HOME | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK
Shadows Fest 2003SHADOWS ARTHOUSE FILMS 04
Films unlikely to be showing at your local multiplex...
On this page films from the British Film Institute's 18th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Mar-Apr.04
NICK NAME & THE NORMALS | PRIVATE DIARY | A SON | STRAIGHT OUT | TWISTED
< < M O R E | M O R E > >

More mainstream art films have their own pages.
Other offbeat films are at: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | FESTIVAL SHORTS
last update 10.Mar.04

back to the top NICK NAME & THE NORMALS
nick 18th llgff
dir-scr Howie Skora
with Kent James, Ben Morris, Rachel Rattner, Lucky, Helmut, Ryzie, Pascal, Robbie, Ralph Balzer, Tony Jardine, Stewart Who
release UK 2.Apr.04 llgff/world premiere 04/US 1h15 3.5/5
REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This entertaining documentary about the notorious gay punk rocker Nick Name (aka Kent James) somehow manages to balance an obvious reverence for Nick with a willingness to push and probe for more uncomfortable truth. Where it really comes to life is in its examination of James' youth. He was born in a strict Mormon family in Utah and grew up in the church, even completing his missionary service in Argentina as a young man. From here he became a rising-star country and western singer in Nashville, until one day he finally had enough of pretending to be something he wasn't. He left his fake-trophy wife, shaved his head, moved to San Francisco and became the outspoken gay revolutionary Nick Name. nick name & the normals
  Writer-director Skora paints a remarkable portrait of this man using concert footage, interviews with his band-mates (Morris and Rattner), manager (Lucky) and former collaborators (Helmut and Ryzie). And he really goes after Nick himself with the camera, never letting him dodge tough questions or situations as he follows him for a year on tour. We learn a lot about him through his music; the thoughtful country tracks and rowdy rock numbers are skillful expressions of emotion and/or bitterness. There's a good-natured humour and camaraderie that makes these people very likable ... and makes the film great fun to watch. Nick is so irate that you know there's a lot going on inside. He's also a gifted musician with pin-up boy looks, stacks of personality and a tough sense of humour that sometimes tries too hard in a Jim Carrey sort of way.
  The film is a slightly self-indulgent inside job, assuming some knowledge of Nick's musical career. And Skora spends too much time on the various scandalous incidents, which do make great cinema verite! But the film is best when it cracks Nick's hard-as-steel shell and we see him wistfully longing to fit in ("People get me in Europe--here it's a chore"; "When I get to New York there's a good chance I'm not coming back"). This uncovers a surprisingly thoughtful and vulnerable man who only accepted his sexuality in his late 20s and now has trouble acknowledging his soft side. No wonder he's so angry. [themes, strong language] 9.Mar.04 llgff
back to the top PRIVATE DIARY [Diario Privado]
photos by usabiaga 18th llgff
dir-scr Pedro Usabiaga
with Gorka Puertas, Aritz Iriarte, Lucio Roman, Fredy Gil, Joseba Baraudiaran, Carlos de Torre, Josu Uribe, Arturo Martin, Ivan Pelren, Unai Uranga, Aurelio Medina, Pedro Usabiaga
release UK Mar.04 llgff 03/Spain 56m 2.5/5
REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This documentary by Basque photographer Usabiaga is at attempt to look at the relationship between the cameraman and his subject, and there's a certain intrigue here in watching Usabiaga prowl around the beaches and gyms in search of guys off the streets who will pose for his provocative picture books. The problem is that the film itself is far too talky and pretentious--Usabiaga refuses to let his imagery speak on its own terms as he continually yabbers through everything. Some of this is helpful and informative, but most of it is hollow wordplay trying desperately to be poetic and discover something in his images besides beautiful, muscled boys.
  This is a real pity since the images are extremely striking, and there's an interesting attempt by Usabiaga to reproduce themes from famous movies in his images, such as runners on a beach a la Chariots of Fire. The still photos we see are absolutely beautiful, full of the dark emotion and magnetic pull that's completely lacking in this film! Besides the wordy narration, the camera work is just not artful enough to carry through the concept, and there's also a serious timidity in the video that isn't found in the provocative pictures. Even though the models are fascinating non-professionals, we only get snippets of their stories (one's a rower, one's an aerobic instructor, one's a student and so on) and fairly awkward home movies of the photo shoots. There's none of the artistry here that's found in Brice Webber's similar and much stronger Chop Suey (2001). This film merely makes you want to go out and buy Usabiaga's book so you can look at the sexy photos without the droning commentary. [some themes] 22.Feb.04
back to the top A SON [Un Fils]
Hicham 18th llgff
dir Amal Bedjaoui scr Amal Bedjaoui, Isabelle Pichaud
with Mohamed Hicham, Hammou Graia, Isabelle Pichaud, Aurelien Recoing, Licino Da Silva, Olivier Rabourdin, Xavier Maly, Herve Blanc, Philippe Carta, Walid Afkir
release UK Mar.04 llgff 03/France 58m 3 out of 5 stars
REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
With a strong and quiet sense of physicality and emotion, this short French feature is both haunting and moving. It's also a fascinating glimpse into an ethnic subculture of Paris we rarely see portrayed with such introspection, even though the filmmaker struggles to really engage with the audience. Selim (Hicham) is a handsome young man who has no idea how to connect with his father (Graia) after his mother dies. His father has no idea that Selim is working the streets with his friend Louise (Pichaud), picking up clients of various genders and sexual proclivities. He's starting to suspect something, especially when Selim offers him a bundle of cash for a needed operation. But Selim is locked in a mortal struggle for affection, either from his father or perhaps a new john (Recoing).
  This film is so drenched in tragedy that we begin to understand early on that it's not going to end happily. So all we can hope for is some sort of understanding between father and son. As a result, this is a very involving tale that kind of engulfs us in its sadness--the ways people just cannot communicate, even when it's most important. And it also beautifully demonstrates the necessity of knowing the truth, even if it causes pain. This is strong stuff indeed, and yet director Bedjaoui almost loses us with her mopey pacing and confusing editing that often leaves us wondering who's who. We get the idea, mostly because there's a level of cathartic artistry at work, and the characters are beautifully played by the cast in a nicely understated way. It does come together in the end, with a quest for answers and a surprisingly honest resolution. But the thoughtful approach mutes the emotions just when we want to feel something. [themes, language, sex, violence, brief nudity] 23.Feb.04 llgff
back to the top STRAIGHT OUT: STORIES FROM ICELAND [Hrein og Bein]
straight out 18th llgff
dir Hrafnhildor Gunnarsdottir
with Alfred Hauksson, Dagny St Hjorvarsdottir, Fjalar Olafsson, Gudmundur David Terrazas, Heidar Reyr Agustsson, Heimir Aspor Heimisson, Jon Eggert Vidisson, Sara Dogg Jonsdottir, Sigga Birna Valsdottir
release UK Mar.04 llgff 03/Iceland 1h00 3.5/5
REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
This documentary is a series of interviews with nine young people who talk about their experiences growing up gay in Iceland. From this simple premise, the filmmaker examines the specific stories of the interviewees as well as exploring larger issues that are true around the world. It's a strong little film, made in such a way that it shouldn't offend anyone--it's the kind of piece the parents of a gay child should definitely see! And it could definitely be replicated in almost any country on earth.
  The men and women telling their stories are in their early 20s, so they're still in the process of dealing with the world and how it treats them, but their first-person accounts are remarkably moving--tales of feeling confused as a child, being mistreated in school, coming out to friends and family, finding a sense of self and security as an adult. Growing up in such an isolated country gives their stories an added resonance, as does the strong religious opposition and parental ignorance many of them face. As one person says, "In our society everyone is straight until proven otherwise", and these people are confronted by suspicions, a lack of role models and deep psychological turmoil (including suicide attempts, as well as promiscuity to try to "cure" themselves).
  As a film, this is a gentle and fluid work, with very honest interviews that are beautifully shot and edited. It's not terribly visual--even though it looks great, there's little more than a series of talking heads, and you begin to think it could have worked as a magazine article. But this is an important topic that needs to be addressed in every country on earth, and this fine filmmaker with her brave subjects make a significant contribution here. [themes] 3.Mar.04 llgff
back to the top TWISTED
wayne and stewart 18th llgff
dir Paul Hammacott, Stewart Who?
with Stewart Who?, Wayne G
release UK Mar.04 llgff 04/UK 55m 3.5/5
REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
British club-scene stars Stewart Who? and Wayne G had a number one dance hit in 1997 with their single Twisted, and this video diary documentary follows them on a manic tour crisscrossing the globe to promote their record at parties from London to Sydney, via Los Angeles, New York, Rome and cruises in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. It's basically a year of drug-induced partying that leaves the duo completely and utterly trashed. These guys seem to have no limit to the quantity of chemicals they can endure--E, hash, acid, cocaine, crystal, K and of course enough alcohol to sink a ship even without the drugs. And yet they have so much personality that the film is actually hilariously entertaining. In a funny-tragic sort of way.
  Stewart and Wayne are natural comics, and you can see in their eyes the various stages of inebriation, which is often quite creepy and rather frightening. Especially when they start looking really and truly rough. One of them calls it "The Year of My Debauchery" and that's exactly what it looks like to us, as each to-camera diary entry is full of accounts of dancing, drugs and sex, all of which gradually take a toll on them. Yes, this is an anti-drug film for actual drug users--it admits that drugs are fun, but also shows the dangers, especially in some later revelations that come as quite a shock.
  Along the way, their experiences are amazingly well documented (you get the feeling they wouldn't remember anything without the videotape!). The diaries are interspersed with footage of them cavorting all over the world as well as massive dance parties in each place, all shot and edited with real professional polish. The film has a terrific sense of pace and energy as it heads for its climax at Fire Island's Ah Ha Ha party, the pinnacle of the club society, which is a massive letdown for our duo. Not only are they too exhausted to enjoy it, but it's not nearly as exciting to be atop the world's dance-and-drugs scene as they expected. Entertaining and cautionary ... but only if you have an open mind. [strong themes, language, drugs] 3.Mar.04 llgff
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < M O R E | M O R E > >
See also the SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
.

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
HOME | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK