Seattle is laid back but, behind the slacker vibe, can be found a city at the very forefront of the global economy. Consumers the world over will be either sipping from a Seattle cup of coffee thanks to Starbucks. Ordering on line myriad goods in the Amazon warehouse, which also calls Seattle home, or flying Seattle in a Boeing which has its manufacturing roots in the premier American City of the North West. All this explains why you might find yourself sleepless in Seattle.
In keeping with its reputation as a 21st century city, Seattle has a thriving counterculture and no better example is the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival which this month celebrates its 20th anniversary. The festival is organized by the city same sex arts organisation 3 dollar bill.
This takes its name from the expression “queer as a three dollar bill” and the colloquial quirk of the name is reflected in the accessible nature of this celebration of same sex cinema.
Heading up the team are Festival Director Kathleen Mullen alongside Three Dollars Executive Director Jason Plourde. The Programme reflects a diverse and rich selection of exciting films.
From Front Cover, the story of a closeted Chinese film star who comes to New York for a makeover and gets more than he bargains for when an agency assigns Chinese-American Ryan to take on the task.
Going back over decades of an incredible showbiz career was documentary Tab Hunter Confidential. Better known to today’s cinema goers as the hunky retro star in John Waters’ films, it plots his rise from All American stable boy to All American Movie Star to All America Crooner. But his career faltered when he moved out of the protective world of a Warner Brothers studio contract. Though free to pursue his more serious acting ambitions he found that salacious gay rumours about his private life beginning to surface, which had previously been suppressed by the powerful Warners publicity team. The film goes on to chart his struggle to balance caring for his aging mother, multiple career reinventions and finding happiness with his soulmate.
Right back up to date with more than a hint of John Waters trashy schlock was Capitol Hill 2 peopled by fabulous faces from the local gay scene. This uproarious romp is dayglo anything goes, fun with larger than life characters set in a febrile world of cross dressing world of municipal politics and local TV. Not for the faint hearted but a firm favorite for the home crowd who were whooping and shrieking with laughter at the carry on.
Also local to Seattle was Winning Dad. This searing and stark portrayal of a clash of values and generations was very much a Seattle project which was brought to the big screen by Kickstarter crowd funding. Many of those who had pledged money were in attendance for the film’s Seattle premier. Star, and creative force behind the film, Arthur Allen, was given a rousing acclamation from the audience who were left moved and shaken by the raw emotion of this portrayal of a family faced with the lifestyle choice of loved ones.
This outward looking festival also brought to Seattle some of the most cutting edge of gay and lesbian titles, including an ambitious and exiting selection of shorts, but one in particular demanded to be served shaken not stirred. Jayson Bend: Queen and Country, from the UK gave the 007 franchise a very gay reworking. The imaginings of filmmaker Matt Carter in this visually impressive film was a tribute to his incredible CGI skills. Coming in on a budget of £8000 audiences got to see a little money going a very long way. The winning combination of a great film legend, hot guys and the big screen talents of digital whizz Matt Carter gave the Seattle crowd plenty to chuckle about.
Part of the secret of the success of Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is down to the backdrop of the festival’s home, the laid back Capitol Hill district. The main cinema venues are within easy distance of each other. A particular asset is the Egyptian cinema, a glorious picture palace with a wonderful sense of history and a fine place to showcase filmmakers. This historic space confers credibility and a sense of mainstream on works which, just twenty years back, when the festival started would have been considered subversive to the point of censorship. An Egyptian screening of a queer film is a symbolic stamp of approval which is not lost on audience and filmmakers alike.
Aside from the social significance of the festival it is, of course, a chance to party. All the main screenings were celebrated late into the night at one of the many gay venues in the neighborhood. In this way, Seattle’s festival for same sex cinema is a very out and proud voice for diversity in the city. As out and proud as the brightly coloured gay rainbow flag on pedestrian crossings of Capitol Hill.
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