The Palm Springs International ShortFest included a great compilation of lesbian shorts—and I don’t mean flannel boxers!
The nine short films in the “Gay!La (Hers): LesbiaNation” program on Thursday, June 19, were well-made and smart—and not one of the lesbian characters was struggling with her sexuality.
There was a married mother having an affair with a lesbian. The married woman felt guilty about the affair, but there was no mention of her sexuality. There was an alcoholic mess of a hot lesbian—but no hint that her lesbianism caused her alcoholism. Brava, my kinda films!
All of the movies were very intimate, rounded out with humor and light and darkness. There was old love, new love and borrowed love. The only remotely blue content came from The Gay Agenda, a cute three-minute doc from Australia about a hysterical art show that quoted some of the most horrifically inaccurate accusations made by the Christian right about the “gay agenda”—and then included hysterical yet beautifully staged images showing what those statements would look like in “reality.” This film was also the only one that really took a direct look at homosexuality.
My favorite short was Disaster Preparedness, a film about one night with two lesbians in their New York apartment during a hurricane. Fast and funny, sad and real, smart and close to the bone, the short brought the viewer all the way into this couple’s life. It was impossible not to fall in love with both characters as they argued through an amusing storm of their own.
The Q&A after the shorts was great, with filmmakers present from as far away as Australia and Lebanon. The host asked the panel: “What is your least favorite cliché in gay films?” Almost all of the filmmakers said that it was the painful coming-out story. Several of them expressed that they had set out to make films in which the characters who explored engaging situations just happened to be gay.
I have to admit that I’ve heard similar statements in the industry for years; they often meant that people didn’t want the characters to be so gay. But that’s not the case any more: These characters were entirely gay. It’s just that processing the process of processing the gay aspect is not the focal point.
One director said, “It is time for queer film 2.0.” Of course there is still a place to focus on the shame and struggle and joy of coming out—but now we can pioneer our way to the stories beyond those beginnings. The Gay!La program showed how filmmakers are now doing that, in a universally translatable way.
The Palm Springs International Shortfest continues through Monday, June 23. For tickets, a complete schedule and more information, visit www.psfilmfest.org.