What’s Up @ QFest

by Padraic Maroney

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday July 1, 2009

Gone is the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. But never fear, there will a film festival in July, it's just going to have a less cumbersome name to say. Much like how this past spring's film festival was renamed Cinefest, the summer one shall now be known as just merely QFest.

After splitting with the Philadelphia Film Society earlier this year, the Philadelphia Cinema Alliance is using the 15th anniversary of the festival, which this year runs from July 9th through the 20th, to make some changes and spruce it up. This isn't your parent's festival, or even the one you may remember from last year.

Thom Cardwell, Development Director of the Philadelphia Cinema Alliance, said that while some might be surprised by the changes this year it was better since the name was changing "not to do it piece mealed."

It'll be hard to not see the changes. From screening venues to new party locales and even the number of films, everything is new this year. Rather than everything being located in and around the gayborhood, things are going to be spread out this year. The Prince Music Theater will still serve as the main theater, but gone are both the Wilma and the Art Bank. Instead a second "hub" has been created in Old City at the Ritz East. By branching out, it allows the festival to take advantage of new locations for parties such as City Tavern, Marathon Grill and Tavern on Camac.

But don't worry, even with all of the changes this year, Cardwell maintains that this is still the same festival that everyone has come to love over the last 15 years.

"It's not a new beast," Cardwell said. But he does have a new slogan about newly christened Qfest: "New name, new vision, new attitude."


The PIGLFF is the third largest gay and lesbian film festival in the country and as such they have been able to attract big name guests in the past. This year is no exception. There are four awards being given out this year.

Chad Allen, who has come to the festival previously, will receive his first award from the festival. The actor who has been in the limelight for almost 20 years is receiving the Artistic Achievement Award while in town to support his latest film.

Sharon Gless, who has created so many memorable roles over years, will be in town in support of her new film Hannah Free. But she won't be leaving empty handed as she will be picking up this year's Gay Icon Award before the July 19th screening. Gless is known for her role in Queer As Folk and more recently as the psychotic stalker Colleen Rose on Nip/Tuck as well as being a strong supporter of the gay community. In Hannah Free the she plays a lesbian looking for a lost love.

Joining the ranks of people like Charlie David in receiving the Rising Star Award is H.P. Mendoza. As a musician Mendoza has released multiple albums and as a filmmaker garnered notice for his film Colma: A Musical. He will be on hand to receive his award before the July 16th screening of Fruit Fly.

The inaugural Barbara Gittings Award will go to Dee Mosbacher. Named after the activist, the award was created with the Equality Forum to be given to an out member of the entertainment, arts, sports, politics or media industry. Mosbacher will be presenting her documentary Training Rules, which examines the impact of homophobia on female athletes - regardless of their actual sexuality.

Centerpiece Screenings

The number of films on display over the 12 days of July has decreased from over 80 last year to 63 this year, according to Programmer Scott Cranin. What that means is that the programmers had to be even more selective than they usually are about what you will be seeing on the big screen this year.

To open the festival, Chad Allen will be on hand for his starring role in Hollywood, je t'aime. Allen will also be receiving the Artistic Achievement Award at the festival kick-off. The former teen idol co-stars in the film about a Parisian man who travels to Los Angeles to try his hand at following his dream to be an actor. Along the way he ends up on journey of self-discovery.

Closing out the festival is The Big Gay Musical. Directed by Casper Andreas (A Four Letter Word and Slutty Summer), the film is a musical that mixes in the story of a Broadway musical, Adam and Steve: Just the Way God Created Them with the story of the show's actors. Making BGM even more special is that it is having its world premiere here at QFest.

Continuing the trend of musicals is Fruit Fly. The film by H.P. Mendoza, who will be receiving the Rising Star Award on the July 16th screening, is a reality based musical about a woman who is a, you guessed it, fruit fly in San Francisco. Many of the cast members from Mendoza' previous film Colma: The Musical are reunited here.

Also set in San Francisco is And Then Came Lola. Programmer Kelly Burkhardt writes in the program guide that will change lesbian cinema similarly to the way Go Fish did in the 1990s. Inspired by Run Lola Run, this unreliable Lola is transporting important designs for her girlfriend (Jill Bennett of Dante's Cove) and dodging the city's many disturbances, such as meter maids.

Drool has an all-star cast that includes Oded Fehr, Laura Harring (Mulholland Drive), and Jill Marie Jones (TV's Girlfriends). The dark comedy involves beauty products and a dead body all while tackling the serious subject matters of racism and spousal abuse.

One of the most divisive films of the festival according to Cranin is Pornography. Not as salacious as it might sound, Pornography is the debut film from David Kittridge and concerns a writer researching a book about a porn star that disappeared almost 15 years ago. This psychological thriller is sure to have people talking well after the lights come up at the Prince.


"Last year was kind of melon collie," Cranin explained. "[We were told] think pop this year."

While they were told to think pop, Cranin says that the musical theme this year wasn't intentional. Rather it just happened with films like The Big Gay Musical and Fruit Fly. But if those two aren't enough to curb your appetite for singing and dancing, the Jamacian Jerk hut will also be hosting screenings of Hair and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. There will also be a Grease sing-along.

If you would rather not watch a musical, you could always attend the Doris Day Brunch on July 12th.The campy brunch head at Q bbq and tequila. will include impersonates and be followed by one of the actress's classic movies and a new documentary about the icon. Q bbq and tequila is located at 207 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. 11:30am - 2:00pm. For more information visit goldcity.com

Best of the Rest (Comedies)

Making it's North American Premiere, Autopsy follows a man who comes out of the closet after being married for 20 years. Eric's family is falling apart with a delinquent son and a humiliated ex-wife. As if that wasn't enough to deal with, Eric is the police commander and there is a lunatic on the loose.

Taking a cue from the battle between religious conservatives and the gay community, Misconceptions involves a woman who agrees to surrogacy for a gay couple. The only problem is that she is married to a conservative, anti-gay rally attending guy. Things would be fine if pregnant Miranda didn't get a visit by the flamboyant soon-to-be father. But what fun would it be if he didn't visit?

As any parent will tell you having one newborn is tough, but having two is only twice the fun right? That's what happens when a lesbian couple finds out that they are both pregnant. Written in a mockumentary style reminiscent of Christopher Guest's movies, The Baby Formula is sure to have audiences laughing all the way through the nine month journey.

If pregnancy isn't your cup of tea, how about homewrecking? In Homewrecker Dylan Vox (who is also turning in a performance in Pornography) plays a recent ex-con who dreams of becoming a star via reality television. To achieve his goal he finds his way into the lives - and home - of producers and lovers Erek and Collin. Let the scheming begin.

It's not just break ups at Qfest. I Can't Even Think Straight tells the story to two women who are falling in love for the first time.

Taking on serious issues with a dose of comedy is the Spanish import Chef's Special. The film's central character, Maxi, just can't catch a break. While trying to maintain the daily order of running a restaurant, he is also hit with the arrival of a star soccer player and trying to get ready for a visit by a food critic.

Last year's holiday themed film, The Houseboy was a bit of a downer. This year there is no such problem with young love themed, Make the Yuletide Gay. From the writer/director of last year's 3-Day Week, Rob Williams, the film follows a couple on Christmas break from college and the hi-jinx that involves meeting your boyfriend's family firs the first time - especially if he is still closeted to them.

Here's a treat for you. Rupert Everett, in drag, and Colin Firth are reteaming for St. Trinian's. The pair star in this remake of the British television about an all-girl's boarding school that is named worst in the country. While Everett, as the headmistress, is in her quarters with a stiff drink the girls run rampant in this comedy that will leave audiences laughing all the way through.

Though ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction is not a comedy (it's a horror movie), the title alone should bring a smile to your face. The film is making its gay film festival debut in Philadelphia. The film is a political satire with homophobic conservatives wielding "ex-gay" equipment and characters believing the zombies are actually Muslim terrorists. Add in some blood and guts and what more could you ask for from a late night movie?

Best of the Rest (Drama and Documentary)

Demonstrating the more serious side of pregnancy is No End. An Italian couple goes to Holland to be artificially inseminated but must deal with familial pressures and the discovery of a lump on one's breast. The film shows the struggles of love, both the good and difficult.

While there is the fictional porn world on display in Pornography you can also get a taste of the real thing with College Boys Live. The documentary takes a look at a voyeuristic site where boys live with camera taping their every move 24/7. But there is more to this film then just some eye candy as the neighbors realize what is happening next store and begin to put up a fight about it.

Pop Star on Ice examines the career of figure skater Johnny Weir. The athlete who hasn't confirmed or denied rumors of his sexuality is profiled his start in the sport at the age of 12. The film includes a bathtub interview with Weir and his "best friend" Paris Childers.

Prodigal Sons is a documentary about the filmmaker, who as successfully transitioned from male to female, goes back to her Montana hometown to mend family wounds. While there she finds that her adopted brother is still battling his emotions about his sibling. This film about a Montana family is sure to leave a lasting impression.

One of Cranin's favorite films of the year (See below), Just Say Love had the programmer unable to stop being complementary about the film. Using just two actors and simple sets, David Mauriello adapts his own play of the same name. Two men, one straight and the other gay, begin a purely sexual relationship. But as feelings grow between the straight one flees back to his girlfriend. Cranin describes the film as "so new, so different and so beautiful."

Shank takes a look at gay romance with a street gang. Simon Pearce makes his directorial debut with this film that is described as "edgy and raw." In the film, Cal's life consists of drugs, violence and online hook ups. But when his gang attacks Olivier Cal decides to break from the gang and help the cute stranger escape.

Using flashbacks and memories, the relationship of two men from complete different backgrounds is told in Soundless Wind Chimes. They couldn't be more different. Ricky is Chinese; Pascal is Swiss pick pocket. Pascal has an abusive boyfriend while Ricky is a shy waiter. Writer/Director Kit Hung makes an intimate debut that recalls the jealousy and passion that is involved with relationships.

Wrecked makes its world debut in Philadelphia. The explicit film tells the tale of a teenager looking to become an actor. But problems arise when his ex shows up. A downward spiral ensues leading to drug addiction and sex.

Programmer’s Top Picks for QFest 2009

Thom Cardwell

1. Chef's Special
2. Hollywood, je t'aime
3. Big Gay Musical

Kelly Burkhardt

1. And Then Came Lola
2. No End
3(tie). Shank
3(tie). Soundless Wind Chime

Scott Cranin

1. Pornography
2. Hollywood, je t'aime
3. Just Say Love