Monday, June 30, 2008

Frameline 32 -- Sunday, June 29, 2008

With so many headlines focusing on the recent legalization of same sex marriage in California --and the importance of protecting gay families -- it's important to note that not all gay families acquire children because the couple had any interest in parenting. Sometimes children are thrust upon a gay couple as a result of tragedy or the ineptitude of stupid, selfish heterosexuals who should not breed. In the closing weekend of the Frameline 32 festival, three such films zeroed in on this peculiar situation, two with comic intent, the third exploring a decidedly more poignant incident.

As part of Friday's Worldly Affairs program of shorts, Daniel Ribiero's You, Me and Him tugged at the audience's heartstrings most effectively. The film starts off as a gay couple living in Sao Paolo, Brazil, discusses their plans for the future. Danilo and Marcos are eagerly anticipating a vacation to celebrate their anniversary and have finally made the decision to move in together. No sooner have their carefully laid plans been articulated than they are shattered by the horrible news that Danilo's brother and sister-in-law have been killed in an accident. Left behind is Danilo's sensitive, newly-orphaned young nephew, Lucas.

With all three lives in chaos, the various pleas for attention from Lucas (who not only wants to sleep with his uncle, but keep his shoes on while in bed) and Marcos (who doesn't want to lose his lover) tug at Danilo's heart and soul. Written and directed with a remarkable sensitivity to the process of healing deep emotional wounds, Ribiero's film is a little gem that could easily have been overwhelmed by another director. Ribiero shows how the physical tenderness between the two men must make way to embrace Lucas and allow him to become a part of their newly-redefined family. As the child's needs take precedence over those of the adult gay men, the three souls struggle for cohesion, acceptance, and unity in their new and unexpected family unit.

While Lucas is confused, delicate, and desperately trying to understand the changes in his life, Andy (an obnoxious young and unmanageable girl), has no qualms about terrorizing her parents. When her mother desperately reaches out to her brother and his lover for help, the two gay men arrive at Andy's house only to be confronted by a hostile brat relentlessly demanding to know the meaning of the word "fellatio." In Babysitting Andy, director Pat Mills mines unexpected comic gold from the confrontation between two wheelchair-bound gay men and the tomboy from hell. The hilarious ending brought down the house.

Closing night of the Frameline 32 festival was devoted to Laurie Lynd's Breakfast With Scot, which had received a great deal of buzz on the festival circuit. The kind of gay film that could only come from Canada, Breakfast With Scot shows what happens when two "straight-acting, straight-appearing" gay men (think Log Cabin Republicans) have their macho routine shattered by the unexpected arrival of a precious 11-year-old boy who is far more interested in glitter than hockey. With Thomas Cavanagh as a former professional hockey player turned sportscaster and Ben Shenkman as his attorney boyfriend, Lynd's film has the odd, sterilized feel of a Lifetime movie. No skin is shown, personal displays of affection are nowhere to be seen, and a final kiss between the two men is saved for the end of the film. It's all so neat and tidy that you'd think Martha Stewart had starched and ironed these two gay men into respectability with a 500-thread count.

Enter the kid.

As a young flamboyant boy whose mother has died from a drug overdose, Scot is delivered by Child Services as the gay couple awaits news of the arrival of the dead mother's former boyfriend (who, although named as the child's guardian, is an irresponsible asshole busily chasing women in Rio). The film does a good job of showing how totally lacking in parenting skills (as well as the ability to demonstrate any kind of tenderness) the sportscaster is. Shenkman's character tries to make sure the boy's needs are met with a kind of clinical attention to detail rather than emotions.

Young Noah Bernett shines as Scot, who arrives in a perfectly fitted out gay home with a much greater knowledge of how to match ensembles and apply makeup than either of the two adult gay men. What becomes obvious in this and the two short films mentioned above is the ease with which a child can accept an adult's homosexuality, and even the truth behind a tragedy -- if only the adult could stop acting like an idiot.

Strong performances come from Colin Cunningham as the worthless guardian Billy, Benz Antoine as a sports media executive, and Kathryn Haggis as one of the gay couple's neighbors. Dylan Everett and Alexander Franks make strong contributions as two of Scot's classmates. As much as I wanted to like this film, I found it strangely lacking in warmth, depth, or soul. While the laughs played out extremely well, Breakfast with Scot was devoid of the basic humanity that imbued Brazil's You, Me and Him with its glowing emotional integrity.

Next: Who Likes Short Shorts?

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