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Queering SXSW 2010

by Ronit aka "The Diva"

A still from The Runaways

Queering SXSW Film 2010

This years’ 24th Annual 2010 South By Southwest Film festival (SXSW Film 2010) was touted as the “biggest and best ever” by festival organizers. This year's roster of over 100  films ranged from under-the-radar indie gems to big budget studio releases. Embedded in the lineup were a handful of LGBT themed narrative and short films.

Bear Nation was one of the most prominent gay films at SXSW. The film has been touted as a “thorough and stylistic examination of the sub culture sweeping gay culture, the sexualization of fat and hair.” (Indiewire.com). Bear Nation had its world premiere at SXSW to an enthusiastic audience of Bears and their fans. Director Malcolm Ingram and interviewee Bob Mould (member of the indie bands Husker Du and Sugar) were in attendance and conducted a lively question and answer session following the film.

While Bear Nation featured the boys, the Runaways had something for the girls. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, this biopic documents the turbulent story of the Runaways, the world's first all-girl teenage rock band. This 70’s band is famous for launching rocker Joan Jett’s career.  The Runaways stars Kristen Stewart (Joan Jett) and Dakota Fanning (Cherie Currie).  Much has been made about their intimate kiss on the roller rink floor and the implied sex scene afterwards.  The kiss is hot, no doubt, but this reviewer would have like to have seen more steamy scenes.

The film Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields also had a world premiere at SXSW. Stephin Merrit, who is gay, made headlines with his advice to budding gay performers. “Don't come out. I think the outing movement and the general propaganda that everyone ought to come out-- I think that damaged a lot of people, actually. I think it's clear from the careers of gay performers that the way to be successful is to come out later, not beforehand."  The documentary took directors Kerthy Fix and Gail O’Hara 10 years to make. 

GLBT shorts at SXSW

The GLBT short films at SXSW were tricky to find.  SXSW’s unwieldy website had no searchable option by theme (in this case ‘queer’.) Luckily, the SXSW programmers were able to guide me in the right direction.

Black Ops Arabesque, directed by Jared Drake, delightfully depicts a dancin’ secret service agent. Sometimes when you’re cornered, you’ve just got to break out those shoes and tap.

Loop Planes, directed by Robin Wilby and co-produced by the venerable Christine Vachon, this film is the story of 13-year old transgendered boi Nick who lives with his father at an amusement park. Nick’s life changes when a pink-haired girl named Katie shows up. Wilby sums up the film as such: “It’s a classic story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl because boy is biologically a girl...it’s not going to be one of those totally depressing, totally serious trans-themed films. Because I think trans people can be funny too.”  

Other SXSW GLBT films included: El Abuelo and Petting Sharks

Engaging the Queer Community Panel

Queerness was also fully visible at the Engaging The Queer Community interactive panel organized by Trish Bendix (MTV/AfterEllen.com). The panel featured Bendix, Fausto Femos (Feast of Fun Podcast), Bil Browning (Bilerico Project) and Sinclair Sexsmith (Sugarbutch Chronicles). This historic event was the first SXSW interactive panel specifically for the LGBT community.  It looked at how to maintain a “successful and interactive blog, a podcast, a video, a social networking site that is geared towards the LGBT community and its niches.” It was nice to see an entire panel devoted to queer issues. You can listen to the panel online: http://my.sxsw.com/e/491

- Ronit Bezalel is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and sports junkie. See her films at http://www.ronitfilms.com.

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