Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
Directed by Mark Thiedeman
If there's any one "must-see" film of the festival, it's this special advance screening of "White Nights" before it makes a wider festival run. Director Mark Thiedeman, who helped program Kaleidoscope, is perhaps Arkansas's most compelling filmmaker. His previous work, including the full-length "Last Summer" and the short "Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls," won awards at the Little Rock Film Festival and drew broad acclaim. Now, the Little Rock filmmaker is back with another full-length, "a pseudo-musical, queer adaptation" of Fyodor Dostoevsky's story of the same name "transposed to a world of glittering dance floors and neon lights," according to Thiedeman's description. He wrote, edited, directed and co-produced it. Based on the one track that he's previewed, local musician Phillip Rex Huddleston's original electro-pop soundtrack will ably set the tone — and get stuck in your head. 7 p.m. Friday, Argenta Community Theater. Director Mark Thiedeman is expected to attend. LM
It's a bit unfortunate that "La Belle Saison" was translated to "Summertime" for English-speaking audiences — the English title fails to communicate the sea change that happens in "the beautiful season," when French urbanites leave the city in le grand départ on holiday. In that way, summer's setting is a natural fit for Catherine Corsini's film — drenched in sunlight and cigarette smoke, in which a star-crossed romance between a rural farmgirl, Delphine (Izia Higelin), and a women's rights activist, Carole (Cecile de France), unfolds in 1971. After a brutal breakup with her girlfriend in rural France, Delphine falls in with a burgeoning women's rights movement and develops an intense relationship with one of the group's outspoken members — "a terrific girl, a surprising girl, a fabulous girl." The affair, like the film itself, is terrifically sexy, managing to capture the way a first romantic spark feels a little like a revolution — even when Delphine and Carole ditch the actual revolution in the streets to go shag in Delphine's apartment. Scenes like the one in which the activists debate whether to rescue a friend from the asylum his parents have placed him in for being gay remind us of the ways in which intersectional feminism was a contentious subject even in the '70s. A purist exclaims, "We don't help guys or minority struggles!" and much of Delphine and Carole's emotional energy is spent navigating the gaps between the Parisian world of ideas and the dusty countryside, the world of muscle, blood, bonfires — and homophobia. 1 p.m. Saturday, Argenta Community Theater. SS
Before the mass hate crime in Orlando, most people would have been at a loss to name the largest anti-gay hate crime in American history, and this is what spurred director Robert L. Camino to make "Upstairs Inferno." Over 96 shocking and mournful minutes, the story of New Orleans nightclub the UpStairs Lounge and the 1973 arson attack unfolds through photos and survivor interviews. The arson attack left 32 dead, though their deaths were all but ignored by local officials. The film offers a heartbreaking portrait of sustained grief and proves once again that as much as time can heal us, there are some things from which we can never recover. Throughout the film, tears fall from the eyes of those who lost loved ones as though the intervening 43 years were nothing but hours. 3 p.m. Saturday, The Joint. Director Robert L. Camina is expected to attend. SEB
Offering a beautifully complex insight into being a member of the LGBT community in Washington, D.C., "Check It" tells the ongoing story of a gang formed by victims of hate crimes. The documentary shows the horrible struggle of some members of our community and demonstrates that, with a little bit of effort, there is hope for all of us to be loved, accepted and successful in whatever career we want. Another lesson: We have a dark history and expressing that darkness in ourselves is not necessarily the best way to react. The film gives a wonderfully varied and realistic account of what it is like to be forced into violent action, and how one might recover from that situation.
7 p.m. Saturday, Argenta Community Theatre. AM
Boy meets sexually ambiguous boy. Boy falls in love with sexually ambiguous boy. Complications arise. The formula is a common one in LGBTQ narratives, so much so that it verges on being rote, but in Andrew Stegall's sun-washed version of southern France, the story is given new life with the addition of a complex supporting cast. "Departure" stars Alex Lawther ("The Imitation Game") as Elliot, a 15-year-old aspiring poet on the verge of succumbing to the woes of adolescence. During a stay at his family's vacation home, he meets and falls in love with a local Parisian. Unfortunately, his mother, mid-divorce herself, also meets and momentarily falls for the same young man. Though on the surface it's a typical coming-of-age drama, a closer inspection reveals the story of a family that desperately wants to communicate but can't seem to do so. Beautiful cinematography runs throughout, capturing the solemnity of fall that the characters seem trapped in. Noon Sunday, Argenta Community Theater. SEB
'I Promise You Anarchy'
Directed by Julio Hernández Cordón
Director Julio Hernández Cordón makes a promise and delivers it: anarchy. The film opens with an unfocused shot of the two main characters, Miguel and Johnny, then continues at breakneck pace through a series of events that easily could have been the subject of several different feature-length films. "I Promise You Anarchy" is positioned as an LGBT crime thriller, though it's far more than that, addressing music, immigration, poverty, homosexuality and working through the guilt of having made a dire mistake. 4 p.m. Sunday, Argenta Community Theater. AM
Directed by Annalise Ophelian
"The rest of the world really doesn't give a shit if we live or die, and the thing is, when the dust settles, I want a whole bunch of transgendered girls to stand up and say, 'I'm still fuckin' here.' " So says Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, now 73, who's been working as an activist for the rights of transgendered people of color for over 40 years. The film that bears her name is both a history of and a testament to the community she has helped to foster. Having experienced the Stonewall Riots first hand, she made it her mission to carve out safe and empowering spaces for trans women in New York, San Diego and San Francisco. There are interviews and footage with Major; her family, both biological and chosen; and an endless roll of her adoptive daughters, sisters and granddaughters, each one a testament to the uplifting presence Major has had in the lives of others. Told in just 91 minutes and through the life of one woman, the film brings the challenges of women of color from a place on society's fringe into the glaring, but warming, light of day. 6 p.m. Sunday, Argenta Community Theater. Director Annalise Ophelian, editor StormMiguel Florez and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy are expected to attend. SEB
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