Philadelphia native Cheryl Dunye is one of three talented queer filmmakers presenting one of three eXXXplicit films at QFest this year. Her fabulous fairy tale, “Mommy Is Coming” [8:15 p.m. July 18, Ritz Bourse; 9:30 p.m. July 20, Ritz Bourse], is an over-the-top porn comedy. Opening with the indelible image of a gun, wrapped in a condom, enveloped by a vagina, viewers get a taste of what’s to come. The story has Claudia (Papi Coxxx), an old-fashioned butch, unable to trust her insatiable girlfriend Dylan (Lil Harlow). When Claudia visits a Berlin sex club one night, she puts on a mustache and loosens her inhibitions. Becoming “Claude,” she tries some new things. Later, in guy disguise, she ends up unknowingly flirting with Dylan’s mother, Helen (Maggie Tapert). Everything — and everyone — comes together one night at a hotel in the big climax. Dunye showcases plenty of wit with the twat, as “Mommy Is Coming” features some amusing comic bits among the raunchy hardcore scenes. The film also includes some clever direct-address commentaries with cast members and various sex-club extras that put the film’s messages — about love, trust and sex — into perspective.
The mumblecore porno “I Want Your Love” [9:30 p.m. July 19, Ritz East; 7:15 p.m. July 21, Bourse] offers parting glances of San Franciscan Jesse (Jesse Metzger) on the eve of his move to Ohio. Jesse tries to combat his despair through empty sex with a pick-up and saying goodbye to his ex, Ben (Ben Jasper). When his best friend Wayne (Wayne Bumb) throws a party for Jesse, Jesse hides out downstairs in his neighbor’s place. “I Want Your Love” is compelling because Jesse’s anxiety is palpable, especially when he’s bored. Viewers, however, will be stimulated during the copious (and lengthy) explicit sex scenes that show real intimacy between various couples. The cast of average-looking guys gives bold, brazen performances. While writer-director Travis Mathew’s film meanders a bit in search of a point, “I Want Your Love” still manages to be both impassioned and poignant.
Rounding out the erotica, Jim Tushinski’s “Dirty Poole” [5 p.m. July 14, East] is a work-in-progress screening of a documentary about “Boys in the Sand” creator Wakefield Poole. A former dancer turned pornographer, Tushinski’s affectionate project is an entertaining walk down memory lane for anyone who saw Poole’s films back in the day. It is also a terrific queer history project for those unfamiliar with the groundbreaking director of “Bijou,” “Moving” and “One, Two, Three.” Poole recalls his desire to make “artistic, erotic — not dirty” films, and the humbling experience of flopping with his fascinating big-budget spectacle, “Bible!” (The clips from this fiasco are fantastic!) Perhaps the most poignant segment has Poole returning to the Fire Island houses where he shot his most famous film, “Boys in the Sand.” Tushinski and Poole will attend the festival and discuss the filmmaker’s life and career.
NOTE: “Dirty Poole” is still seeking funding for post-production. Tax-deductible contributions are being accepted at www.dirtypoole.com.
Several films at QFest feature cross-dressing and transgender characters. Here are two international films of note:
“Zenne Dancer” [9:30 p.m. July 18, East; 5:15 p.m. July 20, East] is an intriguing Turkish (melo)drama inspired by true stories. Cam (Kerem Can) is a beautiful-bodied male belly dancer who befriends both Ahmet (Erkan Avci), a closeted Turkish student, and his lover Daniel (Giovanni Arvaneh), a German photographer. While Cam struggles for money and tries to avoid mandatory military service, Daniel encourages Ahmet to come out to his parents. There are some fabulous-looking, highly stylized fantasy sequences in “Zenne Dancer” that feature Cam’s drag routines. These serve as counterpoints to Ahmet’s much more serious storyline about his culture, which practices honor killings. It is the dramatic moments that provide the emotional power of “Zenne Dancer,” but directors M. Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay overemphasize the melodramatic scenes, undercutting the film’s important messages about truth and love, shame and death.
“Facing Mirrors” [5 p.m. July 21, Bourse; 2:30 p.m. July 22, Bourse] is an exceptional Iranian film about Adineh (Sheyesteh Irani), a pre-op transsexual running away from her father, who wants her to remain female and get married. She befriends Randa (Ghazal Shakeri), a taxi driver whose husband is in prison. While transsexual surgery is legal in Iran, the shame and ostracism toward these men and women prompt them to have surgery elsewhere. Such is Adineh’s situation, and why she enlists the aid of Randa to help her leave the country. “Facing Mirrors” shows how Adineh’s friendship helps change minds about trans people in Iran, and while this story gets slightly didactic at times, it is always compelling. Randa’s reactions — toward Adineh’s gender identity, or in a scene where her young son dresses up as a woman — are believable, and the bond between her and Adineh is heartfelt. The film yields considerable power as it comes to its satisfying conclusion.
More QFest Coverage:
Filmaker Nicole Conn gets "Perfect" Where I'll be at QFest