One of the funniest bits of video in circulation this year is an outtake from Knocked Up, where Jonah Hill and Katherine Heigl sit on a couch watching Brokeback Mountain. Hill's character, ostensibly a boorish, heterosexual horndog, goes on a maniacal rant about the lack of graphic sex in the film, complaining that the filmmakers are speaking down to him by not showing Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal going at it more realistically.
The scene is a spoof on Hill's straight-dude character, but it also makes a valid point about how timid Hollywood depictions of gay sex — or, more to the point, gay life — are, even in allegedly "daring" films.
As a corrective, there's a subterranean film culture of gay/lesbian-oriented videos and movies that seek to duplicate the range of narrative techniques, film styles, and entertainment goals of mainstream movies but treat gay life (and sex) seriously, thoroughly, and, in some cases, graphically.
This film subculture gets a local showcase every year via the Outflix Film Festival, sponsored by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Outflix runs August 17th-26th at Muvico's Peabody Place cinema and the Brooks Museum of Art.
Outflix's opening-night selection, the New York-based feature A Four Letter Word, for example, has more male nudity and (implied) guy-on-guy action in the opening credits than any gay-themed Hollywood movie. The film, which screens at 9 p.m. Friday, August 17th, with director Casper Andreas on hand, is a relationship comedy about the love lives of a group of young gay men in Manhattan, with a flamboyant, promiscuous "gay cliché" falling for a monogamous macho man at the center of the plot.
Another potential highlight is We're All Angels (Sunday, August 19th, 5 p.m.), a documentary about Jason and deMarco, an out gay couple who are also Christian pop stars. (And you thought all male Christian pop stars were gay.) Director Eytan Fox's impressive The Bubble (Saturday, August 25th, 7 p.m.) is a story about a group of Israeli friends in Tel Aviv who befriend a young Palestinian man. And the short Zombie Prom (Friday, August 24th, 9 p.m.) is a candy-colored period-piece musical set in the Eisenhower '50s, with drag queen RuPaul as high school principal "Miss Strict."
In all, nearly 30 films will screen across six nights (on two consecutive weekends), with most screenings at Muvico and closing-night screenings at the Brooks.
Outflix Film Festival
Muvico Peabody Place and Brooks Museum of Art
August 17th - 26th
Tickets are $5 per film block, $8 per night, or $40 for a full-festival pass.