qFLIX, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ film festival, will screen more than 50 features, shorts, documentaries, and new media webseries in theatres June 19-26 at the Suzanne Roberts Theater. In addition, the festival also is running PrideFLIX, a monthlong celebration of queer cinema online with an additional 50+ titles as well as some qFLIX films after their theatrical presentation. Both programs offer fabulous films by, for, and about LGBTQ+ life.
The in-person festival opens with the fun documentary “All Man: The International Male Story,” narrated by out gay actor Matt Bomer, that provides an (at times) cheeky peek behind the scenes of the famous “magalog.” (The directors are expected to attend, with other talent to be confirmed).
Closing night will be the East Coast Premiere of “In from the Side,” a swoon-inducing British romantic drama about two gay rugby players who begin an affair. Alexander King, who makes an auspicious screen debut in the film, will participate in a post-screening Q&A.
This year’s festival includes several new films by qFLIX alums.
“Loren & Rose,” by gay writer/director Russell Brown, is a tender, elegiac drama about the title characters — a gay filmmaker (Kelly Blatz) and celebrated actress (Jacqueline Bisset) — who meet for one meal to they determine if they will work together and develop an intimate, intense friendship. The conversations are compelling and Bisset is both luminous and marvelous.
“F—ed in the Head” by gay auteur Todd Verow is a funny, touching and at times sexy drama based on the director’s life. Scott (David White) is a gay young man who recounts memories with his sister, Maggie (also White), when she is hospitalized with a brain tumor. Performing the double role with noticeable aplomb, White is arguably best as Maggie.
The playful animated feature, “El Exito del Amor,” by pansexual Argentine filmmaker Pablo Oliverio, has Pedro cross-dressing to do his partner Val’s job because she is too depressed to get out of bed. Filled with inventive and naughty visuals, clever sound effects, and witty sight gags — one involves a Pedro as Val in high heels and a banana peel — the film emphasizes seeing things from a different perspective (as all of the characters do). Oliverio also includes sociopolitical statements about animal liberation, capitalism, and women’s rights, in this delightful little comedy as well several LGBTQ characters, from Pedro’s gym buddies to a transgender woman Pedro as Val meets at a protest. [Full disclosure: I assisted with translating/correcting some subtitles.]
Of local interest is “Prognosis: Notes on Living” is a heartfelt documentary that chronicles the progress and process of Oscar-winning Philadelphia-native filmmaker Debra Chasnoff as she is diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. This life-affirming film depicts Chas’ relationship with her partner Nancy, her medical appointments, and her deteriorating mental and physical health as her reality, behavior, and cognition undergo dramatic changes. Revealing moments, such as a birthday party, show how Chas wants to prolong her life even as the inevitable happens. “Prognosis” is highly personal, but as it speaks to more universal experiences, it is ultimately gratifying.
“My Emptiness and I” is a wonderful comedy-drama about Raphaëlle (cowriter Raphaëlle Pérez), a transwoman navigating the dating scene and her gender identity. She wants someone to love her as she is — she is deciding about having surgery — but most men are wary, if not downright obnoxious about dating a transwoman. Raphaëlle meets regularly with other transwomen and participates in artistic endeavors, such as a play, that help her determine what she wants and who she is. “My Emptiness and I” is a fantastic showcase for Pérez, and a charming and hopeful love story wrapped in a poignant drama about self-acceptance.
“Pat Rocco Dared” is an affectionate valentine to the trailblazing gay filmmaker and activist who died in 2018. Rocco started making films in 1966 that featured nude men in sex-positive ways — kissing and cuddling, posing on a freeway, even using a pogo stick! One short, that depicted a loving gay couple in Disneyland, was banned. Rocco’s films were erotic but never pornographic. They depicted a “perfect queer world,” where being gay was not an issue, and that may be why they were so popular. “Pat Rocco Dared” has out gay filmmaker Charlie David interviewing Rocco about his work. David also probes Rocco about his activism, which includes helping Harvey Milk get elected, coordinating the first Pride parade (not march), helping homeless LGBTQ folks, and documenting transgender lives. One of the best sequences shows how David’s films were influenced by Rocco’s. This engaging documentary should inspire viewers to seek out Rocco’s work. David will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.
In the outstanding character study, “Wandering Heart,” written and directed by Leonardo Brzezicki, Santiago (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is a restless and lonely gay man. He tries to reconnect with his ex, Luis (Alberto Ajaka), who wants to sever ties with him completely. Santiago also has difficulty with his moody teenage daughter, Laila (Miranda de la Serna). He needs to find his inner balance, but he is too busy trying to have fun hooking up, drinking and drugging, attending sex parties, and seeking love with either a Chilean guy, or a couple he meets in Brazil. Sbaraglia is remarkable as an impulsive man who experiences extreme highs and lows. He is completely vulnerable and heartbreaking dancing naked by a pool or sharing a moment of intimacy at a children’s party. It is an incredible performance in an incredible film.
Not to be missed is “Two Eyes,” an exceptional triptych that capture decisive moments in various queer and trans lives. Dihlon (Benjamin Rigby) is a married British artist living in 1868 Montana who seeks a muse and finds one in Jacy (Kiowa Gordon), a Crow who shows him new ways to think about gender. In 1979 Barstow, CA, Gabryal (Uly Schlesinger) befriends Alasen (Jessica Allain), an exchange student who takes him to Los Angeles to meet Thandi (Nakhane, the out queer musician, who performs many of the film’s songs). What transpires is a life changing experience. The third story, set in 2020, has the trans Jalin (Ryan Cassata) meeting Andrea (Kate Bornstein) a trans therapist who teaches him about how to grapple with love and loss. Writer/director Travis Fine (“Any Day Now”) makes all three stories moving and coaxes strong performances from his diverse ensemble cast. This is a remarkable, gorgeous film that addresses issues of pride, shame, and identity with sensitivity and compassion.
Another festival highlight is “Where Butterflies Don’t Fly,” by out gay writer/director Roman Nemec. This intense, claustrophobic film has Daniel (Daniel Krejcik), a misfit teen, trapped in a cave with his gay teacher, Adam (Jiri Vojta), during a class trip. The relationship that develops between the two men is shrewdly played, with Daniel challenging Adam about not being more open about his sexuality at school. But it also borders on inappropriate as when Daniel asks Adam to share his sleeping bag to warm up his body. The film, magnificently staged and shot on location, astutely addresses issues of masculinity and sexuality, as well as ideas about love and loneliness as the guys struggle to find a way out. Nemec captures the tension between the characters well and both Krejcik and Vojta are excellent. See it on the big screen!
qFLIX will also make Nemec’s terrific 2017 short, “About a Father,” a comedic origin story for Vojta’s character, Adam, available online.
For more information about films, showtimes, and tickets, visit http://www.qflixphilly.com/about/.