A DECADE OF MOVEMENT
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
With more mainstream film representations of the LGBT community in flux—“About Ray” release gets pushed back, seemingly in response to a less than favorable preview at the Toronto International Film Festival and “Stonewall” facing challenges from activists concerned whitewashing and pandering—events like the Dayton LGBT Film Festival (October 8-11, 2015) become even more necessary. Personally, I took a hard stance on both of the aforementioned films, while pointing to alternatives, like Swedish director Alexandra-Therese Keining’s “Girls Lost,” based on an award-winning Swedish young-adult novel, which offers a psychologically complex examination of teen sexuality, while deftly utilizing a supernatural trope that feels more akin to magic realism than broad comic book hijinks. Trust in the allegory is key to the power of “Girls Lost,” but there is a great faith placed in the audience that we experience here.
That is why the 10th anniversary of Dayton’s fest matters. Culture, whether emerging, alternative or displaced, must be presented and represented honestly, in all its glory. It is only through seeing cultures as they are that the larger society can engage with them and join in the celebration. Rather than focusing on making a culture more relatable, we need to appreciate that no culture is monolithic; there must be a diversity of perspectives on display.
Which is exactly what this year’s fest provides and without drawing undue attention to the fact.
The kickoff film, Andrew Nackman’s “Fourth Man Out,” sounds like a working-class Judd Apatow dramedy, focusing on Adam (Evan Todd), an all-too familiar type, a small-town mechanic caught up in a state of arrested development—drinking and playing sports with his friends—who happens to like guys. Rather than dealing with harsh treatment from his best buds when he finally comes out, Adam must adjust to their attempts to find him a boyfriend. The Apatow reference might be strained—Apatow’s work and his characters have that refined chic prevalent in a Nancy Meyers (“The Intern”) catalogue production—but beneath the upscale sheen, the comic producer-writer-director has a knack for the lived-in cultural interplay between intimate groups of friends, which “Fourth Man Out” promises.
On the other end of the spectrum, Friday night plays host to David Gold (writer-director Pat Mills) who, in “Guidance,” streaks off into true oddball territory. The failed former child actor of some note with stereotypical drug problems concocts a scheme that lands him a gig as a high school guidance counselor and miraculously becomes a sensation with students, until an encounter with a truly desperate outsider forces him to evaluate his situation. The premise sounds broad and sitcom-ish, but based on the trailer, Mills commits to the character to such a degree that he drags us along for the crazy ride.
And the festival ends with a love-it-or-hate-it selection that made waves at Sundance earlier this year. Another multi-hyphenate, Sebastián Silva, gives birth to “Nasty Baby,” the story of a trio of friends, played by Silva, Kristen Wiig and TV on the Radio front man Tunde Adebimpe, who bicker over the decision to make a baby and start a family, against a much larger and more complex backdrop with dark consequences. The presence of Wiig immediately teases comedic elements, but Silva fearlessly challenges the narrative form and his audience to journey down this alternative pathway.
The entire line-up for the festival embraces the same spirit, opening an inviting gateway for the greater regional audiences to appreciate and celebrate all facets of LGBT experience.
The Dayton LGBT Film Festival takes place Oct. 8-11 with all screenings taking place at The Neon, 130 E. Fifth St. For tickets and a complete schedule, please visit daytonlgbt.com.