Dreams and Documentaries Light Up the 18th Annual QFest

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QFest, the East Coast’s largest LGBT film festival, offers two weeks crammed with dozens of films, their variety of form and subject matter reflecting the diversity of the LGBT world, as well as movie-making in general. Here’s a taste of what’s in store for Week One, including some starred recommendations.

Elliot Loves

QFest’s opening-night choice jumps back and forth in the life of its titular young lead, played by Fabio Costaprado as a young adult and Quentin Araujo as a boy. Neither age is ideal: As a kid, Elliot must contend with his low-income mother’s abusive boyfriend, while his grown-up self stumbles upon one romantic disappointment after another. Director Terracino’s ambition and his ability to confront life’s disappointments head-on somewhat atone for the amateurish staging and acting (Costrapado, in particular, is too goofy for such a dark meditation), as well as an ending that needn’t be so upbeat. (Matt Prigge) Thurs., July 12, 7:15pm; Sat., July 14, 2:45pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.


* Jobriath A.D.

The failure of openly gay glam would-be rock star Jobriath (né Bruce Wayne Campbell) is such that it’s a wonder a documentary on him even exists. Plucked by Jerry Brandt (discoverer of Carly Simon) to be the American Bowie and the subject of a massive advertising campaign, this androgyne would have been the next craze—if anyone had bought the record. Talking heads are quick to blame homophobia when more of the blame falls on Brandt for assuming ads alone would sell an artist few had even heard. Still, as one puts it, Jobriath broke ground, but only broke ground, and if his fans sometimes oversell his worth—his first record isn’t that good—his official hagiography remains a fascinating tall tale exhuming that which history had buried. (M.P.) Sat., July 14, 2:30pm; Sun., July 15, 9:30pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

This gabfest, written by Brian Seibert and Ricardo Valdez, presents itself as slice-of-life realism but is actually a soap opera. The screenwriters do double-duty playing Will and Mateo, a seemingly committed couple. To celebrate Will’s 30th birthday, they invite friends to Brooklyn for a soiree in their spacious backyard, which, for one day at least, functions as an Arcadian retreat. Their clique is an attractive lot, including a sleep-deprived surgeon and an amiable stoner. As the alcohol flows, tongues wag, but Will remains tight-lipped and brooding. Mateo’s present, a handycam, allows everyone to speak directly to the camera and, unconsciously, expose themselves, but the device is trite. These bourgeois bohemians discuss weighty themes like gay marriage and immigration rights, but because they already agree with one another, there’s no genuine dialogue, and the lone Log Cabin Republican is quickly dispatched. As the buzz fades, infidelities are discovered, secrets revealed, and everyone cries a lot, especially Mateo. Pretentious chit-chat can be amusing, but the movie’s sources of dramatic tension are unbelievable: Turning 30 is only this calamitous to narcissists, and it’s difficult to imagine that Will’s older sister could be so grotesquely homophobic. Bring a hanky if you insist on going. (Raymond Simon) Sat., July 14, 12:15pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.; Wed., July 18, 9:15pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.


Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean
The jury’s still out on James Dean’s orientation, but Matthew Mishory’s self-consciously arty feature debut takes claims he was gay and fantasizes about them. James Preston, who looks like Dean if you say so, plays the actor in his pre-fame days, getting it on before heading into the closet. The high-contrast B&W is the main draw here, though Mishory lacks rigor, and his product looks less like early Gus Van Sant than a perfume ad parody. What threatens to become a bad art film then threatens to become a bad biopic, but in neither case fully succumbs. (M.P.) Fri., July 13, 5pm; Mon., July 16, 7:15pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.


Love Free or Die
Warm, charming and well-spoken, Bishop Gene Robinson is no one’s idea of a controversial firebrand, and he wouldn’t be were he not openly homosexual. Macky Alston’s doc largely makes an emotional plea for him as he fights to allow gays positions in the Episcopal Church. What results is moving, albeit a one-note slog, given that Alston almost never engages with the other side, some people of which seem as nice and articulate as Robinson. (One scene finds an official in tears, trying to explain why she’s still resistant to homosexuality.) It’s too busy doing a victory lap to get an idea of the depth of the issue among the Church. (M.P.) Sun., July 15, 7pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.


Love or Whatever
Proving again that low budget rom-coms are no less inane than their blockbuster counterparts, Rosser Goodman’s spirited programmer does a gay twist on the Idiot Plot: After his BF, freaked by a forthcoming wedding proposal, drunkenly cheats with a chick, therapist Tyler Poelle dumps him to find love elsewhere before, of course, returning home. Sexual fluidity, alas, is only there for plot fodder, leaving one with little but energetic rehashes of the genre’s cliches: The half-point tonal shift; the montage of bad dates; instantly dated pop culture references (Precious, Black Swan, Zima); the increasingly dire notion that every supporting actor should act like an ad-libbing grotesque. (M.P.) Tues., July 17, 9:15pm; Wed., July 18, 5pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

* United in Anger: A History of ACT UP
The first of two docs on gay-rights activism in the AIDS era (see Vito, on Vito Russo, who also cameos here) explores the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, which formed at the advent of AIDS to counter misinformation in the media and shame the country into caring. That half the talking heads are dead has the expected chilling effect, but United in Anger is less interested in emotion than in facts, blistering archival footage and bottling up an era fueled by righteous anger with protesters begging the world to not let them die. And though the film could stand a point-of-view outside of ACT UP, here’s the blueprint for any oppressed minorities on how to get shit changed. (M.P.) Mon., July 16, 6pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.


* The Wise Kids

Director Stephen Cone’s thoughtful film explores faith and sexuality without giving short shrift to either. Brea, Laura and Tim are high school friends from Charleston, S.C. Their adolescence passes without incident in the comfort of their parents’ living rooms and the sanctuary of their church’s youth group, that is until Tim’s homosexuality is matter-of-factly noted. Suddenly unable to avoid contemplating adulthood, they struggle to maintain their friendship while also embracing their newfound individuality. They negotiate issues like the loss of faith and sexuality with more maturity than some of the adults in their lives, especially Austin, the deeply closeted choir director portrayed by Cone. But if the teens rely on their own wits, neither the adults nor the institutions they represent are caricatured. In a nice touch, the story takes place during the dynamic period between the end of high school and the friends’ first winter break, which also happens to include Easter and Christmas. The young actors rise to the challenge, especially Allison Torem, who plays Laura, the conservative Christian. Her character lacks Brea’s beauty and poise, and unlike Tim, it may be hard for audiences to root for her, but Cone’s script gives her ample room to develop. (R.S.) Fri., July 13, 7:15pm; Sun., July 15, noon, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St. 

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