One In Ten keeping it ĎReelí
The Reviews

The Adventures of Felix (Drole de Felix)

The adage may hold that getting there is half the fun. In The Adventures of Felix, a French film about one gay manís road trip, getting there is all the fun. The film has little to do with Felixís starting point, Dieppe in Normandy. It has even less to do with the destination, Marseilles, and a meeting with his long lost father.

Felixís adventure enjoys the benefit of first class production values, great acting and lovely French backdrops. Audiences will find themselves frustrated, however, if they anticipate Felixís paternal reunion.

Audiences would be wise to listen to the character Mathilde who insists Felix has no real interest in meeting his father, despite making the journey. Mathilde, who fills a segment titled "My Grandmother," is the real meat of this meal, along with the characters who fill the segments "My Little Brother," "My Cousin" -- which puts a sexy twist on the phrase "go fly a kite" -- and "My Sister."

-- Will OíBryan

Around the World: Women of Color Shorts

Not all of the short films about women of color in Around the World were made available to the Blade, but the two that were did not disappoint.

Black Sheep highlights Australian Louise "Lou" Gloverís discovery that she has aboriginal ancestors, though she and her family have always identified as white.

"I didnít ask for this, it found me," Glover says. "Itís a part of me."

Gloverís quest to discover and embrace her aboriginal heritage is revealed in interviews with various friends, family members, and a former employer.

In Forbidden Fruit, Sue Maluwa-Bruce weaves a touching tale about two women in Zimbabwe who fall in love. The lesbian lovers are never shown. Instead, Maluwa-Bruce, the filmís "storyteller," quietly reveals how same-gender love blossoms even in a culture where people hold "cleansing" ceremonies to rid homosexuality from their midst.

-- Rhonda Smith

Chop Suey

Have you ever wished someone would make Abercrombie and Fitch: The Movie? Well, A&F photographer Bruce Weber has come as close as youíre ever going to get. Like an opium dream of beautiful boys, his photographic influences, friends, inspirations, and lesbian lounge singer Francis Faye are woven through a number of topics in both black-and-white and color. Though lacking in substantial narrative content, the lush tapestry of startling close-ups, naked men, and excellent photography is so stunning, you may forget thereís nothing happening.

-- Brian Moylan

Circuit

Dirk Shafer first attracted attention as a Playgirl Man of the Year. He caught much more attention by making Man of the Year, a film about his experience holding the beefcake title while living as a closeted gay man. Shafer continues his cinematic career with Circuit, a film he directed and co-wrote.

Circuit is being billed as one of great jewels in this yearís Reel Affirmations crown, garnering the plum Saturday, Oct. 13, 9:30 p.m. slot. Organizers surely know that this film, which follows the rise and fall of a rural cop initiated into the Southern California A-list scene, will attract capacity crowds -- of pretty men and those who admire them.

For fans of circuit parties, the film will feel like a homecoming. It demands little from viewers; pay admission and enjoy the ride, no illegal substances allowed. But like the parties themselves, Circuit can be hindered by sobriety.

The movie offers plenty of eye candy, but not much in the way of plot. Nor dialogue. (Although the line, "I donít like women or ugly men," is destined to become a classic.) Nor emotion.

Few viewers will shed a tear over Bobby, King of the Circuit, whose erections need assistance from either a fluffer or a syringe. Viewers may however feel genuine satisfaction that Paul Lekakis, who earned initial fame with the dance hit "Boom, Boom, Boom, Letís Go Back To My Room" in 1986, has found work in the role of Bobby, and still looks polished.

Other actors to look for are Jim J. Bullock as the spineless sugar daddy, Bruce Vilanch as himself, and Kiersten Warren as the hero Johnís gal pal. (Warren played the New Age stripper who got fried while welcoming the hostile aliens to L.A. in Independence Day.)

For those unfamiliar with the circuit, but hoping to catch a peek, Circuit offers a smattering of genuine circuit party scenes. The staged drug overdoses, however, offer more excitement than the authentic party footage.

-- W.O.

Come Undone

Come Undone (Presque Rien)

Told in a series of flashbacks, a French college student, Mathieu, comes to grips with his sexuality when he meets an equally attractive drifter, Cedric, during his family vacation at the French shore. Mathieuís motherís mysterious illness, and the hostility he faces after coming out and moving away from home to be with Cedric, add drama to the mix, and Mathieu eventually checks himself into a mental institution. The movie, in French with subtitles, is quiet and slow and the flashbacks a bit confusing, but the scenes of the two gorgeous youths making love on the beach is worth the price of admission.

-- B.M.

Drift

If a particular company owned the words "romantic" and "visceral," the makers of the very literate Drift would be guilty of shameless product placement.

Character Joel complains, "Thanks for ruining my Saturday night with a boring bunch of snobs." Some audience members may have the same complaint after the Drift screening. This film is a bit too esoteric to serve as common denominator crowd-pleaser.

On the other hand, for the men looking for a Reel Affirmations film that speaks to them in words of more than two syllables, Drift is a graduate-level, intellectual male-male love story that may confuse some, but insults none. Crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. And itís sexy.

-- W.O.

A Family Affair

If Woody Allen ever hoped to make a lesbian love story, someoneís already beaten him to the matzo ball. A Family Affair follows New Yorker Rachel as she goes to California to see her Jewish family, including her PFLAG mom who insists on calling straight people "non-gay."

Rachel ends up falling in love with a woman her mom set her up with, but, of course, the ex isnít completely out of the picture. Thereís also an interesting twist when Rachelís California girl decides to convert to Judaism.

This movie has its funny and "I-can-relate-to-that" parts, and Helen Lesnick does a great job as the commitment-phobic Rachel. But itís the relationship between Rachel and her family that makes this film stand out in a sea of romantic cliches.

-- Kim Krisberg

Family Pack (Une Petite FÍte)

In July 1969, a Montreal woman gives her girlfriend an ultimatum: tell her family about the relationship by the time men walk on the moon. With such a walk scheduled to happen in days, the threat prompts Sacha to hop on a plane back to her family in Brussels.

In 2001, coming out to oneís parents might not seem as apocalyptic as it might have in 1969. But for Sacha, coming clean means also confessing that not only has she not become the Montreal doctor the family believed she was, but also dropped out of her parent-funded med school career. Modern audiences will feel plenty of empathetic anxiety for Sacha.

Despite Sachaís loaded homecoming, the Belgian Family Pack manages -- in the spirit of Belgian counterpart, La Vie en Rose -- to wade fancifully through family dysfunction with period pop music and comic relief. Look for the Tsilla Chelton, who starred in the nasty, hilarious Tatie Danielle, as Sachaís grandmother.

-- W. O.

Friends and Family

In this film, "family" doesnít denote a member of the rainbow, but a member of the mob. Friends and Family follows the gun-toting, gangster days of couple Stephen and Danny, the ruthless enforcers for godfather figure Don Patrizzi. The mishaps begin when Stephenís parents plan a surprise visit to the coupleís New York home and the gangsters go through painstaking efforts to conceal their big secret, which is not that theyíre gay, but mobsters.

The light comedy has some of its best parts when Stephen and Danny try to morph into the jobs theyíve told the parents they do to cover up their true identities -- running a catering business. There are some deep moments, such as when Stephen wonders if he became a super-macho mob enforcer to comfort some internalized homophobia. And thereís also some of that tried-and-true stereotypical comedy when fellow mob enforcers are taught how to act gay so they can help cater a party Stephen has planned for his father.

The film is an entertaining time, though there isnít enough time given to actually showing the couple doing their duty for the mob. A film about gay mobsters seems like a funnier premise than the overused "I-have-a-big-secret-hidden-from-mom-and-dad" theme.

-- K.K.

Fun in Womenís Shorts

The six films comprising Fun in Womenís Shorts are as varied in content as they are in quality.

The films deal with myriad issues. There is the playful and entertaining fantasy, "Monogamous Slut," about a rock star named "Indigo Etheridge" who longs to replace her orgy-filled nights in hotels with a "monogamous slut."

A compelling short is "Intersextion," a serious look at one womanís tale of sexual identity forced upon her as her parents elect surgery to settle the question of her ambiguous genitalia.

Among the films that are somewhat less successful in delivery are "Bykes," about a silly bike race between two women; and "Rancour," which attempts to find the line between argument and abuse in a relationship. "Title IX.L" is a spoof about a woman who must choose between remaining a member of an exclusive soccer team and dating another woman who is a pariah for not having qualified for the team.

-- Chris Rasmussen

Gaudi Afternoon

Cassandra (Judy Davis) is a translator trying to make ends meet in Barcelona until Frankie (Marcia Gay Harden) comes calling for a troubling favor that Cassandra canít refuse. Frankie must retrieve Cassandraís apparently kidnapped child from her ex-lover, Ben (a butch Lili Taylor), with Cassandraís help.

Gaudi Afternoon

Audiences are kept on their toes as Cassandra tries to piece together the mysterious kidnapping. Meanwhile, Frankie disappears, Ben fights back, and Benís girlfriend, April (Juliette Lewis), tries to seduce Cassandra.

This charming comedy, directed by Susan Seidelman, includes enough mistaken identities, plot twists, and double-crossing family members to keep audiences guessing throughout the film. With an interesting plot, a beautiful setting, and superb acting from all actors, Gaudi Afternoon is sure to be an audience favorite.

-- Kara Fox

Gender Benders

Gender Benders is a series of shorts that do exactly that. The Grass is Greener, a Potent Pussy Production, is a delightful gender farce involving a feisty, flea bitten drag queen and a handsome, sullen drag king. After some harsh words, our leads bond over cigs, booze and some refreshingly delivered campy dialogue. Two strong performances make this winning short.

The series ends with "Sir: Just a Normal Guy." Melanie LaRosaís film charts Jay Sniderís transition from female to male. Through in-depth interviews with Jay, his ex-husband, his best friend, and his new girlfriend, an understanding emerges of the physical and emotional changes Jay experiences in transitioning into a male body.

-- Patrick Folliard

The Girl

A story of a young tortured artist, the sexy nightclub singer she lusts after, and a mysterious man that threatens their relationship would make for an interesting story if the plot were more involved, the characters were more developed, and the scenes were intertwined in a way that made sense.

Sande Zeigís The Girl is one of those artsy movies filmed in France that includes a lot of nudity and good sex scenes, but not much else. The plot develops around the painterís fascination with the singer and the nights of passion that spur the painterís creativity, but ultimately ends flat.

-- K.F.

Gypsy 83

Gypsy 83 explores the friendship and complexities between two misunderstood young adults as they deal with fitting in and coming out in their hometown, Sandusky, Ohio. The rich performances add depth to a story that leans heavily on í70s icon Stevie Nicks.

Gypsy (Sara Rue of TVís Popular) and Clive (Kett Turton) hit the road in full goth gear and head to New York. The goal is to get Gypsy to the Big Apple so she can perform at "Night of a Thousand Stevies." Along the way Gypsy and Clive encounter a number of interesting characters, including a faded lounge singer, a hot Amish guy, and an RV full of frat boys.

The highlight of the film is the scene at a rest stop where both hetero Gypsy and gay Clive get intimate with men who break their hearts. Broken-hearted, they begin to get a better appreciation of themselves and each other.

Gypsy 83 easily earned its spot as one of the two Reel Affirmations "centerpiece" films, the other being Circuit. Both Rue and Turton give outstanding performances as troubled misfits and both give depth to their characters, which adds to an already interesting plot. Gypsy 83 will remind adult audiences what it is like to be young and free again; then they will remember, thankfully, that they are not. This film will be a crowd-pleaser and a sure winner at this yearís festival.

-- K.F.

Julie Johnson

Julie Johnson strives to be the kind of liberating movie that encourages women to go after their dreams, but falls flat on its face. The plot calls for, but does not deliver, a resounding conclusion. Instead, the ending leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

Director Bob Gosse adapted this movie, based on a play by Wendy Hammond, which stars Lili Taylor as a Hoboken, N.J., housewife who liberates herself through computer science. She unleashes her latent lesbianism as she ponders fractals and algorithms.

Julie, unsatisfied with her lot in life and wanting to enroll in a beginning computer science class, seeks encouragement from her husband, Rick (Noah Emmerich). When he is less than supportive, Julie kicks him out, leaving her alone with her two kids. Enter best friend, Claire (Courtney Love), who moves in, leaving the pair to begin a life together.

The acting in Julie Johnson surpasses all expectations, but the relationship between Julie and Claire seems to be thrown in as an afterthought to make the lifeless plot more appealing.

-- K.F.

Kevinís Room

If the creators of Showtimeís Queer As Folk ever want to integrate their version of gay life just a bit, they would do well to knock on the door of Kevinís Room. Intended as a vehicle to address HIV/AIDS concerns among gay black men, Kevinís Room far surpasses that goal, drawing viewers into a story full of believable and sympathetic characters. The film manages to make its points without preaching or heavy-handedness.

With very few exceptions, the cast does an admirable job of fleshing out the characters in a way that makes them seem real, like people one might meet in a club, grocery store or subway train. There arenít many perfect bodies or airbrushed faces here, and none of the scenes look like a take from a soft-drink commercial. Instead we see the characters navigate issues with themselves and some of the most important institutions in African-American communities (the family and the church), sometimes struggling and sometimes soaring, but always in a way that makes them accessible, believable and likable.

-- Terrance Heath

Km. 0

Various, disparate people make assignations to meet at a busy landmark (Kilometer Zero) in the center of Madrid on the hottest day of the summer. As they make their way to the prearranged small square of pavement, confusion takes grip on the steamy evening. An aging hooker mistakes a cute aspiring director for her John. A flamenco dancer with plans to meet an Internet trick assumes a nice looking passer by is his date; the pedestrian is only too happy to oblige. And so on.

This yearís Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Audience Award Winner, Km. 0 sometimes comes across as Pedro Almodůvar-lite. The excellent ensemble cast portrays a slice of urban life: gays, hookers, predators, schemers, babes in woods. The female roles exude passion and strength. Directors Yolanda Garcia Serrano and Juan Luis Iborra create a world where people are able to connect and anything might happen. Unlike Almodůvar, they have cosseted this farce in bunting, and everything ends well in a dreamy, mystical swirl.

-- P.F.

Meet the Mosaics

With its rock íní roll attitude and musical props, Meet the Mosaics comes on strong like a "made-for-VH1" movie with a lesbian twist. Unfortunately, the dominant character in the movie, cynical guitarist Dave, stops far short of likeable, even when heís revealing his tiny, elusive warm and fuzzy side.

Dave doesnít want to sell out, so he resists the idea of signing with a label or even naming the band heís in with three other guys. When one of them leaves to make it big, Dave and his band mates are left to find a new lead singer. They find Kate, who fits the bill in almost every way -- except that sheís interested in success, which chafes against Daveís anti-establishment leanings. The first gig she books is at one of her hangouts, a lesbian bar. The venue prompts Dave to go into a jaded rant about gay identity, thereby sealing his own identity as an ass.

-- K.C.

Metrosexuality

Metrosexuality

From the makers of the original Queer As Folk comes another exciting series from Britain. This one centers around Kwame, a 17-year-old London native whose gay parents have just split, and who is hitting the scene with his two gay best friends. The irony is Kwame is straight. ("Because someone has to be," he says.)

Told like a bunch of comic-strip serials squished together, the extended cast of outrageous, multi-racial, and predominantly gay characters -- including Kwameís lesbian aunts, one of his fathersí new boyfriend, and the gorgeous woman he lusts after -- is endearing while still being an honest portrait of modern gay life. The frenetic pace, outrageous costumes and original stories are enough to keep any audience intrigued and screaming for more.

-- B.M.

My Left Breast

Gerry Rogersí exploration of her own process from breast cancer diagnosis to mastectomy to chemotherapy and radiation is an honest, compelling documentary. Rogers and her partner, Peggy Norman, tell their story and hide nothing. The nausea, tears, hair loss, self-esteem lapses, and the discussions about death are all laid out for an audience that may be preparing itself for a sad, depressing tale.

My Left Breast

While thereís nothing inherently upbeat about a breast cancer diagnosis and its aftermath, Rogers and Norman also include in their footage the smiles and laughs, parties and affirmations that follow the mastectomy. Itís fortunate that Rogers, who identifies at the beginning of the documentary as a filmmaker, chose to turn her camera on herself during this difficult time.

-- K.C.

Oh Baby, A Baby (Ach Baby, Ein Baby)

Not only is Iris ready for motherhood after being in an eight-year relationship with Sandra, she wants the career-orientated and demanding Sandra to commit to carry the child. Despite Sandraís wavering, the determined Iris goes on a hilarious sperm donor search and finds "the perfect father," Antonio. Unbeknownst to Iris, Antonio is Sandraís new colleague from Barcelona with whom Sandra has fallen in love.

Through this play of absurd coincidence, Sandra becomes pregnant with Antonioís child, forcing all three characters to become involved in a love triangle of sorts. Directed by Wolfgang Murnberger, this Austrian farce is like a delightful lesbian Mentos commercial -- pretty Europeans in wacky situations that eventually work themselves into a tidy, happy ending. Oh Baby is the cinematic "Freshmaker."

-- K.F.

On The Bus

Part Real World and part Heart of Darkness, this documentary follows six gay men on a bus and an emotional journey to Nevadaís Burning Man festival. The festival is notorious for allowing all the rules of conventional society to be scrapped. The cast -- comprised of the director-narrator, a young porn star, a Swedish diver, an aspiring model, the producer, and the directorís best friend -- seems at times to be a collection of types rather than real people. Though the boys on the bus are not hard to look at, the digitally filmed documentary is often hard on the eyes, the sound is hard to hear, and the intermittent subtitles are impossible to read.

-- B.M.

Ordinary Sinner

Ordinary Sinner at first seems like an ordinary film. Peter, the heterosexual protagonist, is moving from an Episcopal seminary to a quiet New England college town after a crisis challenges his faith. Though Peter has his own problems, he seems to be confronted by homophobia everywhere he goes. The film starts with the aftermath of his friendís gay-bashing. There are other gay bashings, as well as a coming out in Peterís world.

The method of storytelling is sometimes confusing, as the film moves between past and present without much warning or transition, leaving the viewer to figure out where each part of the story fits.

A. Martinez, of L.A. Law, turns in the films best performance as the quietly conflicted Father Ed. Following Father Edís coming out the film finally takes on urgency as Peter searches for the source of the townís homophobia. What he finds is sure to surprise and satisfy audiences, and perhaps give them something to think about as they leave the theater.

-- T.H.

Out in the Arts I

Ross Bleckner comes across as a nouveau society florist. Heís the short nervous guy ubiquitously photographed at openings whispering to Calvin, or air-kissing Bianca. As an openly gay art star, Bleckner is an important painter, with a Guggenheim retrospective to prove it. In Barbara Wolfís absorbing documentary, "Remember Me," the camera grants access to Blecknerís busy, sometimes rarified world. He attends two of his own rather glamorous openings in one week. He takes time to lecture snotty art students. He paints. By filmís end, however, Bleckner emerges as the charitable, thoughtful, hardworking, artist that he is.

Following Wolfís film is "Out of the Closet, Out of Film: The Life of William Haines." Largely forgotten today, in 1930 Billy Haines was the biggest movie star in the world. Three years later, MGM told Haines to choose between his contract and his male lover. Haines chose love.

Remarkably, the ex-movie star rebounded as the interior designer to the stars and maintained his perch at the pinnacle of movie colony society for the rest of his life.

Crammed with fabulous footage and stills, "Out of the Closet" portrays Hollywoodís turn from 1920s hedonism into a conservative Depression-era town where gay men and women were sternly encouraged to comply with new moral codes. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbatoís biopic is an inspiring gem of gay history.

-- P.F.

Out in the Arts II

Out In the Arts II presents two short documentaries, both centered on gay musicians. The first segment, "Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story," lovingly follows the life of Freddie Mercury, front man of the band Queen. The film speeds along from Mercuryís Tanzanian childhood, to freewheeling England, superstardom, and a quiet death due to AIDS-related illness. In less than an hour, Austrian filmmakers Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher spend less time looking at Mercury the musician, instead concentrating on Mercuryís personal life. In a film that travels the globe to tell its story, the curtain is pulled back to reveal a Mercury kept hidden in a more socially repressive time.

Lisa Udelson, like Dolezal and Rossacher, chose to concentrate on a person rather than a musician in her film "Lifetime Guarantee: Phrancís Adventures in Plastic." For those familiar with Phranc, who used to tout herself as "All-American, Jewish, lesbian folksinger," it may come as some surprise to learn that she is now one of the countryís top sellers of Tupperware. Udelsonís documentary nonchalantly turns the world upside down. Is Phranc -- with flat top, manís suit and combat boots -- really at a Tupperware convention in Central Florida? Yes, she is.

-- W.O.

The Perfect Son

Leonard Furlingerís The Perfect Son is an intriguing story of two brothers coming to terms with one another and their own lives in the wake of their fatherís death. Resentment between them boils to the surface, though whatever sibling rivalry may have existed in their past is never revealed.

What Son lacks in back story, it makes up in atmosphere. It isnít long before a foreboding shadow lingers over the whole story, as one brother learns the secrets of the otherís less than perfect life, and prepares to watch his brotherís slow descent into death.

In the end, The Perfect Son is not the brother we expected in the beginning, but an imperfect son transformed by forgiveness and brotherly compassion.

-- T.H.

Play Dead

Who says love isnít dead?

In Play Dead, poor Dale Splitler is madly in love with the high school wrestling team captain -- a hunk of a guy who hopes his girlfriend doesnít wake up out of her drunken stupor because it makes screwing her more pleasant. Dale doesnít have a chance with the jock until Violet, Daleís best friend, accidentally kills Daleís dream date. Following a series of freakish turns, Dale gets a hold of the corpse.

A lovesick boy, his dreamy corpse, his neurotic best friend, and Daleís babysitting charge, 7-year-old Dustine; black comedy doesnít get much better than this film. Play Dead is a tad disturbing to say the least, very well acted and downright hilarious.

Play Dead hits the perfect balance to be labeled black comedy: it doesnít depend on gore or violence and it doesnít aim totally for shock value. The bizarre story of a boy and his slightly damaged stiff could be become an underground favorite if given the chance.

-- K.K.

Queen of the Whole Wide World

Queen of the Whole Wide World

With the frightening elaborate headdresses, fur-lined collars, catty remarks, clever props (such as a real, live donkey!), knee-high stiletto boots, etc., the documentary Queen of the Whole Wide World shines.

Meet misses Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Antarctica, France and Saudi Arabia as they compete in an annual Los Angeles AIDS fundraiser. Behind the glamour is a deep look into the men themselves, their pasts and presents, as well as glimpses into the true art of drag.

-- K.K.

Sex & The Not-So-Single Male

The only way to depict the diversity of gay male relationships in our culture is through collage. This group of shorts tries to show what it is like to be in a number of different relationships. The shortsí landscape is marked with three-ways, IRS audits and Lego villages.

Especially noteworthy is Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple In All The World. The three episodes of animated Lego figures Rick and Steve and their over-the-top group of friends are a festival treat. Rick and Steve plays more like a gay South Park on meth than a traditional cartoon. Also check out Audit -- co-produced and co-starring Sally Kirkland -- about an IRS auditor whose ex-boyfriend has gone straight.

-- B.M.

Skeleton Women

Beautifully filmed, written and acted, Skeleton Women is the story of two women from different worlds, whose illnesses bring them together. Anna, wealthy and stifled, finds solace in the uncomplicated acceptance from exotic Olya, an artsy stripper. Both women seek refuge in their intense friendship, purposefully postponing a plan of attack against the cancer that is in both of their bodies. Their supportive union excludes both of the womenís partners -- Annaís jealous husband and Olyaís clueless girlfriend.

Directed by Vivi Letsou, Skeleton Women employs art, dance and a melancholy score to set an expressive mood in this thoughtful film. Daphne Rubin-Vega is compelling as the spiritual Olya. Serena Scott Thompson (a Charlotte Rampling type) is totally believable as the tense but evolving Anna.

-- P.F.

Stray Dogs

On paper, Catherine Crouchís Stray Dogs, sounds promising. It has all the components of a tear-jerking, yet ultimately optimistic look at life in 1950s Appalachia, even boasting Guinevere Turner of Go Fish fame in the lead. What should be an at least bearable movie falls far short of the mark.

The acting is dull. The lesbian sister-in-law is a study in atrocious stereotypes. The story line borders on ridiculous. If the movie has a saving grace, itís young actor Zach Gray as Reese, a mischievous boy whose antics are at once silly, sweet and outrageous.

Stray Dogs is adapted from the play by Julie Jensen, and unfortunately the film never gets past that "adapted from stage" meter. Though story could have redeemed itself with better timing, the viewer is instead left expecting the characters to break into song.

-- K.C.

Swimming Upstream

Swimming Upstream is a feature-length documentary that follows lesbian couple Jenny and Karen during the course of a year as they prepare for the birth of their first child. Written, directed and produced by Jennifer Freedman, the focus of the film is on preparing for the new arrival and on Karen and Jennyís relationship as they struggle through intimacy and sexual issues, their roles and perceptions of each other, financial struggles, and differences of opinion.

Viewers will get to know the couple intimately as they visit the doctor, go to Lamaze class, shop for baby clothes, hold a baby shower, mingle during a gay pride parade, try to legally adopt, fight, and share coming out stories. Despite the intimate access to the subjectsí lives, simple questions go unanswered, which is mildly frustrating. What are Jenny and Karenís last names? Where do they live? Who are those dogs? Nevertheless, Swimming Upstream will leave plenty of movie-goers wanting a bundle of joy for their own.

-- K.F.

A Union in Wait

A Union in Wait is a very sharp documentary about two women who decide to have a commitment ceremony to celebrate their 19-year relationship. The couple wants to have the ceremony performed in their church, a Baptist congregation at North Carolinaís Wake Forest University. Their huge snag, though, is not cold feet, but the university "recommendation" the same-sex ceremony not be performed in the church. Soon the whole Wake Forest community is engulfed in debate over gay marriage.

For anyone who needs a little motivation to reinvigorate dormant activist tendencies, this film acts as grassroots catalyst. A Union in Wait proves that eventually love prevails.

-- K.K.

Waterboys

Waterboys is a feel-good, against-the-odds kind of comedy. Think Billy Elliott meets Bad News Bears, but Japanese. Despite a glut of painfully cornball situations and choices, the film has its moments, thanks mainly to the appealing cast.

Waterboys

Tadano High School for boys has a lousy swim team. Its sole member is shy, handsome Suzuki. A cute female coach is hired, and half the student body comes out for the team, only to learn that the ditzy coach is pressing for a synchronized swim team.

Just when things seem impossible, a couple of drag queens, three goofy schoolgirls, and a charmed news anchor save the day.

Waterboys ends with a 50-boy synchronized swim routine that would make Esther Williams proud. Very stylized, Waterboys is a sunny, goofy comic book from the producers of the Japanese hit, Shall We Dance.

-- P.F.

Webcam Boys

Is it a documentary or an advertisement? While Webcam Boys is the title of a documentary, it seems to be a business as well. ANT, a gay comic and actor, who in a burst of entrepreneurial spirit established a network of exhibitionistic men willing to broadcast live on the Web 24 hours a day, is also the producer of Webcam Boys.

Itís unlikely that anyone attending the screening will be expecting a hard-hitting exposť, so the producerís bias should not be of much concern. What audiences will expect is a little titillation, and that is provided. But even as Webcam Boys acts as a vehicle to get audiences to check out the boys at their pay-per-view sites, it nevertheless informs. One must give the film credit for going further than any Playboy centerfold questionnaire ever went. Incest, drug abuse and other serious issues are co-stars in this production

-- W.O.

Women on the Verge 2001

For the most part, this collection of short lesbian-themed films hits the mark. The standout of the bunch is Bargain Lingerie, a Spanish film that tells the story of a little girl who has a fascination with big breasts. As a young woman still holding that fascination, her experience with one particularly assertive sales representative at a lingerie shop is funny and sweet.

Another standout in the collection is Martirio, the story of identical twin sisters who find themselves pushed by social expectations into roles they canít live with, and the strength of their bond comes through just in time for the lesbian twin to be spared an awful fate.

Both Bargain and Martirio are also featured in the Reel Affirmations Best of the Fest collection of shorts.

-- K.C.


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October 5, 2001