The A.V. Club’s guide to the 2013 Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival
Fest programmer Carl Bogner shares his choices for not-to-be-missed films.
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Spanning four days and nearly 20 screenings, the 2013 Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival—which kicks off Thursday, October 17, at the Oriental Theatre—offers viewers an admirably broad array of choices, everything from English-language features and documentaries to shorts programs, international selections, and more. The eclectic array of voices isn’t surprising in the least, given that the fest, now in its 28th year, has long been devoted to highlighting the diversity of perspectives and experiences that make up the LGBT community.
As a viewer, however, all the options can be a little overwhelming. For those interested in attending but unsure where to start, we enlisted festival programmer Carl Bogner’s help in narrowing down a jam-packed lineup of films to just a few not-to-be-missed essentials.
Day 1: I Am Divine (Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m., Oriental Theatre)
Sure, the festival’s opening night features only one film, but it’s a doozy: Jeffrey Schwarz’s much-lauded documentary on Divine, iconic actor and drag queen muse to director John Waters. Though her collaborations with the gleefully provocative Baltimore filmmaker, like her shit-eating turn as Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos (which the fest is presenting as a stand-alone screening October 26) made Divine infamous, Schwarz’s tribute doesn’t stop there, also covering her music and stage work as well as her tumultuous personal life. “The documentary is wonderfully celebratory,” Bogner says. “Divine died too young, but there’s nothing tabloid about it. It’s really an appreciative, very dynamic, exuberant celebration, and I think Divine’s worth it. If people don’t know Divine, they’ll get a very thorough introduction, one that shows her as a serious artist, not just an agent of outrage.”
Day 2: Reaching For The Moon (Oct. 18, 7 p.m., UWM Union Theatre)
The latest award-winning film from acclaimed Brazilian arthouse director Bruno Barreto tells the true story of American poet Elizabeth Bishop who, suffering through a creative dry spell, travels to Rio at the suggestion of an old college friend, but finds herself embroiled in a passionate affair with her host’s partner, the architect Lota De Macedo Soares. All of it plays out amidst the political upheaval that consumed the capitol in the 1950s. “It’s a beautifully polished piece of filmmaking,” Bogner says. “It doesn’t buck convention in any way—it’s a glamorous, full-blown biopic—yet I think that’s a virtue audiences have responded to, this intimate story told on a grand scale. But what’s more satisfying about it, which a lot of biopics pass over, is the messiness of the relationship, which the film doesn’t try to standardize or sanctify.”
Day 3: She Said Boom: The Story Of The Fifth Column (Oct. 19, 11 p.m., UWM Union Theatre)
Formed in Toronto in the early 1980s, pioneering all-female post-punk band Fifth Column was instrumental in paving the way for the queercore and Riot Grrrl movements. But having been adamantly non-commercial, the band’s importance often gets overlooked, something this new documentary seeks to rectify with help from famous friends and fans like director Bruce La Bruce and former Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna. “Our community partners at the Queer Zine Archive Project were very helpful in championing this title, which documents how Fifth Column were the instigators at the center of a scene that was wonderfully collaborative,” Bogner explains. “The music spilled over into zine-making and art experiences, but in many ways sort of kept Fifth Column from enduring popularity, because they weren’t engaged in the pursuit of recording contracts or anything like that.”
Day 4: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (Oct. 20, 7 p.m., UWM Union Theatre)
This Taiwanese comedy-drama from American-born director Arvin Chen follows the various romantic entanglements of an ensemble cast of couples, friends, and acquaintances, whose lighthearted love affairs unfold amid strict Taiwanese tradition and are embellished with forays into gentle, playful surrealism. “To me there are so many challenges to making a successfully light romantic comedy, but this one does it so well. Some of that is the magical touches, which are so nicely threaded into the film without much fanfare, connecting romance to the idea of fantasy and of movies themselves,” Bogner says. “It’s also hard to make a romantic comedy that feels populated, but this movie’s about an extended group of people, with a nice distribution of narrative weight across all the characters.”