What do an urban porn star aspiring to be a chef, a trans mixed-martial-arts fighter advocating for civil rights and a comedy about a lesbian couple exploring bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism (BDSM) have in common? They are all featured in the lineup for Kaleidoscope, a new LGBT film festival organized by the Film Society of Little Rock. The festival runs Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, Aug. 2, at the Studio Theater, 320 W. Seventh St.
The goal of Kaleidoscope is to showcase works rarely seen in Arkansas, said Tony Taylor, executive director of the Little Rock Film Society.
"There are so many great LGBT films and documentaries that never make it to Arkansas," Taylor said. "Little Rock is the perfect location for an event like this and has a great LGBT community and allies." Even though this is the festival's first year, Taylor has grand visions for it. He believes it could eventually become one of the largest festivals of its kind in the South.
Taylor and several friends started the Little Rock Film Society in January. They came together over a shared belief that, even with the Little Rock Film Festival, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and screenings at the Ron Robinson Theater, Riverdale 10 and elsewhere, there were still many great independent films that weren't making it here. The Film Society also puts on a monthly shorts program and has hosted Fantastic Cinema, a genre film festival.
Taylor was inspired two years ago to put on Kaleidoscope after reading an article about the upcoming films at Outfest in Los Angeles. It heralded a new wave of films that were high in quality and diverse in subject matter. Last fall, Taylor began to plan the festival and select films to screen.
Among the highlights at Kaleidoscope:
"Henry Gamble's Birthday Party," the latest from Stephen Cone, whose past films have won Outfest and received positive attention in the New York Times and from the late Rogert Ebert. "Henry Gamble" tracks a 17-year-old preacher's kid over 24 hours, from a sleepover to the boy's birthday pool party. The film opens on an extremely charged moment shared by the preacher's son, Henry, and his best friend, Gabe, as they lie under the covers discussing crushes during the sleepover the night before the party. The next day, as Henry's friends from school and church come over, emotions run high and it becomes clear that Henry isn't the only one hiding something.
"Peter de Rome: The Grandfather of Gay Pornography" is a documentary detailing the life story of a French-born American who made a career of making gay pornographic films. Released just before de Rome died at age 89, the documentary offers a window into the life of the staunchly independent filmmaker operating on the fringes of film society, following de Rome as he travels around the world, visiting the cities in which he shot his infamous material, and tracing his past through his filmography. Much of his work was created during periods where it was illegal to engage in homosexual activity and possess or manufacture films portraying homosexual acts. Portions of his pornographic films are intercut into the documentary, so those with delicate sensibilities, be warned.
"S&M Sally" is a provocative comedy about a lesbian couple, Jamie and Jill, and their exploration in the underground world of BDSM. Jamie is used to being the butch one in the relationship and assumes she'll be the dominant partner, but Jill has another idea. Their friends David and Lola, who are dating a bisexual polyamorous man named Sebastian, are contemplating a threesome, but neither is willing to admit they aren't 100 percent committed to the act.
There are three types of tickets for the event: $8 individual tickets for each screening; a $30 film pass, which provides access to all of the films, and a $100 VIP pass, which provides access to all of the films, the filmmakers lounge and complimentary food and drink. Note: The theater can seat only 100 people.