Now in its 12th year, the Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival offers features, short films, and documentaries that are "made by, about, and [are] of interest to the lesbian, gay, bi, and trans community." Here are our takes on a few of the more interesting films playing this year; for more info, see Film Shorts, Movie Times, and plgff.org.
Breakfast with Scot (Fri Sept 19)—Eric (Thomas Cavanagh) and Sam (Ben Shenkman) are in a committed relationship. The only minor kink is that Eric is an ex-hockey player turned sports TV newscaster, and—due to the dudely atmosphere of the sports world—he's mostly closeted. But things go topsy-turvy when Sam's brother's ex-girlfriend's son (!) winds up in Sam and Eric's custody, and (surprise!) the kid embodies like every gay stereotype ever, from exceptional figure skating skills to a fondness for make-up. He even wears an ascot! Eric becomes totes paro that the kid is going to blow his cover at work—and ironically becomes the bad, suppressive parental figure that so many have been scarred by—while for some reason, Sam is content to just cock an eyebrow at him like, "Dude, remember how we're gay boyfriends?" MARJORIE SKINNER
Ask Not (Sat Sept 20)—In 1993, Bill Clinton struck a compromise with religious conservatives and certain congressional members, creating the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the armed forces. Through first-person profiles of those protesting the policy, those impacted by the policy, and those living by the policy, director Johnny Symons manages to show us why 15 years later, the time has come to lift such restrictions. Symons also shows Clinton's political cowardice for what it was, especially when compared to Harry Truman's unilateral order to integrate African Americans into the military in 1948. Thanks to Clinton, 100,000 people with psychiatric, educational, or criminal background problems have openly enlisted in the last three years—meanwhile, the estimated 65,000 enlisted gays currently have to keep quiet. MATT DAVIS
Otto; or Up with Dead People (Fri Sept 26)—Wow. I've never seen a gay zombie film where a man fucks another man's disembowelment hole! Canadian gay porn star/auteur Bruce LaBruce's Otto; or, Up with Dead People follows a gay zombie with an identity crisis (i.e, Otto used to be a vegetarian but now he craves human flesh; he used to feel dead inside but now he has his whole undead "life" to "live"). Otto mixes experimental film with political screeds, shaky metaphors, and a ton of full-frontal male nudity. COURTNEY FERGUSON
A Jihad for Love (Mon Sept 22)—In the modern West, we've become conditioned to associate the word "jihad" with a violent quest for annihilation. But the jihad described in Parvez Sharma's A Jihad for Love sets us straight. A jihad is a spiritual struggle, a challenge, and in the case examined in this film, it's the struggle of Muslim homosexuals. Spanning nine languages and 12 countries, Sharma—who himself is gay and Muslim—examines individuals living within the framework of a religious fundamentalism that almost universally excludes them. The film's less a condemnation of Islam's often-barbaric treatment of homosexuals than you might expect—instead, it's a sympathetic look at the frustrating metaphysical circumstance of loving a god you're told doesn't love you back. MS
Save Me (Thurs Sept 25)—Following a sex- and drug-fueled suicide attempt, Mark (Chad Allen) gets sent by his family to a Christian "gay conversion" ranch. Save Me explores such issues as the controversial "ex-gay" movement, addiction, guilt, and acceptance, while a cast of recognizable faces (including Judith Light!) give solid, believable performances. Save Me feels like it would be more at home in the made-for-TV realm, but the film's restraint from being either preachy or overly judgmental is rather refreshing (even if ultimately, it's all a bit too even-handed). Plus, I don't really need to mention what happens when you put a whole bunch of gay guys on a ranch, do I? BRAD BUCKNER