“BORDER LIVING”—- A Prize Winner from Israel—Dealing with Reality

border living

“Border Living”

A Prize Winner from Israel—Dealing with Reality

Amos Lassen

“Ronit Ifergan’s documentary tells the story of a young family that falls on hard times and decides to move to the Israeli/Gaza border. They find themselves dealing with a reality that places them in an ongoing state of insecurity.  How do they face this new challenge and what do they learn about the boundaries of happiness?”

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 “Like many young couples my husband and I realized we could  not afford to live in a big city. We decided to leave central Israel and move, with our two young kids, to the cheapest place we could find: Kfar-Aza, a beautiful kibbutz on the border of the Gaza Strip.”


”The Kibbutz offered a prosperous and relaxed atmosphere and our small family quickly adjusted to this hospitable environment.  Then came the first Qassam missile from Gaza followed by a second and a third… we felt that the new life we had just come to love was beginning to fall apart”.

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“The film documents the last three years when the missiles falling on the kibbutz became routine.  We debated with ourselves as to what was the ‘right’ thing to do. We asked ourselves tough questions about our responsibility as parents as we struggled with our children’s and our own anxieties.  Although it may seem unbelievable, we found in our hearts the courage to cope with the situation and eventually we became stronger.”

“BEYOND ZERO: 1914-1918″— Footage from The Great War

beyond zero

“BEYOND ZERO: 1914-1918″

Footage from The Great War

Amos Lassen

Filmmaker Bill Morrison gives us a unique look at World War I by showing us film that has never been seen before by contemporary audiences and will never be seen again outside of this film. Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov created the haunting score, commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet. “Beyond Zero” pieces together a visual exploration of the war and is a fascinating look at something we might never have seen if Morrison had not made this film. Included on the DVD is an exclusive video of the Kronos Quartet performing the piece at the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival. Some will find the movie strange especially as we see moving images from the trenches, battlefields and air battles of the War.

Morrison uses rare archival footage, which has often been decayed by the passing of time and he explores the power of film as a medium which is evocative of memory and gives rise to a sense of collective mythology.

“GAME FACE”— A Documentary about LGBT Athletes

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“Game Face”

LGBT Athletes

Amos Lassen

Just like the rest of us in the LGBT community, athletes want to be accepted. The new documentary, “Game Face” is a documentary that focuses on athletes during their coming-out experiences. We immediately become aware of the obstacles that LGBT athletes deal with throughout their careers. Today younger athletes have LGBT role models such as Michael Sam, Jason Collins and Brittney Griner who all came out while pursuing professional athletic careers and with that they were featured in Sports Illustrated, Time and CNN. What we learn about here is what they went through before the big announcement. Filmmaker Michiel Thomas looks at two closeted athletes as they struggle with balancing their love for sports with either/and their sexuality and gender identity. We miss the real emotions and the struggles that athletes face before they announce to the world who they are. The film shows us just that.

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Thomas, 29, knows firsthand what it’s like to be an athlete with a secret. In Belgium where he is from, he played three years of professional basketball. He tried to push his same-sex attractions aside to focus on sports. However, he did not do so until he moved to California when he was 23 but did not come out until a year later when his parents came to visit. They accepted him but he also realized that this was not always the case for many American athletes. He tells us that some of his friends lost scholarships by coming-out and many had trouble with their parents to the extent that they left home and went away either to school or to continue their athletic careers. He speaks of a friend he lost to suicide and how it was when, after coming-out, a new world opened for him and that world was one of rejection. He began searching for people who had not yet come-out and he met Terrence Clemens, a gay basketball player who planned to attend a junior college in Oklahoma and Fallon Fox, a transgender mixed martial arts fighter. This was at the time that neither athlete had come-out publicly.

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He tells us that a reporter threatened to expose Fallon as transgender. She then had two choices—to tell her own story or wait for another journalist to write it as an exposé. “Sports Illustrated, CNN and others covered Fallon’s 2013 coming out. Other female fighters asked for their belts back. Some refused to fight her. Another played Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ over the area’s speaker as Fallon walked to the ring.”

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This film follows Clemens and Fallon as they experience lows and eventual highs. The fighter became a national role model and a featured guest at the Nike annual LGBT Sports Summit in Portland. This was so important and we have to see that Nike gave support and have continued to do so. Collins no longer plays professional basketball. He retired last November, a year after coming out. Sam eventually was drafted and Fox still struggles to draw willing opponents. The reality about gay athletes has changed but it is still there and there is still a lot of work to do.

“LOST ANGEL”— Derek Villanueva’s Dutch Tourist

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“Lost Angel”

Derek Villanueva’s Dutch Tourist

Amos Lassen

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Mikael (Timo Descamps) is a Dutch tourist new to Los Angeles and a young man who having lost his wallet, accidentally broken his mobile and I won’t even mention what happened to his luggage, chances upon his guardian angel is the form of Carlitos; a cutie who turns tricks to pay the rent. Taking pity on a lost soul alone in the City of Angels, he lets Mikael stay overnight at his place whilst he goes out to get laid / paid, a situation that finds Villanueva delight in a series of comical asides, as Mikael makes light of his troubles, that is until events take a turn for the brutally serious.

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Opening and closing with a native language voiceover from Timo Descamps, this is, in essence, the story of two strangers who come to bond as one. Yet the set-up for such, you’ll know it when you see it, frankly could have been better executed, with a visit to A&E thereafter having notably gone AWOL. That said, there’s still a lot to like here, including the wonderfully natural performances from Descamps and Derek Villanueva, familiar faces to those who know their gay cinema.

“UPSTAIRS INFERNO”— WORLD PREMIERE AND CELEBRITY NARRATOR ANNOUNCED FOR EMOTIONAL NEW DOCUMENTARY, UPSTAIRS INFERNO

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“UPSTAIRS INFERNO”

WORLD PREMIERE AND CELEBRITY NARRATOR ANNOUNCED FOR EMOTIONAL NEW DOCUMENTARY, UPSTAIRS INFERNO

Dallas, TX – May 12, 2015 – Camina Entertainment, Inc. is thrilled to announce the World Premiere of the eagerly awaited documentary, UPSTAIRS INFERNO, a full length film about the largest gay mass murder in U.S. history. The 95 minute film is written and directed by Robert L. Camina. The World Premiere will be held in New Orleans on the anniversary of the fire, June 24, 2015 at 7:30pm at the historic Prytania Theater, located in the Garden District (5339 Prytania St, New Orleans, LA 70115). Only street parking is available, so guests are advised to allow plenty of time for parking. A Q&A featuring writer/director Robert L. Camina and many special guests will follow the screening. Tickets for the World Premiere are NOW on sale at www.UpstairsInferno.com

Camina is also proud to announce that New Orleans’ own New York Times best selling author, CHRISTOPHER RICE will narrate the emotionally charged film!

On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay bar located on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans, LA. 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. One-third of the New Orleans chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church were killed in the blaze, including two clergy. 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.

UPSTAIRS INFERNO is poised to be the most comprehensive and authoritative film about the fire and its aftermath. However, UPSTAIRS INFERNO isn’t simply a stagnant exposition of facts. UPSTAIRS INFERNO brings humanity to the headlines by shining a light on the very painful effect the tragedy had on survivors, witnesses and loved ones. Their interviews have been gut wrenching, yet insightful. Some of the people interviewed in the film haven’t publicly discussed the fire until now, especially on camera. Many granted the production exclusive on-camera interviews. Featuring over 20 powerful interviews, it’s specifically noteworthy to mention that the film includes a rare, heartbreaking 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 film includes Ricky Everett and Francis Dufrene (two survivors who barely escaped the inferno), a son of one of the victims, Reverend Elder Troy Perry (Founder of the Metropolitan Community Church), Johnny Townsend (Author, “Let the Faggots Burn”), Clayton-Delery Edwards (Author, “The Up Stairs Arson”), Clancy DuBos and Ronnie LeBouef (Two former employees of the Times-Picayune newspaper) and many more.

UPSTAIRS INFERNO is different than any other project the public has ever seen about the fire! UPSTAIRS INFERNO reveals facts audiences have never heard and it uncovers long lost artifacts, interviews and archival footage few people have ever seen.

Learn more about the film at www.UpstairsInferno.com

The official trailer is available at https://vimeo.com/94900386 and www.UpstairsInferno.com

CHRISTOPHER RICE (narrator) is a New York Times best selling author. His debut, “A Density of Souls”, was an overnight best seller, and was greeted with a landslide of media attention, much of it due to the fact that Christopher is the son of legendary vampire chronicler, Anne Rice. Much of his writing is heavily influenced by the years he and his Mom lived in New Orleans. Rice considers New Orleans his “hometown”. Christopher currently co-hosts his own Internet radio show, THE DINNER PARTY SHOW, with fellow New York Times best selling novelist, Eric Shaw Quinn. Rice recently published the novel, “The Vines”, which is set in the outskirts of New Orleans. Christopher Rice also wrote the adapted screenplay for Anne Rice’s novel, “The Tale of the Body Thief”, which was acquired by Universal Pictures in November 2014, according to Variety Magazine.

ROBERT L. CAMINA (director) wrote, directed and produced several short films before premiering his first full length documentary, RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE (2012) to sold out audiences, rave reviews and a media frenzy. RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE recounts 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 raid occurred on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid. The film, narrated by TV icon Meredith Baxter, screened during 33 mainstream and LGBT film festivals across the United States, Mexico and Canada. The film 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. At their invitation, the Library of Congress hosted a screening in September 2014. (www.RaidoftheRainbowLounge.com)
WORLD PREMIERE: UPSTAIRS INFERNO
June 24, 2015
Prytania Theater
5339 Prytania St,
New Orleans, LA 70115
7:30pm-9:30pm (Doors open at 7:00pm)
Writer/Director Robert L. Camina and special guests (to be announced) will be in attendance. Q&A will follow the screening.

Tickets are $15 and available for purchase at www.UpstairsInferno.com
No reserved seating.

“Boo” by Neil Smith— In “Town”

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Smith, Neil. “Boo”, Vintage Contemporaries, 2015.

In “Town”

Amos Lassen

Going back in time to 1979, we meet Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple, an eight grader loner who suddenly finds himself taken to a place called Town, an afterlife that is exclusively for those who are thirteen-years old. Before he even realizes what is happening, Boo sees that his classmate Johnny Henzel is also there and we learn some interesting and surprising information on how they both died. Physically, Town is a very strange place; there are no tress or animals and the entire town seems to be made of dormitories of red brick that are surrounded by high very high walls. No one gets an older or grows—it is, as if, time stops at Town but everyone there has had their physical appearance slightly changed from what it had been on earth. Boo is surprises that those characteristics that made others dislike him do just the opposite here and he is the happiest he has ever been. However, all is not rosy as he and Johnny try to find out what happened the day they died and they learn something that has deep influences on them. They also learn that they will stay in Town for 50 years at which time they will age very quickly and die again.

Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple is at school one moment memorizing the periodic table but is in a location called Town the next. It’s a place that’s under a constant overcast, housed with 3-story self-mending dormitories and surrounded with a 25-foot high wall. It’s populated with passed-on American 13-year-olds who will remain there for 50 years without aging. At that time they’ll have an accelerated age boost, die again and move along. There are no churches and the only food is vegetarian cuisine.

When Johnny gets to town, he tells Boo that they had both been shot to death by another student who had a gun. Together the two boys try to find the guy who shot them, believing that he is also in Town.

Town is full of strange people and the main plot of the book is what Town really is, how Boo really got there, and what people do there. This is a young adult novel that uses the themes of getting along with others and finding purpose. The descriptions are absolutely wonderful but I found Boo to be something of a “puzzlement” and he is not my kind of person. He is overly scientific, overly intellectual and overly devoid of emotion. However, he does show a touch of humanity when he writes to this parents describing Town and we see that he misses them a great deal.

Looking for the person who shot them gives the book a sense of a murder mystery making this interesting for young readers. Author Neil Smith gives us some of the realities about bullying and mental health which also brings in ideas about life, death, good, evil, mortality, loss and grief.

The story really gets going when Johnny seeks to exact revenge on Gunboy making the novel very fast-paced, original and inventive. The entire book is written in very short chapters and each is named by an element from the periodic table as if the novel were a scientific countdown to death. The mental unrest of the story’s heroes with Smith using shock and violence juxtaposing the innocence and naïveté of these kids. It is as if Boo is trying to explain the afterlife to his parents.

“ONLY ALWAYS YOU”— A Sketch of Love

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“Only Always You”

A Look at Love

In this nine-minute film a young man spends his time drawing sketches and daydreaming of a life he wishes to have’. It’s a familiar theme and one that’s well handled in the film (even if one of the characters does occasionally seem a little stalker-y. Director Anthony Aguiar tells us, “We shot Only Always You with almost no budget in two days. The crew consisted of myself and one other person.

“Portraits at an Exhibition: A Novel” by Paul E. Horrigan— Searching for Purpose

portraits at an exhibition

Horrigan, Paul E. “Portraits at an Exhibition: A Novel”, Lethe Press, 2015.

Searching for Purpose

Amos Lassen

Robin is an alienated young man who is looking for the purpose of life and he does so by looking at portraits at an art exhibition. He is afraid that he might be HIV positive as the result of having had unprotected sex the night before and he has begun to think about the consequences if that is indeed the case. As he walks through the rooms that house the exhibit, he looks intently at the portraits trying to find clues about how these people lived thinking that they can help him understand himself and the way he feels. He focuses on several of the portraits that include works by Sandro Botticelli, Diego Velazquez, and John Singer Sargent (The novel includes reproductions of the paintings). Each of the portraits becomes a time capsule for him and he sees the stories about the models who posed for the portraits, the artists themselves and the responses of the critics. He feels that each portrait reflects what these people endured and how they led their lives. We are taken into Robin’s mind and we see what he sees and thereby learn the lessons that life provided those who had something to do with the art. I am awed by this wonderful approach on which to build a novel.

What Robin sees speak to the issues that so many face in their daily lives and also show something about how we interpret faces, behaviors and bodies that we see regularly. We also learn something about the way the mind works. As many of learned in university art history and appreciation classes, portraiture can send us on fascinating journeys and into the imagination and thoughts of others. The portraits here lead us not only into the mind but also to thoughts about desire, the senses and the spirit. Those who sat for the portraits struggled like Robin with understanding their own destinies, decisions and the role of fates and chance. What we may not have considered is the relation between artist and subject and the influence of that on the finished painting. Therefore we begin to consider this as we reads. Certainly on the important themes here is the AIDS still exists and continues to ravage our community. We learn an important lesson that appreciating art can give hope.

“CANDID LOVE”— Relationship Struggles

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“Candid Love”

Relationship Struggles

Amos Lassen

Director Kurtz Frausun captures a gay couple’s relationship struggles and the death of a parent, set in the backdrop of their Plano, TX apartment during a snow storm. Jon and Daniel have been working on building a life together after both have experienced recent difficulties. But the news of Daniel’s father having an aneurysm sends the already strained relationship into a panic-mode when he must go to Wisconsin to be by his dad’s side. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, it was too late. His father had fallen into a coma and the family decided to end treatment. Jon remained in Dallas, trying to keep the home going and being strong for Daniel to rely upon and their phone calls to one another became a source of both hope and heartache. But with Daniel’s history of alcoholism and depression, a failed marriage to a woman who was the “love of his life” overshadowing his mental health, and Jon’s bi-polar fluctuations, the strain becomes very, very difficult.

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The viewer is thrown into the middle of a relationship between two men that’s in crisis. We do not actually meet Daniel until he returns. We see right away that ‘doing their best’ for these men isn’t necessarily the same thing as succeeding. They are both damaged; balancing mental health issues, drug use and addiction, as well as pasts that neither have completely left behind. Even their sexuality isn’t simple, as while Daniel identifies as gay, his greatest love was a woman and it’s clear he still hasn’t completely gotten over the end of that relationship. We certainly become aware that sexuality is part of the cause and effect of the issues they face. They have broken up on several occasions but have ended up back together – they seem to love one another, but they also argue terribly as they take out their frustrations on one another making it difficult to see whether they are clinging to one another in a desperate search for stability that those who don’t share their problems probably wouldn’t have the need or the means to deal with.

I wondered why I was watching the lives of these two guys. Their issues are so personal that they are none of my business. There are times that it seems that the director also feels that way and even says so. What Frausun is doing is reminding us that these are real people and not just a series of problems and issues. It’s easy for us to sit outside their lives and judge. than looking underneath. The film does a fine job of putting these men’s lives in perspective, expressing their humanity and that their issues are complex, and that what may seem toxic on the surface also offers connection and solace to two people who often seem adrift in life, desperately hoping for an anchor. As with many of the other people in their lives, they seem to offer as many problems for one another as solutions. However the sad thing is that the more context there is, the more difficult it is to see their way forward.

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Breaking up would not solve anything but it is quite hard to imagine them finding happiness together. We are left in a quandary as there are no easy answers and these are immensely complex problems these men are dealing with. Neither man is really equipped to handle the other’s problems. But who would? There’s a sense by the end of the documentary of feeling powerless in the face of issues and problems that don’t have easy answers. There are stories like this all the time in real life. These two men are people who we cannot just forget. What we see is that underneath the complex issues of things such as mental health and addiction are real people looking for love and happiness.