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Preview: The Tribeca Film Festival

The 1970 release of William Friedkins The Boys in the Band was a watershed moment in queer cinema. The mainstream film was the first of its kind in that it featured an almost exclusively gay cast that spoke openly, and wittily, about the gay lifestyle of late 1960s New York. When it came out, though, The Boys in the Band received a frosty greeting from the community it sought to portray. Adapted from Mart Crowleys play, it tells of a campy birthday party -- featuring characters of every gay stereotype -- that quickly turns into a booze-fueled night of self-loathing and moral instability. So its interesting that the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival choose The Boys in the Band as part of their Restored/Rediscovered series. Over the next week, as the festival continues, over 80 films -- four LGBT films to be exact -- will debut, many with hopes of being picked up for national distribution. Below is our review of the gay films competing for TFF attention this year, all of which are diverse offspring of the legacy that films like Friedkins began. An Englishman in New York Directed by Richard Laxton An Englishman in New York is as much a biopic of controversial gay icon Quentin Crisp as it is a character study of homosexual identity in 1980s and '90s New York. Shot in a disconnected, episodic manner, the film focuses on the British quipster at the height of his stardom, speaking on variety shows and tickling American crowds with his patented brand of quirky solipsism. But the effeminately dressed Crisp quickly finds his self-deprecating views of homosexuality and love on trial, in particular when he publicly refers to AIDS as a gay fad. Now at odds with the homos who once loved him, he must face the reality of the situation -- the ominous metastasis of AIDS and the proliferation of the gay rights movement -- in ways he never thought he would. The films star, John Hurt, became famous acting as a younger version of Crisp 30 years ago in The Naked Civil Servant. And in part two, he absolutely flourishes with the wry wit and charm of the man he was made to play. Plays: Mon, Apr 27, 9:30PM Wed, Apr 29, 1:30PM Sat, May 02, 6:45PM The Fish Child (El ino Pez) Directed by Luca Puenzo For those who like their psychosexual Argentinean thrillers chock full of hot, angsty lesbian action, might we suggest The Fish Child (El ino Pez). In the gilded household of a prominent Buenos Aires judge, a furtive love affair between two young women, Lala (the daughter) and Gauyi (the maid), quickly turns dangerous when the couple haphazardly attempts to run away to Paraguay. Naturally, things go wrong -- very wrong -- and the two are separated both lawfully and geographically. Will that stop them from trying to reunite? And will the sordid secrets of Gauyis past turn Lala away? Of course not -- these women are goddamn insane for each other! Its watching what happens to the others who get in their way thats most entertaining. Plays: Mon, Apr 27, 6:15PM Tue, Apr 28, 2:00PM Wed, Apr 29, 9:15PM Sat, May 02, 2:00PM Off and Running Directed by Nicole Opper Its somewhat incredible how many heartrending issues are simultaneously crammed into Off and Running, a documentary that chronicles two years in the life of an adopted black teenage girl, Avery, who was raised by two Jewish lesbians. A picture-perfect bastion of American multiculturalism, the close-knit family also consists of her younger Korean brother and older biracial brother. At the age of 16, Avery feels an innate urge to learn more about her birth mother, and, with the support of her adoptive parents, begins an epistolary correspondence with her. But when the letters from mom stop arriving, Avery throws herself into a self-destructive spiral, severely distancing herself from her parents and almost ruining her chances at an athletic scholarship to attend college. The viewer will initially be angered by Averys actions -- she even chooses not to attend her mothers civil union in Canada -- but will also feel frustrated with the extremely difficult position she is in. Brought up in all-white, Jewish elementary school and now attending a predominantly African American high school, she struggles to identify with either race because she is viewed as an outsider by both. Told honestly, without political motives, Off and Running delivers an intriguing look into the new American family and the subtle complexities of its composition. Plays: Thu, Apr 30, 1:00PM Sat, May 02, 3:00PM Outrage Directed by Kirby Dick Outrage is a furious indictment of closeted American politicians who hold markedly anti-gay voting records, yet lead markedly gay private lives. The familiar public faces of this special committee include Larry Craig (of wide bathroom stances) and Mark Foley (of illicit instant messaging); while other, less public cases, include tanned Florida Governor Charlie Crist, former New York mayor Ed Koch, Virginia congressman Ed Schrock, and many others who will (hopefully) be receiving some special attention from the media in the coming weeks. Aside from the schadenfreude elicited by the documentarys outings, Outrage exposes the dont-ask-dont-tell hypocrisy of the Republican Party at its seediest. The politicians themselves represent a stereotype that anyone who has ever been closeted is familiar with: the gay man who covers up his sexuality by continuously increasing his own external (and sometimes internal) homophobia. Sure, Outrage comes on strong with its convictions -- it includes the stories of former lovers and friends who tell all. But the documentary also reveals how damaging these politicians are to the gay rights movement. In this respect, its poised to serve as a catalyst to expose of those who govern one way and live the other. Plays: Tue, Apr 28, 5:00PM Fri, May 01, 8:00PM Making the Boys, a documentary-in-progress about the making of The Boys in the Band will be playing at the following times: Mon, Apr 27, 4:30PM Sun, May 03, 10:00AM There will be a panel after the April 27 showing, featuring Tony Award-winning producer and documentarian Dori Berinstein, Making the Boys director Crayton Robey, The Boys in the Band playwright and screenwriter Mart Crowley, The Boys in the Band actor Laurence Luckinbill, Executive Producer of The Boys in the Band Dominick Dunne, Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, television personality Carson Kressley, and others after this special work-in-progress screening. Ticket and screening info for all of the films above: LGBT Films at TribecaSend a letter to the editor about this article.
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