August 18th, 2016

In The Real World (NCGLFF 2016)

~Thursday~ Bob and I attended the second of the four films we're seeing together this year at the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF).

This was another collection of short films with a math problem. Named In the Real World, the collection on the NCGLFF website was advertised as, "Do you love documentaries? Here's a collection of 9 short features for gay, lesbian, and transgender audiences on a variety of intriguing queer subjects." But alas, as you yourself can count, there were only 8 films in the collection. Math is hard.

And, truth be told, I might argue that, technically, there were 7 "films" and one "commercial."

Here are the synopses and my thoughts about them:


Synopsis: A man's experience with depression and homophobia shapes his life for the better, leading him to become an activist for the LGBT community through his YouTube channel.

Thoughts: This was a well-crafted film, with a likable protagonist who was open, thoughtful, hopeful, and entertaining. Themes touched on included childhood bullying, workplace harassment, bad relationships as growth experiences, soul-searching, depression, and becoming a voice for activism. It was interesting enough to make me want to check out McSwiggan's YouTube channel.

What's A Gender?

Synopsis: Whether you are a man, a woman, or both classifications is irrelevant.

Thoughts: This was arguably my favorite film of the collection, but unequivocally, it was the most intellectually interesting one to me. These two sisters so defied gender classification, both knew it, and both were most unapologetic about it. My favorite scene was when they were describing what it's like when they walk down a street together—people stare at them with a "What the fuck?" expression on their faces. Personally, I found them mesmerizing, provocative, and quite thought-provoking.

Alzheimer's: A Love Story

Synopsis: In this sensitive portrait we watch as Michael, Gregory's husband of four decades, struggles to connect with Gregory in the face of this tragic disease and to assure that Gregory's final days are redeemed by an awareness of Michael's undying love.

Thoughts: This film was undeniably touching and sad. The sanguine Michael teared up a lot, but held it together for the most part. The woman sitting in the row in front of us, however, bawled through most of this short documentary.

What was interesting to me about this film being in a Gay & Lesbian film festival was that it was essentially an "Alzheimer's story" and not a "gay story," about which I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, it showed that gay people are "just like everyone else" when it comes to "a non-discriminating disease like Alzheimer's," and what we want for our loved ones.

On the other hand, there can be some LGBT issues (still, even in 2016) around partners dealing with a healthcare system that isn't always supportive of LGBT people nurturing their loved ones in their final months and days. I guess, there have been no shortage of films exploring that, though.

You can watch a minute-and-a-half trailer of the film, if you're interested.


Synopsis: The world of square dancing is rather traditional, but see how gay square dance clubs in New York and California accept anyone, gay or straight, just as they are.

Thoughts: This film was just strange. It sort of made one point—that anyone is welcome there—over and over, and it just ended so abruptly. As Bob noted, most stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. This one pretty much had a beginning and that was it. The ending was when the screen just went black, and at first I thought the film had broken, because there weren't even any credits at the end. About a half-minute later, Pink Boy started.

Pink Boy

Synopsis: BJ, a butch lesbian, successfully avoided dresses her entire life until she adopted Jeffrey, who starts to dance in gowns and perform for her.

Thoughts: I thought this, too, was a well-done film. I loved that the two women who were raising Jeffrey were so supportive. My favorite line was when BJ said, "I've been a lesbian all of my life..." in the context of having never played with Barbie® dolls but was now, because that's what Jeffrey wanted to do. I don't know why that phrase tickled me so much. I guess it's because it sounded like something she had to work at for so long, instead of it just being who she was.

This story interested me enough that I'd love to see Jeffrey 10 years from now.

In The Hollow

Synopsis: In May 1988, girlfriends Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight were violently attacked while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hear their story as Claudia returns to the trail for the first time since the incident.

Thoughts: This was my next-to-favorite film of the collection. It was a compelling story that elicited outrage, and its setting was The Appalachian Trail, which I had recently read about in the Bill Bryson book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.

Claudia noted that she wasn't able to attend her girlfriend's funeral at the time, because she was still in the hospital for the wounds she herself had suffered (which were not inconsequential) during the attack. She also said she knew that Rebecca's ashes were buried somewhere in Maine (I think that was where she said), and I was surprised to hear her say she's never seen them. (Some were scattered, but some were buried.) Perhaps said trip will be her next short film, or perhaps she's actually done it now and it's covered in her book.

In checking out the IMDB entry for this short documentary, my interest was piqued by the fact that "Claudia has since written a book titled Eight Bullets about the events that occurred in the forest and the resulting investigation and trial."

A Lifetime of Making Change

Synopsis: Maxine Wolfe, 74, reflects on a lifetime of activism as a coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brookly, N.Y.

Thoughts: This is the film that, arguably, could have been a commercial. It was so short that I literally thought at its conclusion, "Huh?" immediately followed by, "And the point was?" Ms. Wolfe's very last sentence gave you the impression that the entire 2 or 3 minutes, if it was that, was wholly self-serving. Definitely my least-liked film of the bunch.


Synopsis: Five queer and trans Asian-Americans from New York City explore their relationships with their family and culture.

Thoughts: Mostly, this film made me sad for people who still feel they are unable to live their authentic lives. Having been in the closet for the first 35 years of my life, I have great empathy for them.

Although to a lesser extent, this film also made me think about the "diluting of heritage and culture" in the descendants of immigrant families in the U.S. Being half Portuguese (my dad's parents immigrated here from the Azores Islands, Portugal) and half French-Canadian (my mom's parents immigrated here from Montreal), I'm living proof of such a dilution with the only honoring I do of either of those cultures is eating Portuguese food when my sister makes it.

Have you seen this collection of movies? If so, what did you think of them? See what what other movies I've seen since 2003.