From the screening of classics both familiar (writer-director Cheryl Dunye’s 1996 crowd-pleaser, The Watermelon Woman) and little seen (Sergio Toledo’s 1987 Brazilian film, Vera), to bubbly new romantic comedies (Japanese director Koji Kawano’s Love My Life), the films of this year’s Fusion film festival represent women in such a powerful way that one almost forgets the secondary status so many “queer” festivals inadvertently bestow on femme fare. That’s not to say that men get short programming shrift either. RuPaul’s mediocre StarBooty (in which the self-professed “supermodel of the world” sleepwalks through wan outré material) is in the mix; so are the latest episodes of the queer Web series The DL Chronicles, and Muxes: Authentic Intrepid Seekers of Danger, a documentary on gay Zapotec Indians from Juchitán, Mexico. The latter is mildly interesting but ultimately too similar (both in the insights it offers and in the struggles it outlines) to countless other Third World third-sex exposés. The best of the male-oriented films is Gwendolen Cates’ engrossing documentary Water Flowing Together, about the life and career of Jack Soto, who was chosen by the great choreographer George Balanchine to dance with the New York City Ballet when he was only 16. Of mixed Native American and Puerto Rican heritage and raised on a reservation, Soto found his multiple identities to be both a blessing and a weight; the film dives unflinchingly into the morass. Similarly, the lesbian short Pariah, about a teenage girl living in the Bronx and struggling to forge her baby-butch identity in the face of familial homophobia — one scene of violence is especially brutal — packs wisdom and wit into its brief running time. Opening with a quote from poet Audre Lorde that is immediately followed by the salacious rapping of Khia, the film deftly sketches the way in which not only does societal bigotry serve as an obstacle to queer self-realization, but so — quite often — do the expectations of the queer community itself. (Egyptian Theatre; thru Sun., Dec. 2. www.outfest.org)
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