Our gay guide to the 2012 DOXA Documentary Film Festival

For those of you, like us, that can’t wait for the annual Queer Film Fest to come around each year, we have been increasingly lucky to have a mainstream Vancouver festivals help tie us over the rest of the year. This year, the DOXA Documentary Film Festival presents four films that either tell our stories or are stories told by queer filmmakers.

Here is our take on the LGTBQ films that are part of the DOXA Documentary Film Festival which runs May 4 – 13, 2012.

Saturday, May 5: Italy: Love It, Or Leave It

Italy: Love It, Or Leave It

With the recent turmoil in Greece, it is easy to forget the controversies that have plagued Italy in recent years. While Canadian media has been rife with coverage of a Prime Minister with an appetite for the ladies, there are more practical (and arguably important) problems including Sicily’s unfinished monuments to government corruption, Napoli’s all too literal trash problem and the continuing influence of the Mafia in the country.

At a crossroads of sorts, partners (in life and filmmaking) Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer set out to find out if their country is worth sticking around for, or if the call of Berlin will win out.

Traveling Lo Stivale inside a number of vintage Fiats, the duo investigates some of the more outrageous aspects of the country they call home. A sometimes funny, sometimes shocking
road trip, the documentary was made just in time for Italy’s 150th anniversary
as a nation in 2011 and helps to prove that the ridiculousness that is often
times synonymous with North America, can be found elsewhere in the world. I only
wish the inevitable outcome were more hotly debated between the two.

At Pacific Cinematheque on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 4pm. Visit
http://www.doxafestival.ca
for more information. Filmmaker in
attendance.

TUesday, May 8: Vito

Vito

If you check the Wikipedia entry for a list of notable LGBTQ activists in the United States the name Vito Russo doesn’t make the list, even as a footnote. Thanks to Jeffery Schwarz’s 2011 documentary though, that omission is rectified in this powerful and engaging documentary.

While Russo may be best known as the author of The Celluloid Closet, he was also a member of the Gay Activists Alliance, one of the United States earliest gay rights organizations, an active member of ACT UP and a co-founder of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

This HBO documentary uses interviews with Russo himself to help propel his story, one that ultimately follows him as an observer of the Stonewall riots to his work as an activist through the AIDS epidemic. His interviews are complimented by interviews with his brother and cousin and a long list of fellow activists and friends that include activist Larry Kramer, actor Lily Tomlin and author Armistead Maupin.

As his work on The Celluloid Closet is recognized as Russo’s biggest impact on LGBTQ history, it is unsurprising that Schwarz spends so much time here. But while these sections were reminiscent of the 1995 documentary based on his book, it remains a fascinating view into an important part of Russo’s life.

As Russo’s own health began to deteriorate his activism never waned, proving he is deserving of his name among the many men and women who fought hard for many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.

A fascinating glimpse into the life of Vito Russo, this is a must-see at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

At Denman Cinemas on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 9pm. Visit
http://www.doxafestival.ca for more information.
Discussion to follow.

Thursday, May 10: The Man That Got Away

The Man That Got Away

Edmonton independent filmmaker Trevor Anderson breaks the documentary mould in telling the story of his great uncle Jimmy, an Alberta farm boy turned Broadway actor who at one time befriends Judy Garland while in rehab.

Rather than take a traditional approach to an already colourful story, in Anderson’s 25 minute short he presents Jimmy’s story via six original songs and dances. With lyrics by Anderson and music by Bryce Kulak, the songs represent six periods of Jimmy’s life from a young boy to his downward spiral from alcohol and drugs.

Using the spiral ramp of a car park as the backdrop for his film, Anderson moves from the outrageous to the darker periods in Jimmy’s life. As the youngest Jimmy, Aryn McConnell gives a wonderfully campy performance that belies his years and Bruce Kulack carries that torch as Jimmy goes off to war and eventually to Broadway. Vancouver dancer Noam Gagnon portrays the elder Jimmy, fighting his addictions through contemporary dance.

Anderson successfully pushes the documentary film into fresh new territory turning the genre on its ear. It is unique, it is fun, it will definitely liven up the Keepsakes shorts program and will definitely appeal to those that may find traditional documentaries
predictable.

Winner of the 2012 DAAD Short Film Prize at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.

At the Pacific Cinematheque as part of the Keepsakes: Shorts Program on Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 6pm. Visit http://www.doxafestival.ca for more information.

Friday, 11 May: Stock Characters: The Cooking Show

Stock Characters: The Cooking Show

Not an LGBT movie per se, Stock Characters: The Cooking Show is a documentary from Vancouver lesbian filmmaker Elaine Carol.

Stock Characters follows the story of a group of Downtown Eastside aboriginal and immigrant youth who come together under Carol’s directorship to produce a satire of the Japanese cult show Iron Chef.

The documentary follows the company through the year-long process from casting, through the months of bi-weekly rehearsals and the show’s premiere.

Carol’s no nonsense approach in directing the stage show is reflected within the documentary
beautifully. Receiving the nickname of “benevolent drill Sergeant”, she pushes these at-risk youth to their breaking point but with a genuine passion and desire for them to succeed. From funding losses to cast members that mysteriously disappear weeks at a time, the documentary culminates with performances at The Cultch.

An uplifting film that proves the transformational power of theatre, Stock Characters: The Cooking Show‘s only disappointment is that we are not provided with an opportunity to see the entire production of the finished product.

At the Pacific Cinematheque on Friday, May 11 at 1pm. Visit http://www.doxafestival.ca for more information. Filmmaker in attendance. Discussion to follow.

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