Sunday, March 06, 2011

Review of 2011 LGBT POC Film Festival: Fusion Shorts

I attended the Fusion LGBT POC Film festival yesterday and checked out the Fusion Shorts program. Here are my reviews.
Dir: Mike Rose
A spoof on intervention reality shows that features a woman, who compulsively cooks to the dismay of her family who just wants her to Stop It! This is a very clever spoof of reality shows whose comic appeal is based on the sheer ridiculousness of the "addiction" it depicts as well as the gender-bending nature of the lead character. The person  I saw the films with was curious whether the laughs would have started so quickly if the drag element was removed. I think probably not, but even without that, this short would be a funny hit. GRADEB+.

Dir: Abdi Nazemian
A coming-of-age story about Jack, a 16-year old Iranian boy growing up in 1989 Los Angeles. (In Farsi, Tagalog with English subtitles). This is a lush, dramatic film with a haunting score and an emotionally complicated plot. Unfortunately, the numerous, various pieces (cultural assimilation difficulties, teenage homosexual experimentation, father-son tension, the AIDS tragedy, mother-son angst and a too-cute  small dog) fail to really coalesce into a whole which matches the components. The central metaphor is flawed and the acting of several of the characters is unconvincing. GRADE: B-.

Dir: Laurie Thomas
The unspoken dance of a love triangle unfolds in the time it takes to sing this song. My first response is that this is a curious choice for an inclusion in a collection of shorts in an LGBT people of color film festival. On the surface it appears to be a dialogue-free depiction of a complicated moment between the red-haired, female singer of the classic Cyndi Lauper song and the two people who are interested in her affections: a laughing, smiling dark-haired white guy and a presumably multiracial dark-haired gal who is ultimately disappointed by whatever she sees in object of affection's eyes. GRADE: C+.

Dir: Andrew Ahn
A six-year old boy discovers what it means to be a man. (In Korean with English subtitles). This is a too-short meditation on father-son dynamics by considering the ways in which gender roles are performed and policed by little boys and adult men with the complicated cross-cultural (mis)interpretations of same-sex interaction thrown in for good measure. The film definitely leaves it up to the viewer to interpret  nuanced reactions of a Korean father to a lipstick-wearing six-year old as well as the problematic depiction of an adult male stranger interacting with the child in a public men's room. GRADE: B+.

Dir: Hector Ceballos
Fidelia must find a way to honor what would have been her friend’s wishes before it is too late. (In Spanish with English subtitles). One of the highlights of the 2011 Fusion Shorts was this beautifully shot, tautly written depiction of the real deprivation(s) of the life and death of transgender individuals. The complicated ways that family ties can constrict and limit an individual's potential as well as the ways that they can be recreated in a more authentic way among a family of choice are the main themes here. The acting is particular strong, although some may feel that the storyline veers perilously close to telenovela melodrama. GRADE: A.

Dir: Neelu Bhuman
Accentuated by voices of family members, this short film is an honest portrayal of the experience of bisexuality (English subtitles). A rather experimental short film which attempts to show the dilemmas of a bisexual, Indian immigrant and the tensions her identities produce within those around her. Generally, I found the film to be visually uninteresting and dramatically obtuse; it's differences from the other films are so extreme it was ill-served to be included in this collection. GRADE: D.

Dir: Christina Choe
Bobby, a Korean-American teenage outcast, is working at his parents’ dry cleaners on prom weekend. When the prom queen and her boyfriend, stop by with their dress and tuxedo, Bobby has his own prom to remember. A near-perfect short film for any LGBT film festival. Almost any gay man can identify with the lead character of Bobby and his desire to be the consort to the Prom King, which is realized in a thrilling, pitch-perfect, well-choreographed crescendo and a surprise ending which is sure to generate squeals of delight from even the most jaded "queen." GRADE: A.

Dir: Melissa Osborne & Jeff McCutcheon
A gay African-American teenager grapples with his young identity on the night Obama was elected. This is a well-produced short which tries to depict and (possibly defuse?) the complex emotions surrounding the inextricably coupled events of the passage of Proposition 8 and the election of Barack Obama in the African-American, LGBT and African-American LGBT communities. Happily, the directors have chosen to tell the story through a closeted Black teenager played by a young actor with a handsome, expressive face. It is thrilling to recall the historic events of Election Night 2008 and devastating to be reminded of the day after when the implications of California's passage of a ban on same-sex marriage began to sink in. The short film is engrossing but has some slightly odd pacing problems. The person I saw the film with was very disappointed in the very final scene; we both wanted more explanation of the motivations of the main characters' reactions to the Election Day events. GRADE: A-.
Overall, I'm very glad that I went but felt that this collection was slightly weaker than last year's, but just barely. If you see The Queen, Remember Me in Red or Change at a film festival near you, I strongly urge you to check them out!

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