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Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
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last update 2.Apr.12
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Cindy Meehl
prd Julie Goldman
with Buck Brannaman, Mary Brannaman, Reata Brannaman, Robert Redford, Betsy Shirley, Gary Myers, Betty Staley, Annette Venteicher, Dan Gunter, Paige Morris, Tina Cornish, Johnny France
Buck release US 17.Jun.11,
UK 27.Apr.12
11/US 1h28

Buck Ostensibly a documentary about a real-life horse whisperer, this film actually has more to say about how people treat each other than how they interact with horses. It's a strikingly well-made film that entertains us while packing a quiet emotional kick.

Buck Brannaman travels around America running workshops to help people learn how to interact with their horses. His strikingly personal methods focus on establishing respect between horse and rider, with the understanding that both are just trying to do their best, even if both misbehave for whatever reason. And Buck knows about these things from experience, growing up with a violently abusive father and a foster mother (Shirley) who taught him an earthy sense of compassion.

Filmmaker Meehl tells this story in a gentle way that cuts right through the surface. While capturing the grand vistas of Montana and California, she also cleverly highlights Brannaman's intimate relationship with the people and the horses he meets along the way, as well as his wife Mary, roping-expert daughter Reata and his own horse, of course. This is a man who has worked diligently to distance himself from his own childhood while developing the passion and skill to do something positive in his world.

Scene after scene catches us off guard with its raw humanity, both in the way Brannaman approaches a variety of horses and how he interacts with the people whose own behaviour is usually the cause of their horses' problems. One climactic sequence involves his interaction with a frighteningly wild horse that, like him, was raised without any positive parental influence. For Brannaman, its certainly not about "breaking" a horse; it's about finding a level of understanding between the species.

While the film is hugely inspiring in a variety of surprising ways, it's also raw and often very funny, as Brannaman gently pokes fun at people he meets and consistently undermines his own mythical status. Even his work with Redford on the film The Horse Whisperer is recounted with a wry smile. As Brannaman says, the fundamental key simply isn't how you treat your horse, it's how you treat your spouse, children and strangers. And as one student observes, "You don't know how unjust you're being until someone shows you a different path."

PG themes, language, violence
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Jobriath A.D.
dir-scr-prd Kieran Turner
narr Henry Rollins
with Jobriath Boone, Jerry Brandt, Joe Bianchi, Jac Holzman, Willie Fogle, Hayden Wayne, Marlowe B West, Allan Nicholls, Heather MacRae, Sarah Kernochan, Ann Magnuson, Jake Shears
voices Jean-Marc Barr, Harvey Friedman
Jobriath release UK Mar.12 llgff
12/US 1h43

london l&g film festival
Jobriath A.D. Fast-paced and colourful, this documentary chronicles the astonishing story of a gifted artist who never found the success everyone knew he deserved. It's recounted with energy and warmth by people who lived through the events. Sadly, Jobriath died at 36 at his piano.

Jobriath (aka Bruce Campbell) had it all: young and sexy with prodigy-levels of talent as a musician and artist. After starring in the late-60s musical Hair, he stayed in New York as a singer-songwriter, then embraced the glam rock movement. Promoted by super-manager Brandt, his first record was launched with unprecedented hype, presenting him as a messianic figure (Brandt thought he would be the next Elvis). But unlike Bowie and Jagger, Jobriath was too unambiguously gay for the mainstream and too feminine for the early 70s macho gay scene. So despite high praise, no one bought his album.

The film recounts his story with a terrific collection of photographs, film footage and interviews with a wide range of colourful people who knew him and worked with him. And the soundtrack is packed with Jobriath's strikingly catchy songs, which blend classical training with expressive vocals and lush production values. Clearly he was an artist far ahead of his time; today he has charm because he no longer seems ridiculous or threatening. Although he clearly broke the ground for musicians like Shears.

The film also digs beneath the surface to explore how Jobriath dealt with having so much pressure and fame but so little actual success. He was an expert at compartmentalising his life, able to appear as a sexual innocent while secretly creating an alternate personality called Joby who worked as a street hustler. Meanwhile, he turned himself into the popular cabaret singer Cole Berlin. Indeed, this constant reinvention goes back to his troubled childhood, as recounted by his brother Fogle.

Filmmaker Turner slightly overplays the guesswork on Jobriath's inner demons, but this lends the film a melancholy tone like the artist himself. And as it heads to his death from Aids-related cancer in 1983, it's not easy to watch. In Brandt's words, "Failure can kill you." But he believes that Jobriath will be one day achieve fame and recognition through the telling of his story. And rightly so.

15 themes, language
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This Is Not a Dream
dir Ben Walters, Gavin Butt
with Dickie Beau, Glenn O'Brien, Dara Birnbaum, David Hoyle, Kalup Linzy, Cole Escola, Vaginal Davis, Nao Bustamante, Alp Haydar, Holestar, Scottee, Vincent Fremont
hoyle release UK Mar.12 llgff
11/UK 1h58

london l&g film festival
This Is Not a Dream The material in this documentary is so colourful that it almost obscures the film's thesis-like structure. The central idea is that the advent of video has had a huge impact on society. As a result, the gay art world has changed culture while also being influenced by it.

Before home video cameras became available in the 70s, alternative artists were sidelined from the mainstream. But now they could reach their audience directly, changing the art world in the process. Like Polaroid photos, videotape allows for instant gratification: you can immediately look at it. This technology was seized by artists like Andy Warhol and John Waters, who took on pop culture using its own tools.

Filmmakers Walters and Butt tell this story using fabulous archive footage and interviews with a variety of artists who have been influenced by video and found inventive ways to use it in their work. Some have taken existing images and tinker with them to make a point (like Birmbaum's witty aberration of Wonder Woman) while others used public-access television to create the irreverent TV language we know today. And artists are still finding inventive ways to incorporate video into their acts.

The film is a series of interviews in which each artist takes a turn to talk about their experiences. Along the way, we see the impact of the queer-punk movement's wildly colourful energy, which helped alternative ideas find acknowledgement in mainstream media because TV shows were ravenous for sensationalistic characters like Divine, Boy George and Leigh Bowery. Even recently, performance artist Linzy was invited to appear on General Hospital by his lecture student James Franco.

The film is bookended by stage performances from Dickie Beau, hinting at the idea that video has let the self-proclaimed freaks emerge from the underground, and they have no intention of going away. because the structure moves from artist to artist rather than progressing thematically, the film feels somewhat long and over-detailed, digressing into anecdotes that are thoroughly engaging even if they're repetitive or off-topic. While this allows the filmmakers to explore every aspect of their thesis, it leaves the movie feeling somewhat academic. And perhaps not as fun as the material it's quoting.

18 themes, language, nudity
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This Is What Love in Action Looks Like
dir Morgan Jon Fox
prd Peterson Toscano
with Zach Stark, Peterson Toscano, John Smid, Brandon Tidwell, Lance Carroll, Alan Chambers, Janessa Williams, Eileen Townsend, Chris Davis, Jake Casey, EJ Friedman, Morgan Jon Fox
release US 28.Jan.11,
UK 28.May.12
11/US 1h14

london l&g film festival
This Is What Love in Action Looks Like This even-handed documentary explores the issue of ex-gay therapy by letting everyone have their say. It's a fast-paced, well-assembled film, although some righteous anger wouldn't have gone amiss.

Believing in his parents' unconditional love, 16-year-old Zach Stark finally got up the nerve to be honest with them about his gay sexuality. But it didn't go well. Thinking that he had a condition that needed to be corrected, they sent him to the residential Love in Action programme. Before leaving, he wrote an anguished cry for help on his blog, which went viral and sparked media coverage and organised protests that minors were being held against their will.

The story is told by former residents of the programme (including Stark), protesters (including director Fox), friends and the ex-director of Love in Action (Smid). All explain the prison-like rules, which forbid access to media of any kind and restrict everything from music to clothing. And it went much further than that, proscribing how these boys walked, talked and sat, prohibiting anything that didn't fit into a stereotypical image of superficial masculinity. Meanwhile, the meetings were designed to instil fear and shame by lying about what it means to be gay. As producer-activist Toscano puts it: "How can anything good come from telling a child that there's something so fundamentally wrong with them that God hates them?"

Many of these men were raised to believe that homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible. This led to a denial of inner longings and sometimes suicidal thoughts. So they genuinely hoped Love in Action would work, looking to the claims that Smid and the Chambers (head of global ex-gay charity Exodus) had successfully renounced their own homosexuality. The problem is that it just isn't that simple.

While documenting Stark's case from every side, the film explores how Love in Action defined homosexuality as a manageable behaviour condition like drug or alcohol addiction. But the American Psychological Association says these ex-gay programmes are institutionalised "social prejudice" that deal with stereotypes instead of facts. Simply put, sexuality isn't a behavioural issue: it's about emotions and love. In the end Smid admitted that the programme, which has since shut down, never actually worked.

PG themes
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall