Month: January 2014

FILM REVIEWS: Sundance Film Festival LGBT

When John Cooper took over one of the biggest jobs in movies as the Director of the Sundance Film Festival five years ago, one of the changes he introduced was a better slate of LGBT movies. This openly gay man who reputedly prefers being home with his husband and 3 children in suburban L.A. rather than in the limelight of the red carpet has on his watch since introduced some extraordinary fine queer cinema, and this year was no exception.

By Roger Walker-Dack | January 2014

Love Is Strange

They were two standout hits that both deservedly received critical acclaim from the Sundance audiences who can be a tough crowd at times. Firstly director Ira Sachs followed his 2013 hit 'Keep The Lights Out' with a wonderful narrative called 'Love is Strange' about two men in their 60's who finally get married after being coupled for 39 years. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow gave exquisite performances as the devoted couple that suddenly has to deal with one of them being mercilessly fired from his job teaching at the Catholic School even though that had known about him being gay for years. They subsequently have to give up their Manhattan apartment and become homeless. The consequence of them living apart places enormous strain not just on their relationship, but also on those of the friends and families that pitch in too help.

It's a very real and remarkable love story that has some great dry wit, pure and unadulterated tenderness and more than it's share of heartbreaking moments. Lithgow and Molina are pitch perfect in this tale that may first appear to be about how discrimination was not defeated with D.O.M.A. but is essentially much more about how love really will conquer all.

The Case Against 8

The best LGBT documentary was unquestionably 'The Case Against 8’. When the US was reeling from the success of Prop 8. in the 2008 Election, which suddenly banned same-sex marriage in California overnight, activist Chad Griffin had the inspired idea of hiring Ted Olsen the infamous Republican Lawyer who had helped George W Bush snatch the Presidency from Al Gore in the Supreme Court. It turned out to be a shrewd move as Olsen is primarily a humanitarian, and one of the very best advocates in the country, and together with co-counsel David Boiles a leading Democratic Lawyer, he put together a formidable team to mount a Case that went on to change the course of history.

We all know the final outcome when 5 years later the Team reached the Supreme Court and D.O.M.A. was overturned and same-sex marriage was legal once again in California (and kick started battles in other States). However what is delightfully surprising and completely compelling is the very human behind-the-scenes story. Filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White were giving unprecedented access and were there filming every single step of the way. They spent endless emotional days and sleepless nights with the entire team and the Plaintiffs and ended up with over 600 hours of footage. What they achieved, along with editor Kate Amend, is a remarkable concise and spellbinding account that covered this historic turning point in a style it so richly deserved. It perfectly captured the sheer energy of all the people who put their own lives on hold and gave this fight their all to insure that gay men and women should be accorded this basic human right, and with such dignity. It moved many of us to tears... no easy task with a hard bitten Sundance audience of film-industry pros.

To Be Takei

Coming up close third was Jennifer M. Kroot's enchanting documentary 'To Be Takei'. George Takei's career and persona really took off when he 'came out' of the closet in 2005 at the ripe old age of 70. Primarily known for playing 'Sulu' in 'Star Trek' for several decades, he suddenly became a major celebrity and a leading gay political activist and was popping up everywhere. His very public marriage to his husband was the first same-sex one to be performed in West Hollywood in 2008.

Takei is an immensely charismatic figure and disarmingly charming, on top of which he has a fascinating story having been interned with his family and other Japanese Americans during World War 2. The movie is a delightful as the man himself.

The Foxy Merkins

Madeleine Olnek, writer/director of the quirky 'Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same' was back at Sundance with another very cute little comedy 'The Foxy Merkins'. Margaret is down on her luck and homeless in Manhattan and has become a lesbian hooker in training. Her mentor Jo, is a beautiful woman from a wealthy family who is something of an expert on servicing woman, even though she claims to be straight. The two of them trying to ply their trade together is hilarious as each one of their clients is more bizarre than the last.

Writer/director/actor Desiree Akhavan's comedy 'Appropriate Behavior'... her first feature film... is based on her own life growing up as an Iranian/American bi-sexual woman in New York. Desiree's character Shirin is struggling to be a part of a perfect Persian family, which isn't easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn't know she's bisexual, and Maxine her ex-girlfriend cannot understand why she doesn't tell them. After her brother announces his betrothal to a perfect Iranian girl that his parents approve off, Shirin goes off the edge and embarks on a series of pansexual escapades, whilst trying to work out want went wrong with her relationship with Maxine.

Ms. Akhavan's movie is a real treat due to a combination of her very sharp writing and also her delightful deadpan performance that imbues so much terrific humor and warmth even in her angst ridden moments. It is a deliciously funny movie that will surely make Ms. Akhavan a rising star to watch.

Diversity is always much in evidence in the roster of movies at Sundance, and the Australian movie '52 Tuesdays' was a prime example. 16-year-old Billie moves in with her divorced father when her lesbian mother decides to transition gender. To insure that Billie has quality time with her mother they agree to meet every Tuesday for the next year... which is the basis of the story. 'James' as the mother is now known has a bad physical reaction to the testerone injections and meanwhile has secretly started dating a female co-worker. Billie doesn't want to lose her mother and behaves abominably linking up with couple of her schoolmates and experimenting sexually and becomes part of a ménage a trois. 'James's' brother Harry is gay but has fathered a child with a woman. Everybody in this family has tried both sides of the fence sexually it seems, even Billie.

The fact they literally filmed this over a year... on every Tuesday... may add to the uniqueness of this wee movie, but it sadly adds a little too much repetition as the on-screen calendar counts down the weeks. The character of 'James' however was very well written and was an excellent portrayal of how tough transiting can be both physically and emotionally.

'Drunktown's Finest' set on a beautiful desolate Navajo reservation in New Mexico was about three young people searching for love and acceptance. One was a college bound, devout Christian looking for her birth family; another a rebellious and angry father-to-be who was trying avoid the life of petty crime all his friends reveled in; and the third was a gorgeous but promiscuous transsexual. The fact that the latter's story was treated in the same tone as the other two without resorting to sensationalism was refreshing. Even more so when he/she was portrayed as a very nice person

What was disappointing was a British movie from newbie director Hong Khaou called 'Lilting'. When Richard's Chinese boyfriend Kai dies, he takes over the role of visiting Kai's mother who doesn't speak any English and lives is a nursing home. It's a very uneven drama and as much as one wished it to succeed, Ben Wishaw's performance as Richard was surprisingly wishy washy.

'Jamie Marks is Dead' a wee supernatural story is not a 'gay movie' in the true sense as once Jamie is dead, and Adam becomes very very close to him (his ghost that is), its more about the fact that he feels sorry for not defending him when he was gay-bashed, rather than lasting after him now. Worth seeing anyway .

One last… but most important… gay movie is Alain Guiraudie's intriguing new thriller ‘Stranger By The Lake’ which is about as homoerotic as can be without crossing the divide into soft porn. It was shown in Sundance’s Spotlight section for movies that are about to hit the big screen any day now. Scheduled to open in the UK on 21st February, we will publish our review nearer the time. For now, I will just say that is sensationally wonderful, and is destined to be gay classic.

So the big question after Sundance is, will we ever get to see these movies ourselves? And the resounding answer is definitely ‘yes’ for the most part. ‘Love is Strange’ has already been picked up by Sony Classics and so hopefully get a very wide release, probably in the summer. ‘The Case Against 8’ was made by HBO as is already slated to be shown on US TV in June… gay pride month… and is rumored to be heading over the Pond very soon. With the advent of my Companies releasing Indie movies via Streaming, you probably wont have to wait too long to see these cream of the Sundance crop.

FILM REVIEW: Teenage

“This is a story that ends with a beginning…”

By Chris Jones | 31st January 2014

Great phrase and one that captures the content of this documentary perfectly. The film, by Matt Wolf and based on the book, ‘Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture 1897-1945’ by Jon Savage, charts the rise of the teenager as we know it.

It shows its earliest form, as it emerges as a distinct period of human evolution. Initially we had childhood and adulthood, sometimes a grey area in the middle that the industrial revolution may have put paid to as child labour became the norm.

When this was stamped out, or legislated out, what did we have? We were left with a chink of development in a child’s life, the passage into adulthood, the piece where weird things happen to your hormones and lets not even discuss the downstairs rumblings!

This film doesn't really explore the sexual side of development, it doesn't need to because that is so wrapped up in everything else we do or did as teenagers. The way we looked, the way we dressed, what we did, what we listened to, who we attracted, what friends we chose - all part and parcel of being that thing, that developmental period with no real name.

And thats the point of this film, right from the industrial revolution, world wars, depressions, racial integration, right up to the point when the New York Times printed its Teen-age Bill Of rights in 1945 and an entire culture was born and christened.

With the end of WW2, almost as if the dropping of the bombs had brought this subculture to prominence, the teenager was born - and born worldwide. With GI’s spread across the globe, Hollywood churning out the movies in glorious technicolour, and big band swing and jazz the hottest thing around, the US was the main influence not just for adults, but also for those too old to be children and too young to be adults.

This film charts the rise of the teenager using amazing footage, touching narrative - especially when discussing what effect war had on all sides or charting racial inequality.

The film could come across as a little too “worthy” but manages to avoid this by engaging you, helping you remember what it was like to be that age, the awkwardness of it all, the emotional turmoil, but showing you that we all go through it, we all share that experience, and that history can teach us something.

History shows us the struggle others went through so that we can whine about not having the latest phone, or whatever the teenagers today moan about... but I bet you, the teenagers featured in this film whined and moaned too! It’s part of being “that” age.

All in all, this film is a fascinating glimpse into an age before the “Me” generation, when youth clubs were dry, before injecting Cif into your eyeballs before a night out was cool - or whatever else hip cat teenagers are doing these days. It shows a more naive time, when teenagers were first pushing against those boundaries and sensing some freedom - and it’s a blinking good watch for it!

THEATRE: WestEndFest

WestEndFest is back for its first concert of 2014 on March the 2nd at The Actors’ Church in Covent Garden!

By Robin Foreman-Quercus | 31st January 2014

WestEndFest 2014

Founded two years ago by West-End Theatre actress Sabrina Aloueche and Parnell Page, WestEndFest has become a hugely popular bi-annual sell-out celebration combining dance, comedy, songs and raising lots of money for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and CRY UK (an organisation that helps raise awareness and helps to raise funds for cardiac arrest in the young).

Each concert is set to a theme. This time, the theme is ‘Songs you love (BUT SHOULDN’T)’ with performers attempting to sing their guilty pleasures! Expect many laughs, a few surprises, and another memorable performance from WestEndFest’s very own boy band, ‘Wrong Direction’!

There are homemade cupcakes being baked for the day, lots of treats, WestEndFest merchandise on sale, and an auction that takes place on stage at the interval, which will be hosted by Scott Garnham and Dean McCullough. All funds raised go directly to the charities being supported.

The list of performers so far (more TBC) includes:

Rebecca Caine: original Cosette, Les Miserables

Lauren Samuels: Scaramouche, We Will Rock You; Water Babies

Zizi Strallen: Rock of Ages; Merrily we Roll Along; Hairspray

Cassie Compton: Wicked; Les Miserables; American Psycho

Sabrina Aloueche: Eponine, Les Miserables; Scaramouche, We Will Rock You; Maureen, Rent

Tori Allen Martin: After the Turn; Mimi, Rent; HAIR

Alice Fearn: Les Miserables; Shrek; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Niall Sheehy: Wicked; Feuilly and 1st cover Enjolras, Les Miserables

Jamie Muscato: Rock of Ages; The Light Princess

Rob Houchen: Marius, Les Miserables

Aaron Sidwell: Loserville; Carnaby Street; Steven Beale, Eastenders

Scott Garnham: Les Miserables; ‘I Can’t Sing’ the Musical

Oliver Savile: Enjolras, Les Miserables; Tugger, Cats!

James Gant: Les Miserables; Oliver; Evita

Stephen Webb: Notre Dame de Paris; From Here To Eternity

David Ribi: Hairspray; Dreamboats and Petticoats

Greg Oliver: The Prodigals; Spring Awakening; After the Turn

Maria Coyne: Magenta, Rocky Horror; Spring Awakening; Joseph; Crazy for You

Thomas Sutcliffe: showcasing new show The Mill on the Floss

Peter Polycarpou: Les Miserables; Phantom; Sweeney Todd; Cats; Love Story; Chitty

Kieran Brown: Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Tick Tick Boom

WestEndFest takes place on Sunday March 2nd at St Paul’s Church (better known as the Actors’ Church, Covent Garden. Tickets are £16/22 from www.seetickets.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/westendfests

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Westend-Fest

The 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Nominees

GLAAD (LGBT) media advocacy organization, announced today the nominees for its 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards, presented nationally by Ketel One Vodka, Wells Fargo, and Hilton Worldwide.  By recognizing and honoring media for outstanding images of the LGBT community, the GLAAD Media Awards serve as a benchmark for the media industry and complement GLAAD’s work to bring LGBT images and stories to people around the world.

Among the nominees: Netflix’s smash hit Orange is the New Black; ABC Family’s The Fosters, BBC America’s Orphan Black; HBO’s Behind the Candelabra starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon; Blue Is the Warmest Color, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival; Dallas Buyers Club; Kill Your Darlings, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan; Call Me Kuchu and God Loves Uganda, both documentaries about LGBT people in Uganda; Bridegroom about Shane Bitney Crone and the death of his partner; interviews with NBA players Jason Collins and Kenneth Faried on Oprah’s Next Chapter and E:60 respectively; Ariel Levy’s profile of Edie Windsor in The New Yorker; MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry; Huffington Post Live for its interview with Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, and Lady Gaga for her ARTPOP album.

Spanish-language nominees include the Univision novela Amores Verdaderos, which included the wedding of a gay couple, Al Punto for its coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA, and Sábado Gigante for its interview with Karina Hermosillo, the first openly gay beauty pageant contestant on Nuestra Belleza Latina.

Since its inception 25 years ago, the GLAAD Media Awards have reshaped the news and entertainment industries, inspiring thoughtful and inclusive characters and plotlines that have driven equality forward,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “This year has brought momentous progress for LGBT people and families – and our nominees have created images and stories that continue to challenge misconceptions, shatter stereotypes, and change hearts and minds of millions all across the globe.”

The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on April 12, 2014 at The Beverly Hilton and in New York on May 3 at the Waldorf Astoria New York.  Special Honorees for each city and  recognition of an international LGBT advocate will be announced in coming weeks.

GLAAD announced 93 nominees in 20 English-language categories, and 37 Spanish-language nominees in 9 categories.  In the English-language categories, cable networks earned 28 nominations, broadcast networks garnered 11 nominations, and Netflix received its first nomination for Orange is the New Black.

A complete list of nominees may be found here. A tip sheet with additional facts and figures about this year’s 130 nominees may be found here.

To receive the latest updates on the GLAAD Media Awards, follow @glaad on Twitter and use the hashtag #glaadawards.

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives.  The GLAAD Media Awards also fund GLAAD’s work to amplify stories from the LGBT community and issues that build support for equality.

The 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards nominees were published, released or broadcast between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013.

GLAAD’s corporate partners include:  National Presenting partners Ketel One Vodka, Wells Fargo and Hilton Worldwide, along with New York and Los Angeles Presenting partner Delta Air Lines.  Other sponsors include Allstate Insurance Company, AT&T, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Citi, Google, and Sheppard Mullin.  For a full list of corporate partners and information on how to become a corporate partner, purchase tickets, and place a tribute in the tribute book, please visit www.glaad.org/mediaawards.

The post The 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Nominees appeared first on Echelon Magazine: LGBT Business, LGBT Money.

HEALTH ALERT: PHE Warns Gay and Bisexual Men Of Shigella Dysentery Rise

A new campaign to warn gay and bisexual men about the risk of Shigella dysentery is being launched today by Public Health England (PHE) in partnership with Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), as new figures show a surge in cases likely to have been sexually-acquired over the past 12 months.

by Newsdesk | 30th January 2014

Shigella - Wikipedia

* Shingella is a serious gut infection

* Can cause prolonged diarrhoea and stomach cramps

* Can be caught through Oral sex and Rimming

In the UK, Shigella flexneri usually affects similar numbers of men and women and is linked with overseas travel, but 2013 data show an excess of more than 200 cases of the infection in men with no or unknown travel history, compared to women. London is most affected.

GUT INFECTION

Shigella is a serious gut infection causing severe, prolonged diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Among gay and bisexual men, Shigella is usually passed on through the faecal-oral route during sex, either directly or via unwashed hands - only a tiny amount of bacteria can spread the infection.

Symptoms often develop around 1-3 days after sex, including:

· Frequent and explosive diarrhoea lasting more than 48 hours

· Stomach cramps

· Feeling feverish with flu like symptoms

· Some people report vomiting

· Feeling weak and tired (accompanying the gastrointestinal symptoms)

Men experiencing Shigella symptoms are advised to visit their GP or a clinic, specifically mentioning Shigella and requesting a stool sample test. The infection is treatable with antibiotics. Risk of infection can be reduced by avoiding oral contact with faeces during sex and washing hands thoroughly and showering after sex.

Interviews with gay and bisexual men who caught the infection through sex found links to high numbers of partners, often met anonymously online or at sex parties. For many, using drugs, such as mephedrone, methamphetamine (crystal meth), ketamine and GBL, before or during sex led to lowered inhibitions and riskier sex. Worryingly, one in three men using these drugs had injected them (known as ‘slamming’). Most of the men interviewed had not heard of Shigella before and thought they had food poisoning.

CAUSES OF SHIGELLA

One of the men interviewed, who got Shigella through anal-oral sex (‘rimming’), said: “Getting Shigella was the lowest point in my life. I suffered uncontrollable bloody diarrhoea with severe stomach cramps. The ferocity of symptoms and dehydration headaches made me think I was going to die. Initially I blamed it on a bad curry and held off visiting my GP for a week, but really wish I had gone straight away. Although it was treatable with antibiotics, the illness cost me a fortune as I had to take six weeks off work on statutory sick pay.”

As part of the awareness campaign, posters and leaflets are being distributed in nightclubs, saunas and other gay venues, plus sexual health clinics, highlighting the symptoms of Shigella, how it is transmitted and how to avoid it.

ON THE RISE

Dr Gwenda Hughes, PHE head of STI surveillance, said: “Shigella is on the rise, so it is vital gay and bisexual men know about it and how to avoid getting it. We’re also seeing increasing HIV and gonorrhoea diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in the UK – indeed, most of the men with Shigella had been diagnosed with other STIs including HIV. This is a reminder how important it is to use a condom when having sex with casual and new partners.”

Cary James, Head of Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Although on paper the number of documented cases of Shigella are quite small, the concern is that not all cases are being reported. Men with symptoms who haven’t heard of Shigella before might assume it’s a particularly bad case of food poisoning. However, the infection can be dangerous, even more so if you’re already living with HIV or Hep C. We would urge anyone who is experiencing symptoms, or who’s concerned they may have been at risk, to call our free helpline THT Direct or visit www.tht.org.uk/shigella.”

Dr Hughes continued: “The Shigella awareness campaign is part of a broader commitment to helping improve the health of gay and bisexual men, including exploring the links between health and drug use. The level of injecting drug use is a particular concern as we know that this puts men at greatly increased risk of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C”

Individuals worried about Shigella or their drug use can find out more on the Terrence Higgins Trust website – including finding a local service to visit for further advice. www.tht.org.uk/shigella

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