can tells us about the intrigues in Washington and about the intrigues in his own life. The other characters are also wonderfully developed (as are the sex scenes).

We also get a look at the main character’s mind. We see him as John the hard worker and as Peter, a relaxed guy who loves to have fun. It is also great to watch a relationship develop first as a friendship and then as a loving relationship.

I love that this is a novel about two men who find love and that it is written by a man. He was able to recount how men feel and he does so with sincerity and honesty. Maybe he will start a trend and more male writers will begin to reclaim the genre. While we read about romance, this is not only a romance novel—it is much more. The novel is really about  John/Peter’s finding out who he is and while we have many novels that use that theme, this one does so effectively.

 

“IN BETWEEN SONGS”— Against All Odds

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“In Between Songs”

Against all Odds

Amos Lassen

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“In Between Songs” looks at how one Aboriginal family must fight to save their legacy. Djalu Gurruwiwi, and his sister are community elders and “they strive to shepherd their clan through countless internal and external pressures, while searching desperately for new custodians to safeguard their musical and cultural legacy”. Their community is the small Australian Aboriginal group of Nhulunbuy. (I have a strong feeling that spell check will not like this review).

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 Djalu Gurruwiwi, a famed traditional didjeridu craftsman and player, alongside his sister, Dhanggal, strain to keep Galpu clan traditions safe from numerous internal and external forces. When Djalu’s son, Larry, proves to have limited interest in continuing the clan or instrument’s legacy, the elders are forced to turn their attention toward the Gurruwiwi grandchildren. There is a complication with the Rio Tinto bauxite mine that is a multi-billion dollar industry. Brother and sister try to move the family out to traditional homelands deep into the bush but this is not easy because of the limited infrastructure and lack of formal schooling for the youth. While attempting to shepherd their clan through economical, environmental, cultural and social pressures, Djalu and Dhanggal Gurruwiwi remain firmly resolved in their mission to maintain tradition. The film follows their struggle to survive and to keep their traditions.

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Newly initiated boys in the tribe have limited long term vision and maturity and often become victims to the peer pressures of drugs and alcohol. The modern distractions of computers and video games, made available to them even in this remote community, compound their lack of drive and consistent adherence to traditional life.
 Alcohol and drug use from mining personnel frequently spills over into the traditional clan groups.

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The environment has implications for generations to come because of what the mine is doing to the land. visible and highly lethal environmental impacts from the mine’s presence will certainly have lasting implications for generations to come.
 The costs involved for transportation and supplies in this remote region greatly diminish the plan of moving the clan. James Cromwell narrates this film about family life and culture as it tries to find a balance between the ancient and modern world.



“Going Gay My Journey from Evangelical Christian to Self-Acceptance Love, Life and Meaning” by Tim Rymel— Finding Himself

going gay

Rymel, Tim. “Going Gay My Journey from Evangelical Christian to Self-Acceptance Love, Life and Meaning”, CK Publishing, 2014.

Finding Himself

Amos Lassen

Tim Rymel is an ordained evangelical minister who once was the outreach director of Love in Action, one of the oldest and most renowned ex-gay (reparative therapy) ministries in the world. During the heyday of the ministry in the 1990′s, he and is staff appeared on countless television and radio shows with their bogus message of “Freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ.” Rymel was considered to be a “success story” of the ex-gay movement but his world fell apart when his wife divorced him. He then went on a journey searching for self-acceptance and learning how to deal with faith and life.

For years he had been convinced that he had succeeded to come to heterosexuality through prayer and he went on toe marry a woman and hit the talk show circuit. This book is about that journey. “I want the conservative church to see the painful reality that many of their own believers go through to come to terms with their inborn homosexuality,” Rymel said. “I wrote the book ‘as one of their own’ to create dialogue and cause them to rethink what they believe and what the Bible says about homosexuality.”

Because of his past, readers may not buy Rymel’s story but it is a story to be read and thought about.and understand himself,” said Justin Lee, founder and Executive Director of Gay Christian Network. “In a culture where faith and sexuality seem often to be at war, the stories of those caught in the crossfire are critically important. Readers may not agree with all of Rymel’s views, but this is a story worth telling and a story worth understanding.”

Rymel reveals himself to be a self-loving, accepting human being and he even goes so far as to say that “God loves you exactly the way you are”  and these are important words for those struggling with their beliefs and with who they are.

Rymel is a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a Christian, a minister, a partner and basically just Tim Rymel. He had to struggle with dealing with  sexual preference and religious and political beliefs and ideas as well as the stereotypes that surround them but he is defined by so much more. It took his journey to understand this.

Tim Rymel has shared his story authentically and honesty and he is very clear about what he says. He admits openly that he sees the values in what he has gone through in the past and writes about how they have been responsible for making him the man that he is today. He has done away with feelings of shame and therefore is now able to live openly and honestly. I am sure that his journey to self-acceptance was painful and difficult and any of us who have ever been on a journey can agree with. After all, I would say that most of us are constantly looking for acceptance somewhere.

This is a real and raw story and we sense all of Rymel’s sufferings. We all need to know how to accept others and ourselves without trying to define us with a single word or concept. Anyone with a religious background that challenges his or her own acceptance (and I am not just speaking about sexuality) will understand what this man went through. I am sure that the writer had to struggle to write this book but he says things we all need to know.

“ILO ILO”— The Family and the Maid

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“ILO ILO”

The Family and the Maid

Amos Lassen

Set in 1997 in Singapore, we meet the Lim family and learn about their relationship to their maid Teresa who has recently arrived in their country and in their home. Teresa is a Filipina who has moved to the city in order to make a better life for herself but her presence in the family weighs on them in addition to the troubles that they were already dealing with. Jiale, the son is young and seemingly made of trouble but he and Teresa form a bond and Teresa becomes almost a member of the family. The Asian financial crisis was also beginning to have an affect on the family and on others as well.

The film won this years Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is a wonderful account of one family trying to survive economic and domestic struggles in Singapore.

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Because she is a Filipino immigrant, Teresa is an outsider not only in the family but in society as well. Her job includes managing Jiale’s behavior and the bond between them brings Teresa to the status of an unspoken member of the family but when the financial crisis hits the family all of the relationships are at risk.

Filmmaker Anthony Chen based the story on his own family’s live-in maid and her contributions to his life as a child. I understand that they lost touch but with the international release of the film, they had the chance to catch up on all that they missed. I grew up with a maid although she did not live with us and we became quite close. Then I left the states for more than twenty years and during that time my parents died. When I came for a visit we had a family reunion and Dell was there and it was wonderful. I firmly believe that we do not know the value of what we have until we no longer have it.

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The beauty of Chen’s portrait of family life in 1997 is that he manages to capture an entire period within one intimate slice of life. “Beautifully acted and precisely observed, ‘ILO ILO’ is an amazing debut, full of heart and intelligence.”

The film is filled with love, humor and heartbreak. T focuses on the bond between a ten-year-old boy and his Filipina nanny as the family struggles with the financial crisis. Chen depicts class and racial tensions within a household and his accessible style enabling the characters’ underlying decency and warmth to emerge unforced. Chen describes the predicament of so many Asian children who are placed in the care of foreign maidswhile their parents work to maintain a double-income lifestyle. Keng Teck Lim (Chen Tian Wen) has lost his sales exec job, but hasn’t found the courage to tell anyone; his wife, Hwee Leng (Yeo Yann Yann), is pregnant, but still woks as a secretary even though this drains her mentally. Jiale (Koh Jia Ler) is starved for attention and has become a troublemaker at school, forcing the Lims to hire domestic help Terry (Angeli Bayani), who hails from Ilo Ilo in the Philippines to keep an eye on him.

At first Jaile bullies Teresa and we see him as the rambunctious brat that he is but Terry is not willing to take his abuse and eventually the two begin to really care about each other. This is beautifully filmed at a point when Jaile notices that Teresa is not at a family banquet and he offers her his soup and says that it is very expensive and he really doesn’t like it.

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Director Chen tells his story simply and the movie is driven forward by the characters and sketches of home life. We get a moving picture of the father who has a hurt ego after losing his job but maintains his good-natured personality. The mother tries very hard to keep the family together in spite of bossiness and spite of Teresa. We see her jealous of the relationship her son has with the maid and this is a reflection of the uneasy interdependence between working women and the nannies that become surrogate mothers to their children.

Teresa radiates dignity even though her character is neither martyr nor saint. She is a pragmatic woman who will lie a little to survive and she wonderfully radiates emotions. However the film belongs to Jaile who is a dynamic young actor who does not have to try to be cute. He allows us to see the humorous, fiercely loyal kid beneath the obnoxious pranks and wild temper. The relationship between Jiale and Terry is interwoven with the Lims’ financial woes, which loom larger in the second half.

Chen is more interested in the people than plot and his excellent screenplay is delivered in a low-key docudrama style with no contrivance and melodrama. He creates a slice of life with a genuine feel for family politics and local culture, deftly and subtly revealing a little more about his subjects and the way they live their lives with every scene.

The relationship between Teresa and Jiale is at the film’s heart, and we see the boy as good-hearted but with other tendencies, while the maid mourns the child she left behind and isn’t going to stand for any nonsense. Together they form a strong mother/son bond that has a few layers of ‘something’ more on top. Chen is equally adept in his portrait of a marriage and shows the very real pressures of a lower-middle-class marriage and trying to survive  financial pressures.  

“KISSING DARKNESS”— Bored with it All

kissing darkness

“Kissing Darkness”

Bored With it All

Amos Lassen

We can only imagine what happens when a group of college guys get together because they are bored with gay life as they see it. They have seen it all and decide that the time has come to get away for a while so they skip Pride and on a camping in the woods. There they play a game that to their surprise set fee the vengeful spirit of a local urban legend, Malice Valeria. The story has it that Malice is overwhelmed by her deadly plan to taint love and to get back what she lost many years ago. Our college students realize that they are dealing with more than they planned and now unite so that they will not become victims of Malice’s plan.

James Townsend directs this spook of horror movies and it is a film for fun with no deep hidden message. I have followed Townsend over the years and have seen most of his films and he always seems to gravitate toward the dark side. However, he does this with some of the best-looking young guys around and what they do have in acting ability they have in outward appearances and that is good for an hour plus of fun. He also adds humor and that lightens the whole experience.

In fact the way this got made is something of an urban legend of its own and Townsend tells us, ”What a journey it has been from start to finish! After several attempts at production, the film was finally made with an awesome cast. The result is a nice horror-comedy full of fun, humor and sexiness”.

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I got to see the version of the film before the producers and/or editors butchered it and cut some of the scenes so my review is based on the director’s version of the film. The basic story is still there and it is good. The guys are hot-looking but and the acting is fair…. it could be much better but when you know the story behind this film you will appreciate that it even finally got made.

We have so few gay themed horror movies that we always hope that the next one will be a bit better than the ones that came before and this is one that certainly could have been. The guys escape the boredom of pride only to find themselves bored in the cabin in the woods. But then the use of an Ouija board calls to the spirit of Malice and boredom is suddenly gone. Our cast of young men consists of a cute blonde twink who loves to party, a loner who lives in his dreams, a good-looking hunk and the straight friend. They all look good bare-chested and in the few sex scenes. There is “beaucoup” gore and Malice is a scary broad. Do not count on guessing how it all ends up because there is an unexpected twist at the end.

This is a low-budget film and the setting are indeed limited by Townsend makes good use of them. He also uses camp humor to its advantage and Townsend has managed to stay away from clichés here. Here is a movie that requires no thought to enjoy—it is fun and yes at times it is cheesy but so are most of us. Ah yes, the cast—here are their names—Sean Paul Lockhart, Ronnie Kroell, Nick Airus, Daniel Berilla, Kyle Blitch, Townsend and Sean Benedict.

“WHERE THE BEARS ARE”— Season 3, The Bears Are Back

“Where The Bears Are”

Season 3– The Hairy Boys Are Back

where-the-bears-are-s3-ep1In the last couple of years the web series Where The Bear Are has gained a lot of fans who appreciate the show’s appreciation of the type of men who normally get pushed to one side in our young, skinny, twink-obsessed world.

Now it returns with the first episode of Season 3, which once more showcases the larger, more hirsute gentlemen from the offset – and the episode also has the added treat of a guest appearance from Drew Droege.

Season 3 follows the exploits of three gay bear roommates living together in Los Angeles, as they attempt to solve a string of murders involving young porn studio models. The season consists of 22 seven-minute episodes, with new episodes posted every Monday and Thursday. Season 3 is a romp through L.A.’s trendy neighborhood of Silver Lake, and eventually reaches its climax in the first-class cabin of a jumbo jet.

“Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent” edited by Thomas H. Wirth— Writer, Painter, Illustrator and Popular Bohemian

gay rebel

Nugent, Richard Bruce. “Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent”, edited by Thomas H. Wirth, Duke University Press Books , 2002.

Writer, Painter, Illustrator and Popular Bohemian

Amos Lassen

 

Richard Bruce Nugent (1906–1987) was a writer, painter, illustrator, and popular bohemian personality who lived at the center of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a protégé of Alain Locke, roommate of Wallace Thurman, and friend of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. For many years he was the only African-American writer willing to clearly pronounce his homosexuality in print. His contribution to the landmark publication FIRE!!, “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” was unprecedented in its celebration of same-sex desire. A resident of the notorious “Niggeratti Manor,” Nugent also appeared on Broadway in Porgy (the 1927 play) and Run, Little Chillun (1933)

Thomas H. Wirth was a close friend of Nugent’s during the last years of his life and has assembled a selection of Nugent’s most important writings, paintings, and drawings—works mostly unpublished or scattered in rare and obscure publications and collected here for the first time. Wirth includes his own introduction providing biographical information about Nugent’s life and situating his art in relation to the visual and literary currents that influenced him. There is also a foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr. emphasizes the importance of Nugent for African American history and culture.

The book brings biography and works together. It is divided into five sections and emphasizes Nugent’s fictional and non-fictional work. The historical introduction gives us all the information we need to know about Nugent and the time in which he lived and the entire book is a who was who during the Harlem Renaissance.

Nugent’s writings cover a span of 50 years but the majority were written in the 1930s. The book is over 300 pages long and offers a comprehensive and compelling look at Nugent (1906-1987). In his foreword Gates writes that Nugent was “boldly and proudly gay” and that he “linked the black world of the Harlem Renaissance with the gay world of bohemian New York.”

Wirth’s fascinating 61-page introduction is full of photos and illustrations. Wirth looks at Nugent’s life and work and covers topics such as Nugent’s relationships to other Harlem Renaissance figures and his involvement with the periodical “Fire!!”.

A note to the reader tell us that the book includes previously unpublished work taken directly from manuscript. Overall there is a rich selection of material. Among the pieces included in this book are the short story “Smoke, Lilies and Jade,” an oft-reprinted piece described as “Nugent’s most important work”; poems; an essay entitled “On Harlem” which was written for the Federal Writers’ Project in the late 1930s; excerpts from an unpublished novel; and more. There are also many reproductions (both color and black-and-white) of Nugent’s artwork.

This is a wonderful contribution to both African-American studies and gay studies as well as a moving tribute to a major cultural figure that has been overlooked for too long.

 

“Cage James” by Ryan Field— Ryan Field Recycled

cage james

Field, Ryan. “Cage James”, Ryan Field Press, 2014.

 Ryan Field Recycled

Amos Lassen

Cage James is a stripper who needs money to pay back the loan sharks he has dealt with or he will find himself in serious trouble. However he knows that the chances of him ever getting that kind of money are slim unless he follows his plan that should provide enough money so that he will never have to work again. The first thing that he has to do is to staff those he owes. His plan is to find and marry a kinky and gay young billionaire and then find out where he keeps his money. (Sounds original—like hell!!). The problem is that Cage has actually fallen in love with one of the loan sharks (Give me a break!!). This has caused him to lose control and then have to deal with a situation unlike anything in his life.

Writer Ryan Field says that he decided to write this book because, “It’s a little different from what I normally do and it has a few of the quirky aspects that I used to add all the time to short stories I wrote for LGBT presses. For one thing, I think there is a happy ending depending on how you look at it. For another, I think there are a few topics in this story that haven’t been mentioned in other m/m novels. I also get into gay marriage in a very different way this time. It’s not the typical happy courtship promoting assimilation, but it is a reality in real gay life that happens with many men, especially where one is very wealthy and one has nothing at all”. I don’t know what he reads but not the same books that I do and not even his own books because he has told the same story many times but other different names and it none of the times has the theme succeeded in capturing an audience. He goes on to say, “Though I’m not trying to make any political or social statements with this book, I do think the topic of gay hustlers marrying for money is relevant and common in some circles. I also wanted to break the stereotype that this sort of thing only happens with older gay men and younger gay men. The two characters in this story are both around the same age”.  Does any of this say anything of value or is it just the ramblings of a hack writer? I do like the cover, however.