Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Grand Jury Awards:

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: "Spa Night"

Best Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature: Ingrid Jungermann, "Women Who Kill"

Special Mention for Outstanding Performance: Joe Seo, "Spa Night"

Documentary Grand Jury Prize: "Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four"

Documentary Special Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking: "Major!"

Best Documentary Short: "These Cocksucking Tears"

Best Narrative Short: "Fake It"

International Grand Jury Prize: "Being 17"

International Special Mention: "The Nest"

Audience Awards:

U.S. Narrative Audience Award: "Miles"

Audience Award for Best First U.S. Dramatic Feature: "Suicide Kale"

U.S. Documentary Audience Award: "Major!"

Special Programming Awards:

Emerging Talent: Twiggy Pucci Garçon and Sara Jordenö, "Kiki"

Freedom Award: Tiffany Rhynard and Moises Serrano, "Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America"

Artistic Vision: Kuba Czekaj, "Baby Bump"

Special Mention for Artistic Achievement: Kai Stänicke, "B."

Here's a round-up of some of the films I caught during the fest. The International Grand Jury Prize winner, "Being 17 (Quand on a 17 ans)" is another impressive work by legendary French film maker, André Téchiné who brought us the 1994 classic, "Wild Reeds". Seventeen year old, Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) lives with his mother, Marianne (Sandrine Kiberlain), a doctor while his father (Alexis Loret) is a miltary pilot serving abroad. A social outcast in school, Damien is continuously bullied by another loner classmate, Tom (Corentin Fila). Circumstances bring these two young men to live together under one roof due to Tom's mother being treated by Marianne. That doesn't stop the boys from fighting yet it does bring awareness of an attraction between each other. Téchiné perfectly captures the conflicted emotions of youth with the yearning to closely connect with a peer and the desire to be left alone.

"Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo (Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau)" is a slight yet engaging drama that comes across like a Gallic version of the British film, "Weekend" except with hardcore sex. After having an explosive and almost spiritual experience at a Paris sex club (which is seen in the explicit twenty-minute opening scene), Théo (Geoffrey Couët) and Hugo (François Nambot) leave together in post-coital bliss until they realize they've had unprotected sex. While awaiting the results of a HIV test, we watch in real-time as Théo and Hugo spend the early morning discovering each other as they bike, ride the subway and walk throughout the quiet streets of the city. Written and directed by the team of Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (who share a professional and personal relationship), this winner of the Teddy Audience Award at this year's Berlin Film Festival presents a thoughtful and stimulating look at the challenges and complications of trying to form some kind of relationship after a lustful, one night encounter.

The bittersweet documentary, "Strike a Pose" takes a look at what happened to the young backup dancers from Madonna's 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour who revealed their personal lives and found short-lived fame in her documentary, "Truth or Dare". Reluctant to go before the cameras again, film makers, Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan were able to convince the six surviving members, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, Luis Camacho, Jose Gutierez, Salim Gauwloos and Oliver Crumes (Gabriel Trupin died from complications due to AIDS in 1995) that this project would not be exploitative and would give them the opportunity to share their stories of life after Madonna. And each of them had many difficulties as they struggled with drug abuse, homelessness, lawsuits, HIV and other health complications. Yet we see how each of them came out of the experience with a positive outlook and greater understanding of themselves. The highlight of "Strike a Pose" is near the end when the dancers are all happily reunited after twenty-five years as they reminiscence and confess some long-held secrets to each other.

And my clear favorite from the fest was "Jewel's Catch One". This doc, directed by C. Fitz, explores the incredible Jewel-Thais Williams and the renowned Los Angeles nightclub, Catch One she opened that served the LGBT community of color for over forty years. After her first venture, a women’s clothing boutique, went bust, Williams decided to open a recession-proof business and the Catch was born in 1973. She began with a one room bar before eventually purchasing the entire building to create a complete dance club experience. The crowd was initially a mostly African-American clientele before celebrities like Sharon Stone and Madonna hit Catch One, making it a hip destination for white club kids. Not all of the times were good; the neighbors and police tried to force Williams out and the AIDS crisis nearly put the club out of business. Not even a suspicious fire that would shut down the Catch for almost two years would knock her out. Williams persevered and became an out-spoken activist as a co-founder of the Minority AIDS Project and Rue’s House, a housing facility for women with AIDS and their children. At the age of sixty, Williams went back to school and earned a degree in Chinese Medicine and opened the Village Health Foundation, a non-profit specializing in nutrition and lifestyle changes for the African American community. I remember spending many fun nights at the now-closed Catch One and I'm so glad this film was created to celebrate this amazing, inspirational woman's life and the important legacy of her club.