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last update 30.Mar.11
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The Advocate for Fagdom
dir Angelique Bosio
prd Stephane Bouyer, Gildas le Tourneur
with Bruce La Bruce, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Harmony Korine, Glenn Belverio, Rick Castro, Francois Sagat, Susanne Sachsse, Jey Crisfar, Bruce Benderson, Richard Kern, Ernest Hardy
release UK Apr.10 llgff
11/France 1h31

london l&g film fest
The Advocate for Fagdom Lively and engaging, this documentary about iconic filmmaker Bruce LaBruce is a real gift to his fans. It takes a lucid, witty trip through his career, but it's definitely not for general audiences.

At 47, LaBruce has been a cinematic icon since the early 1990s, influencing gay culture in North America and Europe by constantly pushing boundaries. In person, he's nothing like moviegoers would imagine him to be. Thoughtful and intelligent, he knows what he's doing with his films, which have been unapologetically sexual and violent from the start. When he moved to Germany and started merging sexuality with skinheads, he really touched a nerve, and continues to do so with recent films about vampires and zombies.

Documentarian Bosio explores his early years as an activist and artist in Toronto, and how he started rebelling against the middle-class gay lifestyle with hilarious "post-queer" and "ex-ex-ex-gay" shorts in the early 90s. This doc is packed with clips from his films, including rarely seen ones, as well as behind-the-scenes footage from his latest film, L.A. Zombie. Intriguingly, all of his subsequent films have the same kind of activism woven into them, along with messages about real love in a messy world.

Clearly LaBruce isn't trying to shock people; he's wants to entertain by producing work that's unexpected while challenging cultural conservatism. And it's not just about provoking traditional society, he's pushing gay audiences to open their minds as well. He knows that the pornographic scenes in his work mean that he'll never make mainstream movies. But he's proud that he highlights the artificial lines between what is considered legitimate, asking why his graphic violence is fine, but not the sex.

The doc is a bit free-form, packed with conjecture about LaBruce and his life from writers, artists and filmmakers (it opens with everyone's wildly inaccurate theories about where his name came from). Everyone agrees that LaBruce is a distinctive auteur who pushes limits, finds humour and emotion in unusual places, and celebrates the outsider in society. In the end, the documentary uncovers LaBruce's life and work in a way that echoes his own approach: challenging us to think for ourselves and stop going with the accepted flow.

18 themes, language, strong sexuality, violence
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dir Sebastiano d'Ayala Valva
prd Laurent Segal
with Angel Preciado, Feliza, Don Angel, Blasina, Pricela, Victor Hugo, Floro, Andre, Victor Alfonso, Isaac, El Gordo, Ana, Alexis Ponce, Ramon Perez
angel release UK Apr.11 llgff
10/France 1h02

london l&g film fest
angel This unusual doc follows a cross-dressing man home from Europe to visit his family in rural South America. And what we see is continually surprising, as the story and colourful people defy expectations.

The film opens with a manly, Spanish-speaking black woman, Angel Preciado, speaking to a videocamera showing his family the Moulin Rouge in Paris. It then reveals that he once was a strapping soldier and boxing contender who now lives as a streetwalker called Mujeron (the large woman). And he does all of this so he can send money to his mother Feliza back home in Ecuador. In December 2005, he finally sorts out his French residency so he can return home to visit his family in a shantytown outside Guayaquil. But the trip isn't quite what he expects.

What's most interesting is the way his family sees Angel as a mother figure who takes care of them. They all recognise that he wouldn't be like that if he weren't gay; he has been supporting his mother since he was a child. And his visit home also reveals rifts in his family, as his brothers and nephews have done nothing with the money sent by him and his sister Blasina, who also lives in Paris.

The cameras follow Angel to visit the local boxing gym where he suffered continual abuse for being openly gay. In Quito, he visits old friends who are local activists in Ecuador, only the second country with a constitutional prohibition of sexuality-based discrimination, although culturally there's a long way to go. Angel also travels north to Esmeraldas to visit his now-blind father (who is only interested in what Angel has bought for him) and to Tena, in the Amazon basin, where his family has only half-built the retirement house he sent money to construct.

Beautifully shot and edited, the film vividly captures Angel's humour and optimistic personality, even in the face of wrenching disappointment. It also explores the bigger picture of global gay and transgender rights. On the other hand, director Valva oddly films only Ecuador's poorest places without showing that it's actually a modern, progressive nation. But this does add to the tragedy of the epilogue, as Angel and Blasina realise that their family only wants their money.

15 themes, language
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Becoming Chaz
dir Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
prd Chaz Bono, Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
with Chaz Bono, Jennifer Elia, Cher, Mary Bono Mack, Michael Brownstein, Masen Davis, Chianna Bono, Chesare Bono, Georganne Bartylak, Georgia Holt, Richard Horowitz, Jane Stavish
cher release UK Apr.11 llgff,
US 10.May.11
11/US WoW 1h28

london l&g film fest
becoming chaz In documenting Chastity Bono's transition from female to male, filmmakers Bailey and Barbato offer a detailed, intimate narrative. And letting Chaz tell his own story is both engaging and moving.

Growing up on television as an adorable blonde girl (the film's packed with vintage photos and clips), there was no way Chaz could go through puberty in private. And you get the sense that with this film he is finally able to stand up and say what he needs to say about his experience, starting with memories of his childhood and continuing through his first operation and the early stages of testosterone therapy, all of which are documented here. And as we see him finally relaxing into himself, as well as the implications for his five-year girlfriend Jennifer.

The film is an honest, intimate look at this couple's highs and lows. Some of this relates to their pasts as substance abusers, but there's also a fundamental shift in their relationship as Chaz gets more aggressively masculine. These are things we have probably never seen on film, and they make this film a remarkably raw and insightful portrait of Chaz's life, which of course is unusual without the gender issue.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Cher, and she speaks throughout the doc in a separately filmed interview as well as a clip of her appearance on David Letterman's show, both of which we also see through Chaz's eyes as he watches them. There are clearly ongoing mother-daughter/son issues, and with this particular mother it's natural that we are gripped to this aspect of Chaz's story (by contrast, we see Chaz interacting openly with Sonny's family).

Waiting for the final scene when they first meet after his surgery gives the film a kick of suspense, especially since that scene happens at the end of the credits. But along the way, we also get a terrific look at Chaz and Jennifer's earthy sense of humour, which is brilliantly echoed in Bailey and Barbato's cheeky, witty editing. This gives us a remarkably engaging sense of Chaz's journey. And it vividly helps us understand that it's intensely personal, having nothing to do with what anyone else thinks.

15 themes, language
1.Apr.11 llgff
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Client-9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Alex Gibney
prd Maiken Baird, Alex Gibney, Jedd Wider, Todd Wider
with Eliot Spitzer, Wrenn Schmidt, Hank Greenberg, Cecil Suwal, Joe Bruno, Hulbert Waldroup, John Whitehead, Kenneth Langone, Roger Stone, David Brown, Wayne Barrett, Karen Finley
silda and eliot spitzer release US 5.Nov.10,
UK 4.Mar.11
10/US A&E 1h57

Client-9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer Instead of simply making a documentary about the Eliot Spitzer scandal, filmmaker Gibney cleverly paints a much bigger picture. And without being pushy about it, he reveals a system that's utterly terrifying.

As New York's attorney general, Spitzer was "the sheriff of Wall Street", determined to force bankers to operate within the law. He fearlessly went after the biggest firms, standing up for people who were in danger of losing their hard-earned savings to fat-cat executives. This earned him a reputation that propelled him into the governor's seat and was grooming him to be president. But it also gave him several formidable enemies. Then the news broke that he was a regular client of a high-priced prostitution firm. And Wall Street celebrated his fall.

With this film, Gibney dives beneath the sensationalistic headlines to tell the true story through a telling collection of interviews and clips. He doesn't need to connect the dots because it becomes increasingly obvious that these wealthy bankers must have used their influence within the government to bring Spitzer down and protect their massive profits. And in this battle for survival, it's clear who the good and bad guys really are.

Spitzer says that what happened to him is a "classic tale" of the unexpected fall of a virtuous politician. As he challenged the "masters of the universe", he knew he was in their gun-sites. And he also made a stupid decision to get involved with a hooker ("Angelina", played in interviews by the actress Schmidt), then had to watch as the media twisted the story into something far from the truth. He knows he isn't innocent, but Gibney pointedly notes that Republican Congressmen caught in the same scandal weren't even reprimanded.

In other words, this film isn't about Spitzer: it's about rampant corruption in America's government. And what we see is staggering, as the law is bent to specifically bring down one man who vowed to root out waste and sleaze. Gibney doesn't let Spitzer off the hook, but we see that he is a lively, funny, quick-tempered man who recognises his own flaws. In other words, it's positively Shakespearean in scope. And vitally important.

15 themes, language
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