News Column

Sacramento gay and lesbian film festival unafraid of wacky titles

October 10, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 10--On Friday night, the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will present a movie that draws from 1966's impeccably credentialed "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Directed by Mike Nichols and based on a play by Edward Albee, "Woolf" won five Academy Awards, including Elizabeth Taylor's best actress prize.

Friday's movie, "Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?" is slightly less prestigious. Yet you know that if Martha -- the heavy-drinking, caustic academic's wife played by Taylor in "Woolf" -- could hear the new film's title, she would howl with laughter and approval.

"Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?" is a movie about moviemaking. Director Anna Margarita Albelo also stars, as a fledgling filmmaker who at 40 still lives in her friend's backyard storage shed. The fictional director regrets spending the past decade fruitlessly pursuing her art and ignoring her love life.

So she decides to direct an all-woman version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- a gambit aimed at boosting her career and her dating life.

"One of the main reasons (the character) does it is to go out with one of the actresses she has cast," said Michael Dennis, programming chair for the SIGLFF, the 22nd edition of which runs Thursday through Saturday at the Crest Theatre.

Albelo's film co-stars two actresses familiar to viewers of lesbian-themed film and television: Janina Gavankar ("Papi" from "The L Word") and Guinevere Turner (1994's "Go Fish" and 60 percent of all lesbian films made thereafter).

The festival opens tonight with "The Happy Sad," in which two couples, one male-male (Leroy McClain and Charlie Barnett), one male-female (Cameron Scoggins and Sorel Carradine -- Keith's daughter), test sexual boundaries.

"The Happy Sad" was directed by Rodney Evans, who made the acclaimed 2004 film "Brother to Brother." That film helped launch actor Anthony Mackie's ("The Hurt Locker") career.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, the SIGLFF will turn more serious with a free matinee screening of Los Angeles director Kate Logan's work-in-progress documentary "Kidnapped for Christ." The documentary tells the stories of teens, some of them gay, shipped off by their parents to an evangelical-Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.

Logan will be at the screening, offered for free partly because "it is a work in progress, and the filmmaker would like feedback from the audience," Dennis said.

The festival's always popular short-film program will screen Saturday night. Programming committee member Lou Camera said he's partial to "Spooners," a comic short involving mattress shopping and over-sharing.

Short films "really are our forte," Camera said. With more mainstream distribution outlets (cable on demand, Internet streaming, etc.) available to feature filmmakers these days, fewer features with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes reach the festival circuit, Camera said.

The trend has thrown more emphasis on short films as a means by which festivals can make their marks. Shorts are less likely to find distributors, and when they do, they often are shown only on cable or the Internet. Saturday's program offers a rare chance for Sacramento film fans to see LGBT shorts on a big screen.

"As big as the screens are getting in home theaters, it won't be anywhere near as big as at the Crest," Camera said.

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