Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, gay-themed filmmaking seemed to be flourishing from every corner. American indie directors like Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho) and Todd Haynes (Poison) were making names for themselves; foreign enfants terribles such as François Ozon (Criminal Lovers) also were pushing the envelope.
Funny thing, though: Gay went mainstream, most notably with the brilliant made-for-HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America (2003) and the Best Picture Oscar-nominated romance Brokeback Mountain (2005). And while there have been plenty of gay indie films since then, few have been especially memorable; having won the battle for cultural acceptance, gay artists seem to be having a hard time coming up with anything new to say.
All of which makes it a challenge for a film festival like Q Cinema: Fort Worth's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which kicks off its 11th installment Thursday night, to stay relevant. Last year, the festival served up an exciting controversy, screening Dallas director Israel Luna's surprisingly assured neo-exploitation thriller Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, a movie that enraged some and reminded everyone that -- for all the strides in recent years -- the gay, lesbian and transgendered community still struggles with questions of how it wants to be represented.
This year looks to be a more traditional affair, though that's not to suggest the movies don't matter. If it's more lighthearted fare you're looking for, Q Cinema has plenty on offer: Both the opening film, Going Down in LA-LA Land (a regional premiere), and the Friday night main feature, eCupid, are rom-coms featuring hunky actors quick to lose their shirts. The liveliest event of the weekend is likely to be "An Evening with Bruce Vilanch," where the tart-tongued, T-shirt-wearing comedian (who is also one of the co-stars of Going Down in LA-LA Land) will offer up "comedy, conversations and, of course, celebrity dish."
My best advice, though, is to focus your attention on Sunday's offerings, which kick off with the documentary We Were Here, which premiered this year at Sundance. Directed by David Weissman, it takes a look at the impact of AIDS on the San Francisco gay community in the early 1980s. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion titled "AIDS at 30."
Later that day, another Sundance title, Gun Hill Road, looks at the ongoing struggles that GLBT teenagers face, especially in ethnic communities. It's an uneven, but touching drama, featuring a nice performance by Esai Morales (La Bamba) as an ex-con whose son has just come out as a transgender woman.
And because this festival has long been known for juggling the artistic and the social, the organizers once again have a bevy of enticing-sounding parties. If you don't get enough of Vilanch onstage, you can go bowling with him at the newly opened Lucky Strike on Saturday night. There are also events taking place this year at T&P Tavern and The Usual.
A complete schedule follows. All events, unless otherwise noted, take place at Rose Marine Theater, 1440 N. Main St., Fort Worth.
7:30 p.m.: Going Down in LA-LA Land
9:30 p.m.: Opening-night party (at T&P Tavern)
6:30 p.m.: Our Shorts Are Showing 1 (short films program)
8:30 p.m.: eCupid
10:30 p.m.: "There's An App for That" after-party (at The Usual)
Noon: Our Shorts Are Showing 2 (short films program)
2 p.m.: The Cost of Love
4 p.m.: Trigger
6 p.m.: 2 Frogs in the West
8 p.m.: An Evening with Bruce Vilanch
10:30 p.m.: Bowling with Bruce after-party (at Lucky Strike)
2 p.m.: " AIDS at 30": panel
Gun Hill Road
7 p.m.: Judas Kiss
9 p.m.: The Q Awards/Closing-night party