“SPA NIGHT”— Gay and Korean/American

spa poster

“Spa Night”

Gay and Korean/American

Amos Lassen

David Cho (Joe Seo) is an adolescent on the verge of manhood. He lives in a tight-knit, traditional home in the heart of Koreatown, Los Angeles with his first-generation parents. David worked at the family restaurant but business was slow and the restaurant was forced to close. His mother, Soyoung, found a job as a waitress, but his unemployed father, Jin, began a downward spiral and as this happens, tension builds in the home.

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To please his mother, David pretends to go to SAT classes but secretly has taken a job at a Korean spa to help his family make ends meet. At the spa, he discovers an underground world of gay sex that both scares and excites him. As David explores his sexuality, his family life crumbles, forcing him to reconcile his own desires with his parents’ hopes, dreams, and expectations.

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Joe Seo gives an incredible performance as David, a young man dealing with sexual awakening. This is writer/director Andrew Ahn’s debut as a director and his story of himself as a closeted Korean-American youth who is not a boy yet not quite a man .The film focuses on a close knit family involved in a economic crisis that forces them to adapt for an unplanned scenario and Ahn begins with characters facing a tenuous future. But Ahn’s film is more than that— it’s a hopeful narrative of a young man awakening to his sexuality via the activities he sees and experiences after taking a position at a local male only Korean Night Spa. The film explores the intersections of two particular communities.

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The circumstances involving the Korean spas as known gay cruising areas in contemporary Los Angeles is not new, although Ahn may be the first to directly address this as a necessary evil by owners and a problem for heterosexual clients. Technically, sexual activities at these establishments are illegal, and considering legal bathhouses for gay men do exist in several areas throughout Los Angeles this situation speaks to the tempting power of the taboo. The setting provides a unique coming-of-sexual-age scenario for David who sees this world very close to him.

David’s situation is a familiar one but his pressures are amplified by his heritage. The film captures that period of growing up when one begins to understand that the world isn’t what it was thought to be and one defines himself from some power within.

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While this is a somewhat subdue look at coming out in the Korean-American community, it brings home a story with something for everyone. It was shot on real Koreatown locations and features mostly Korean dialogue, it represents a valuable cultural artifact, despite its limited commercial prospects. This is one of Los Angeles’ most vibrant immigrant communities, taking place in the Korean restaurants, churches, karaoke bars and bathhouses found there.

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Ahn’s highly personal story (developed via the Sundance Institute’s screenwriting lab) invents a timid protagonist in the relatively extroverted Ahn’s place. Painfully shy at times, David recognizes his desires which we see in his stolen glances in the steam or naked selfies, yet he can’t quite find the nerve to share. He does not have even a single example of a gay man in his life. To complicate his journey, he chose an inopportune moment to investigate his sexuality but then when is the right moment?

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David is torn between his sense of filial responsibility and the apathy he shows toward the life his parents have chosen for him. This is not queer cinema’s traditional coming-out narrative. We assume his gayness isn’t nearly as important within the scope of the film as giving David a chance to establish an independent identity from his parents and the expectations of the conservative community around him.

 

Gay or straight, practically anyone can relate to the dynamic between David’s mom and Mrs. Baek, a friend from church, who indiscreetly brags that her son Eddie (Tae Song) is currently enrolled at USC, suggesting that David visit him there. Despite the fact his parents are spending a small fortune on SAT-prep classes, David isn’t so keen on the idea of college, although the 24 hours spent with Eddie (which begins as a flirty co-ed outing, but ends with an overnight visit to a male-only spa)  gets David’s fantasies moving.

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He notices a “help wanted” sign at the spa’s front desk, and behind his parents’ backs, applies for the job. He finds an adoptive father in the spa manager (Ho Young Chung), who also holds David to a high standard. Allowed to use the facilities as often as he likes, David quickly picks up on the strange, silent ritual that passes between the spa’s gay patrons, who check each other out in the open areas, then seek privacy for touching and more in the steam or upstairs sleeping room.

Cruising is a difficult dynamic succeeds partially but the film is more concerned more with David’s bystander curiosity than the sophisticated nonverbal seduction going on around him. Then again, Ahn doesn’t aim to sensationalize. Even though the film is more comfortable with nudity than most American films, the prospect that gay hookups might happen where others go to bathe is shameful and virtually unspoken.

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David eventually does cross the line with a customer, after which the film forces him to scrub himself raw in the shower, followed by an elaborate formal apology to his boss. Ahn also includes the stories of how David’s parents came to America and everything they went through, but withholds the explosive confrontation of coming out to them. I see the film serving as an homage to the sacrifices first-generation immigrants made in order that their children could achieve their full potential in the States. This takes the idea of pride far past David’s gay identity.

“The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control–and Live to Tell the Tale” by Alice Mattison— Writing Fiction and Memoir

the kite and the string

Mattison, Alice. “The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control–and Live to Tell the Tale”, Viking, 2016

Writing Fiction and Memoir

Amos Lassen

Alice Mattison brings us a targeted and insightful guide to the stages of writing fiction and memoir and shows us n=how not to fall into common traps as we navigate the writing life. I, like Mattison, have always believed that good writing is not a result of following rules. Good writing comes spontaneously and is based on judgment and the writer’s attitude toward what he/she is writing. To be a good writer requires courage and discernment. It is the early stages of writing that are hard to get through and after that there are stages that must be followed and although we may not like the idea of jotting down ideas and writing something of a messy first draft, there must be done. And of course, then there is revision.

Mattison tells us to allow spontaneity and revision play a part in what we write but to hold on tightly so that we do nit get to far afield. Other hints include writing time, solitude, having trusted first readers and setting the right goals for publication. This is the “only writing guide that takes up both the stages of creative work and developing effective attitudes while progressing through them, plus strategies for learning more about the craft” and it provides guidance on all the levels of writing.

Mattison share her wisdom and insight and lets us know what worked for her. What she has to say is relevant and important and sure beats any writing class I have ever taken, academically or otherwise. Mattison has written her book with humor and wit and above all common sense. This is important book about writing and the writing life. She focuses on the process of becoming an author instead of the elements of a genre.

“Transgender, Intersex and Biblical Interpretation” by Teresa J. Hornsby and Daryl Guest— A Call for ‘Trans Literacy’ within Biblical Scholarship

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Hornsby, Teresa J and Daryn Guest. “Transgender, Intersex and Biblical Interpretation”, (Semeia Studies, SBL Press 2016.

A Call for “Trans-literacy: Within Biblical Scholarship

Amos Lassen

We certainly do not think about the Bible when we speak about trans people but after reading this, I am convinced that we should. One of the wonderful things about the Bible is that it has something to say about everything.

Writers Hornsby and Guest explain the terms for the various identities of trans people and how the Bible can be an affirmation of those who are considered sexually other by communities. This book offers readings of well known (Genesis 1; Revelation) and some that are not so well known (2 Samuel, Jeremiah 38). These narratives show that the Bible has been translated and interpreted with a bias that makes heterosexuality and a two sex, two gender system natural, and thus divinely ordained. We get examples that show gender was never a binary, and in the Bible gender and sex are always dynamic categories that do, and must, change with the times.

 We are provided with definitions of key terms, including transsexual, transgender, cissexism, heterosexism, intersex, and eunuch. This is a critique of how biblical texts are used in Christian positional statements on transsexuality and the book presents statistics concerning rates of violence against trans persons.

“VERSAILLES”— Building the Most Opulent Palace

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“Versailles”

Building the Most Opulent Palace

Amos Lassen

Airing October 1, 2016 on American television,  “Versailles” is a new miniseries from France that focuses on the intrigue behind the building of the most opulent palace in the world, Versailles. It follows a young Louis XIV as he begins to build his lavish court and sets out to become his own man.

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It begins when Louis’ mother, who guided him as Queen Regent from the time he took the throne at the age of 5, has just passed away, leading many to wonder who will control the King now that she’s gone.

One prime contender is Louis’ brother, Philippe (Alexander Vlahos), especially if Philippe’s boyfriend, Chevalier (Evan Williams), has anything to say about it. Perennially up to no good, Chevalier hopes for much more than influence at court. He schemes to bring down Louis, replace him with Philippe, and in so doing, become a sort of King by proxy, ruling Philippe in the street the way he does betwixt the sheets.

Evan Williams (Chevalier), Alexander Vlahos (Monsieur)

Evan Williams (Chevalier), Alexander Vlahos (Monsieur)

We witness the volatile dynamic at the heart of their relationship: one minute they’re flirting, the next they’re trading slaps. But the fighting only makes for hotter make-up sex. “Versailles” looks not only at Philippe’s sexuality but also how queer sexuality might have been treated at the court of Louis XIV.

“King Louis XIV’s brother Philippe was unique in his day in that he was an openly gay man. It is well documented in history.

VERSAILLES Saison 1 - Episode 7

Episode List: Season 1

S1, Ep1

16 Nov. 2015

Un roi sans château n’a rien d’un vrai roi

In 1667 in France, Louis XIV is a young king who wants to impose his power whereas he is traumatized by the Fronde (the revolt of nobility during Louis XIII’s reign) and despite the attacks of conspirators. Then, Louis XIV decides to establish the seat of the power out of Paris, in Versailles. At that time, Versailles is just a hunting lodge but Louis XIV radically wants to transform this castle.

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S1, Ep2

16 Nov. 2015

L’État c’est moi

The Queen gave birth to the first royal baby and it triggers some rumors. Besides, Louis XIV’s counselors advice him to go to war in order to impose his power. Furthermore, Louis XIV’s brother Philippe dreams of glory and wants to be on the field of the future battles.

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S1, Ep3

23 Nov. 2015

Il est temps que la noblesse réplique

Louis XIV wants the nobility to live at his side in Versailles. But noblemen and noblewomen have to prove their noble origin to obtain this privilege. Montcourt is one of them, but he can’t prove his noble rank. Then, Montcourt meets a strange Duke called Cassel to help him. Besides, Louis XIV asks the Queen to welcome Annaba, an African prince.

S1, Ep4

23 Nov. 2015

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Demain j’aurai bien plus de choses en commun avec mon ennemi qu’avec mon propre frère

Cassel’s brigands continue to slaughter visitors to Versailles including the king’s goddaughter though Fabien has his suspicions as to their identity and arrests a likely suspect, aiming to trap the murderers. Philippe is declared a hero, following his actions at the siege of Cambrai and Louis sends his brother’s lover Rohan to join him though not before Rohan has played the king’s mistresses against him as several ambitious women arrive at court. Louis visits his brother on the eve of a battle and is taught that, of the two of them, Philippe is clearly the better …

S1, Ep5

30 Nov. 2015

La guerre fait toujours rage en toi, dis-lui “Halte”

King Louis is furious at his ‘guard dog’ Fabien Marchal for failing to prevent or punish the increasingly frequent ‘brigand’ attacks on deliveries for the vast estate’s palatial construction and even on royal guests. It’s the work of the aristocratic conspiracy against the absolutist policy around the duke of Cassel, who meanwhile rages at his enforcer Montcourt for picking a wrong target and, worse, letting a girl escape who may identify him. Prince Philippe covers himself in glory during the war against Spain, but Louis concludes a discrete peace, claiming he mainly…

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S1, Ep6

30 Nov. 2015

Ce n’est pas un enfant que tu lui donnes, c’est un bâton avec lequel il nous frappera

Just as gay Rohan is winning Philippe back as bi lover, Louis stubbornly charges him and Louvois, not the prince, with talking to the war veterans on palace construction strike, who even ask Orleans to speak for them. Louis releases Philippe’s pregnant woman as his mistress, but orders both remain at court. Ruined after his castle’s fire, even the duke of Kassel agrees to move into Versailles when promised debt remission, but counts on Montcourt to steal for him, now by dirty deals with tax collectors. Convinced force won’t work, Louis soothes the strikers by …

S1, Ep7

7 Dec. 2015

La maladie du Roi empire, c’est maintenant qu’il faut agir

A scrubby laborer’s hateful ‘kiss’-spit may have infected king Louis, who is in bed hallucinating, haunted by worse-then-ever nightmares of a plot to steal his crown. Intrigues continue as time runs out for aristocrats to present their letters of nobility, the duke of Cassel must move into a former broom closet, Montcourt continues the rogue robbery attempts to fill a war chest for an aristocratic rebellion. Meanwhile Philippe reluctantly attends a secret meeting to plan the regency or even succession if Louis remains unable to rule, refusing to steal the crown as …

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S1, Ep8

7 Dec. 2015

Ton palais de rêve est en train de devenir un paradis du complot

Know what this is about?

Be the first one to add a plot.

S1, Ep9

14 Dec. 2015

Des forces beaucoup plus puissantes et déterminées continuent de chercher à nous détruire

Louis believes to triumph diplomatically when his queen Henriette negotiates an alliance with England against the Dutch for cash and a guard for her brother, English king Charles II, but when William of Orange personally comes question the Stuart ‘reunion’, Charles offers him a princess’s hand. Rohan continues to elude Marchal’s efforts to dismantle the secret society in Orange’s service, even arranges the escape of a traitor locked up for torture. Marchal, who is losing Louis’ confidence, proves the Pau ladies frauds, discretely executes the mother, his ‘lover’ and …

S1, Ep10

14 Dec. 2015

Laissez-moi sentir le soleil sur ma peau

“OBSERVANCE”— An Intense Thriller

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“OBSERVANCE”

An Intense Thriller

-Amos Lassen

Joseph Sims-Dennett’s “Observance” is a seriously intense thriller. It is a psychological horror tale that involves a private detective, Parker who, hired to watch a woman across the street, begins to have a violent mental breakdown. This is a creepy and quite unnerving film about a young man grieving over the death of his young son. To make matters worse, his marriage is on the rocks and there is little money. He has reluctantly returned to work as a private investigator and is assigned to observe a woman from an abandoned apartment. As he watches the bizarre happenings surrounding her, he slowly becomes aware that the building he is in has a dark presence that slowly threatens to consume him. This is the frightening horror tale of a man spiraling into madness. He does know why he is watching her which makes things all the more interesting as we watch a film with themes of voyeurism, blind obedience and grief.

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Lindsay Farris is Parker, the mourning father whose marriage appears to have dissolved in the wake of his son’s death. Struggling under the debt of the boy’s hospital bills, he takes a lucrative but dubious assignment in which he has to be in a filthy abandoned building across from a woman’s apartment and spy on her for a few days. Aside from a nail-biting scene in which he sneaks into her home to plant listening devices, all Parker does is watch through his telephoto lens and listen to her phone calls, reporting what he learns to a voice on the phone who represents Parker’s secretive employer. Even when he sees things that make him fear for the woman’s safety, he is told to just sit tight, do nothing and that everything will be okay.

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However, we get the impression that nothing will be okay. Parker is surrounded by rot and ooze, from the weird black liquid collecting in jars to the little animal corpses he finds in the least welcome places. Unsurprisingly, he gets sick, making his fevered dreams of his dead boy all the more disturbing.

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The film combines observation and memory in montages of close-ups and menacing sound design causing the viewer to wonder just how much danger that Parker perceives is in his own mind. We know that it all can’t because we glimpse things he’s not even aware of and hear hints from other characters about a conspiracy that he might unwittingly be part of.

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Halfway through, the film adds Asian horror to its mix of creepy influences and we realize that there are no answers to the questions that we have. I soon felt a sense of dread coming over me as I watched this film.

People are followed, watched, manhandled, scalded, grabbed, run at, slapped, trapped, tackled, face-grabbed, hit with objects and we see photos of bloody corpses and just lots of blood. There is sex and nudity and language that just might offend some people. “Observance” is ambiguous and the only thing that I felt was for sure was that there is something amiss. The film is from Parker’s perspective alone and therefore everything is up for interpretation.

“BARRACUDA”— An Australian Mini-Series

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“Barracuda”

An Australian Mini-Series

Amos Lassen

Danny Kelly (Elias Anton) is a talented swimmer who attends a prestigious Melbourne private school on a sporting scholarship. He comes from a working class, half Greek and half Scottish family and he gets his share of harassment from the privileged students. What Danny wants and dreams of is to win swimming gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Highly regarded coach, Frank Torma takes Danny under his wing Danny soon and develops a friendship/rivalry with teammate Martin Taylor that inspires him to become Australia’s youngest swimming champion.

Melbourne 1996 is known as the Golden Age of Australian swimming, When Danny received his scholarship to school, his dream came one step closer is beginning and a scholarship to an exclusive boys school brings 16-year-old Danny Kelly one step closer to his ultimate goal – winning Olympic gold.

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At first, Danny struggles to find his place in the prestigious social circles of the private boys school. However under coach Frank Torma (Matt Nable) and a friendship/rivalry with teammate Martin Taylor (Ben Kindon), Danny is soon on track to become Australia’s youngest swimming champion—- he seems to be the unstoppable Barracuda.

Soon, everyone has a stake in Danny’s success and as he swims closer towards gold and Danny finds himself being drawn into a world where the only thing that matters is winning. When he gets his shot at victory, with all of Australia watching – can the ‘Barracuda’ live up to everyone’s expectations and fulfill his dream?”

I read the book “Barracuda” by Christos Tsiolkas when it first came out some three years ago and loved story but others evidently did not love it like I did and that was probably because it is a slow read (but a very rewarding one). What the book lacked in pacing, the mini-series made up for and I felt everything came together and I loved that the series would introduce many to the book and it will get all of the respect that it deserves.

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All of the performances are excellent and “Barracuda” is a wonderful example of Australian talent. Danny is quite a study in character. He is hot-blooded and determined, a self-centered young man who aspires to the Olympics and has the skill and the competing impulses to do so. I know this because I read the book, everyone else that has not has to discover this themselves. Tsiolkas invited readers into Danny’s through the extensive use of first-person whereas the screenwriters, resisting voiceover narration and do not let us access Danny’s inner thoughts. In the book, it is very clear that Danny is gay. In the film version the only thing Danny wants to go to bed with is a gold medal for swimming around his neck. Danny’s scholarship to Blackstone College, is the first step to his dream. Martin has two roles—he is Danny’s rival and the object of his lust.

Martin comes from a line of snobby, upper-class types that include ice queen mother Samantha Taylor (Rachel Griffiths) and sister Emma (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) who is a striking presence, both headstrong and calming. The members of Danny’s family are working class Labor types; his dad (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) is aghast that Martin’s relatives have ties to the Liberals. We see some excellent swimming scenes that incorporate slow-motion underwater shots and gorgeous blue water. However the pool imagery is not what it seems to be. The film looks at Australia’s social fault lines. “Barracuda” examines the underbelly of Australia’s obsession with sporting triumph and we see that it is something of a conveyer belt that turns out many more losers than winners.

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Tsiolkas is well regarded for his ability to draw realistic, insightful interpersonal relationships in front of a broader backdrop that explores social issues and values. The concentration of the film is on key generally swimming-related dramatic moment.

Given Danny is a character who bottles up and internalizes almost everything except for his dreams of the Olympics, this strips him of his more human attributes here. Nonetheless it is a very good show that you do not want to miss.

“LINDA LETHORN & THE MUSICBOX— A Dysfunctional Love Triangle

linda leThorn and the music box poster

“Linda LeThorn & the Musicbox”

A Dysfunctional Love Triangle

Amos Lassen

Director Meg Skaff takes us inside a dysfunctional love triangle where Linda LeThorn (Andrea Fares) is taken to her breaking point by a possessed music box she inherits from her Aunt Lucinda. When Linda gets the music box, she is already disturbed and when she sees that it is taking over her life, she almost totally loses it. When the box begins to affect her relationship with Geraldine, things become quite tense.

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At first Linda was fascinated by the glass music box, but when it began to play by itself, it also began to possess her. Several terrible happenings occurred and while Linda is possessed, she hears from somewhere that she needs to begin a society for women who pick their own skin. (I also had to read that sentence twice). At the first meeting she finds Geraldine ( Ashley Peoples) with a dysfunctional love triangle begins between Linda, Geraldine and the music box. Geraldine becomes a bit obsessive toward Linda, who takes a somewhat obsessive liking to Linda. When Linda gets a disturbing phone call that takes her to her breaking point, she and Geraldine decide to throw away all of Aunt Lucinda’s items.  However, any hope for their relationship between the two women is also thrown away with the music box. Linda also has a secret that she then shares with Geraldine.

I am just not sure how to categorize this film. The two characters are unusual to say the least and there is lots of humor in the seventeen minutes the film runs. But there is something else here as well— charm and a kind of innocence that we do not usually get in short films.

www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi122987289/

“THE RETURN OF RUBEN BLADES”— Actor, Writer, Attorney, Activist and Grammy Winner

ruben blades poster

“The Return Of Rubén Blades”

Actor, Writer, Attorney, Activist and Grammy Winner

Amos Lassen

Robert Mugge paints a portrait of actor, writer, attorney, activist, and Grammy Award winning world music artist Ruben Blades, the Panamanian “salsa” singer who successfully crossed over from the Hispanic market to the international arena.

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The documentary revolves around the excellence of Ruben’s life and his poetry as well as the outstanding band that he leads — Seis Del Solar. We begin with Ruben at his Harvard graduation and then meet his parents, visit his town in Panama and see the city life there and then see him in a performance of songs from his landmark album “Buscando America.

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Ruben Blades, more than most popular singers, is a public, political figure. His lyrics are addressed to all of Latin America and they urge self-determination and an end to outside intervention. On and off stage, Mr. Blades is articulate and even political as he considers every statement he makes before he utters it. He went Harvard, where he got his master’s degree in international law so he has a basis for what he says and feels. His music is intelligent, and Mr. Blades makes every nuance count.

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He and his band mix salsa, jazz and electronic keyboards and Blake can scat with the best of them. The release of Buscando América, with its intricate Latin dance rhythms, rocklike intensity, and poetry showed Blades to be a major cultural force. But what made him so much more “interesting” as a film subject was that, simultaneously, he was starring in a highly autobiographical independent film  which he himself had co-written while earning a Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) in International Law from Harvard Law School, was publishing political essays in both Spanish and English He was splitting his time between the U.S. and his native Panama in anticipation of future political ambitions, was reading scripts for additional acting roles in the hope of improving the image of Latinos in Hollywood films and TV series. He also was touring internationally with his band, and was planning new material that he hoped would further dissolve barriers between the English-language and Spanish-language music industries.

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Mugge and his crew spent the spring and summer of 1985 shooting concert by Blades and his band at New York City club S.O.B.’s (Sounds of Brazil). They has an interview with Blades at his New York City apartment, filmed a conversation between Blades and author Pete Hamill in a New York City park; attended and filmed a Spanish-language recording session in Los Angeles featuring Blades and guest vocalist Linda Ronstadt and went on a trip with Blades to his hometown of Panama City. In Panama, Blades was filmed on the balcony of his new high-rise apartment overseeing his city’s changing landscape, in front of the bank where he once worked as an attorney. Mugge joined Blades’

father for a visit to the neighborhood where he grew up, in a courtyard discussing his intention to run for president of Panama one day, and walking along the Panama Canal discussing the sometimes tense relations between Panama and the United States.

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ruben4The film was made thirty years ago and Blades has done all that he sat out to do as seen in the documentary. We also see Blade’s charisma, sincerity, his grace and humility.

“The film exudes a sincerity and a relaxed charm that is hard to resist. If the point of a so-called concert film is to provide insight into an artist and his work, then THE RETURN OF RUBÉN BLADES is a major success.”  – James Verniere, Boston Herald

“Losing Faith” by Scotty Cade— Going Back to Move Forward

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Cade, Scotty. “Losing Faith”, Dreamspinner, 2016.

Going Back and Moving Forward

Amos Lassen

Father Cullen Kiley is a gay Episcopal priest on hiatus from the church and decides to take his boat “T-Time” from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Southport, North Carolina, a place that holds many memories for him. While on a run his first day in Southport, Cullen comes upon a man sitting on a park bench staring out over the Cape Fear River with his bible in hand. The man’s body seems defeated and desperate and Cullen who is unable to ignore his compassion for his fellow man, stops to offer a helping hand.

It turns out that the man is none other than Southport Baptist Church’s Associate Pastor Abel Weston who has been having a hard time managing his demons. When this became too much, he retreated to Southport’s Riverwalk with his bible in hand and stared out over the water praying for help and guidance that never seemed to come. Abel soon discovered that help and guidance come in many forms. An unexpected friendship develops between the two men and as Cullen helps Abel face his demons as he comes face to face with his own reality, threatening both their futures.

Cullen lost his husband and with that his belief in God as well. He could not understand how a loving God would take away the best thing in his life. He closed himself off from his family and friends, and set sail hoping to come to terms the way he feels.

Southport, North Carolina is a town that was important to Cullen and his partner, Cole. Then he met Abel and we see that both men are struggling. One is searching for faith among the bigotry in the world while the other turned his back on his calling because of a broken heart.

Cullen is still dealing with some personal grief and loss issues, and instead of letting go falls deeper into grief and despondency. Thus he took the vacation he so badly needed.

Cullen and Abel begin a beautiful friendship but they both have to deal with their inner demons. Once again Scotty Cade gives us a beautiful read and his approach to faith is realistic and meaningful. I had the feeling that he has been where our two heroes are when we meet them here.

“ZANDEROLOGY”— Meet Zander Keig

zanderology

“Zanderology”

Meet Zander Keig

Amos Lassen

“Zanderology” is an illustrated film, based on the oral histories of Zander Keig. We see Zander speak about the transitional wisdom that Zander has learned while paralyzed, in a mental hospital, a gang, in the military, transitioning from female-to-male and as a social worker. Zander Keig was a man who was presumed dead in the womb but lived and assigned female at birth, paralyzed at age six, put in a mental hospital as a teen, joined a Mexican gang in middle school, dropped out of high school, enlisted in the military, became an undercover narcotics agent, obtained three graduate degrees and is now a social worker serving homeless veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Zanderology goes beyond telling people that it gets better.

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Megan Rohrer’s film is now available on DVD and it is not the same movie that was screened at different festivals. Rather it is a many episode illustrated aural history about the life of Zander Keig. The illustrations are done to decrease the amount of pondering people do about what Zander looked like before transition. It’s broken up into episodes, because Zander’s life is intense and people should take time to process bits of it before they move on to the next. The episodes are released separately to decrease the amount of binge watching and so that viewers can think about they see in each episode.

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Director Rohrer chose to use cartoons in the film because Zander has almost always looked and dressed the same (aside from a few mullet years) ad to avoid the sensationalism and oversexualization that childhood photos sometimes create in stories about trans folk.

 

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The film is not meant to be a trans 101.  “Zanderology” is more than that in that it presents Zander as a fully rounded person whose transitions in life have been about so much more than hormones or surgery.

We see how Zander transitioned spiritually but this is only a small part of the story of Zander’s almost decade long transition from a self professed lesbian who participated in the Lesbian Avengers to a trans man. This film never apologizes for or tries to rationalize any of Zander’s transitions.