Michael Knaapen

ImageOut: Making Movie Magic in Rochester, NY

Filed By Michael Knaapen | October 15, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: film festival, film review, ImageOut, movie review, My Straight Son, New York, Rochester

imageout-2014.jpgLast weekend, I had the great privilege of visiting Rochester, New York. The entire trip inspired me with material for more posts than I have time or talent to commit to The Bilerico Project in a lifetime. But I must begin by spreading the good news of ImageOut: the Rochester LGBT Film and Video Festival.

ImageOut, celebrating its 22nd year, is a massive undertaking: 65 films are showing at multiple theaters over ten days. In an interview, festival film programmer (and fashion icon) Michael Gamilla noted that during the festival, films will be shown from 24 countries and touch on all different aspects of LGBTQ lives, reflecting the festival's commitment not only to the full LGBTQ spectrum but also the global nature of this community.

The lineup includes better-known titles -- popular new release Pride underscores the unity of labor and the LGBT community by telling the story of U.K. gay activists who supported the miners during the 1984 strike, and Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine tells the story of a gay historical figure in a new way. The festival even includes some of our old favorites as part of the ImageOut of the Archives screenings (Anyone up for another round of sobbing over Longtime Companion?). Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity explores the dynamics of space, movement, and labor by documenting some of the famous choreographer's work.

my-straight-son.jpgJohn and I were fortunate to see a darling 2012 Venezuelan film, My Straight Son (originally, Azul y no tan rosa, or "Blue and not so pink." Damn idioms!). Glamorous photographer and gay dad Diego takes his teenage son off his baby mama's hands for a few months while she heads to the U.K. for school. Director and writer Miguel Ferrari draws on numerous genres - father-son buddy picture, road trip, ER drama - without any kind of rigid fidelity to one or another, focusing instead on characters and story with appealing results.

The film unfolds in a series of happenings that culminate in a Shakespearean finale - all debts are paid, all wrongs are righted. And as we do with Shakespeare, we need to suspend our disbelief and avoid asking too many questions if we want to share in the big group hug at the end.

Par exemple: Diego's son hates how he looks, but his family and friends reassure him that he is perfectly okay-looking. The problem is that the actor Ignacio Montes is far from okay-looking -- he's gorgeous. There are a number of similar puzzles throughout the film, such as the musical interludes that last as long as the song rather than as long as the scene requires (more musical chairs than montage, you find yourself wondering where you'll be in the story when the song ends). Still, it is an exceedingly rich film, bursting with humor and pathos, and relying on an ensemble of stellar performances (Guillermo Garcia as Diego, Montes as the titular straight son, and Hilda Abrahamza as a sexy, fiery trans* choreographer and friend to Diego are standouts).

For me, the best part of seeing My Straight Son was the full ImageOut experience: making new friends in the hallways between screenings, sharing reviews over bourbon martinis, listening to the cinema-worthy stories of longtime festival-goers and hearing the pride in their voices as they discussed the festival's evolution.

There's a touch of summer camp chemistry, like the social equivalent of van der Waals forces, at an event like this; as you sit together with strangers in the dark watching other strangers from very far away tell a story about something deeply personal and perhaps very different from your own life, little by little the strangeness diminishes, the distances shorten, the differences seem less so. The lights come up on a group of people with something -- perhaps inexpressible, but palpable -- in common. That's what they call "movie magic."

This extraordinary film festival has been lovingly and expertly curated by the passionate LGBT community of Rochester. If you can get to Rochester before the closing ceremonies on the 19th, I strongly encourage you to do so. You will be treated to amazing films, the rich cultural scene of Rochester, and the unmatched hospitality of its community. By all means, go to ImageOut for the movies, but stay for the magic.

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