By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Debra DiPaolo|
To mark the 17th year of Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which opens this weekend, we assembled a panel of voices from different areas of the entertainment world to answer these and other questions on queer/lesbian/gay cinema. Participants included Don Roos (writer-director of the film The Opposite of Sex, as well as screenwriter for films such as Love Field, Single White Female and Diabolique); Andrea Sperling (producer of The Living End, Desert Blue and the forthcoming But I'm Not a Cheerleader); Susan Glatzer (senior vice president of acquisitions and production for USA Films, and the woman responsible for ushering the October Films release High Art from Sundance into theaters); David Moreton (director of the current gay coming-of-age hit Edge of Seventeen); Adam Shulman (co-founder of the Shulman Rose Agency, which represents directors such as Bill Condon and Miguel Arteta); and John Cooper (associate director of programming of the Sundance Film Festival, who has worked as a programmer at Outfest). Also sitting in on the discussion were Weekly film editor Manohla Dargis, film critic Ella Taylor, editor Sue Horton, arts editor Tom Christie and editorial assistant Ron Athey.
L.A. Weekly:John, you were at Sundance when the term "new queer cinema" was coined. Do you feel that movement has been blown out of proportion, that the mythology has overwhelmed the reality?
John Cooper: Well, the mythology of independent cinema has been blown a bit out of control as well. Have we lived up to everything? I don't know. We thought there were unlimited possibilities at that point, and we've taken a little turn the other way. Everybody thought it was going to be easy, that the world was going to open its doors to gay cinema and we were going to be accepted. At least on the screen.
I remember being very nervous thinking -- it's sort of silly -- but thinking, can we show a gay film at Sundance? I remember thinking that we were doing something terribly naughty. And we were, really. Except that now it doesn't seem like anything.
Do you think an artificial standard was then created of what queer cinema was going to be? Because, really, when people think of that moment, there are only about three or four filmmakers and films that are cited --Poison, Swoon,Mala Noche,Parting Glances. This whole movement, or moment, was resting on a few shoulders, a handful of films.
Cooper: And the shoulders of those people you look at -- like, Gregg Araki is no longer gay. [Laughter] So there's one gone right there, we lost him. And Tom Kalin decided he didn't want to direct films anymore. Todd Haynes stayed with what he was doing. I kind of wonder if the people that were there at that point even really considered themselves gay filmmakers. They opened this door, but they aren't the ones who kept pushing.
Where do you think the state of the art is right now? It's still unclear what we're calling this: gay and lesbian cinema or queer cinema. What's the distinction?
Andrea Sperling: Queer cinema is probably more innovative, political, pushing the medium. Gay is, maybe, more commercial films that are narratively conventional.
Cooper: Queer's a youthful word, too. It's a word that's used by youth a lot easier than it's used by people over 35.
Is it also a marketing strategy, in some ways?
David Moreton: I might be wrong -- I have no facts on this -- but when there's actual gay sex shown onscreen, it seems to divide the marketplace of who will distribute the movie, who the audience will be.
Those new queer-cinema films seemed -- both formally and in terms of themes -- audacious. Now we're swamped with a lot of coming-out tales that are less imaginative than an episode ofDawson's Creek. Does it seem like we're moving backward?
Sperling: I think that at the beginning of the queer new wave, because it was a new thing, the films were more political. You know, because no one had ever done it, so it was coming from a different place. Those films opened doors.
Adam Shulman: When you look at gay cinema, you have to separate independent film from studio films. In the studio arena, we're definitely moving forward and backward at the same time. I mean, it seems sort of chic now to have gay characters in studio movies. It makes studio executives feel like they're being open-minded and cool. But so many of the representations of gay people in studio movies are just so false or clichéd. It's important that independent cinema try to preserve true visions of gay people.