The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center launches its first annual Spectrum Festival on Thursday, April 27, running through Sunday, April 30. The festival looks at a rich variety of issues involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer worlds. The festival’s title reflects the wide range of subjects addressed, with films from India, Chile, Kenya, and Canada, as well as the U.S.
Themes addressed include gender changes, legal issues, aging, parent-child relationships, illness, religion, and suicide. The Film Center will enhance festival offerings with a number of guest speakers and panel discussions. There will also be a group of free youth screenings on Saturday, April 29, with free ferry transportation provided by the Steamship Authority for students coming from the Cape.
First up on Thursday, April 27, comes “The Freedom to Marry” (2016), a documentary outlining the move to legalize same-sex marriage at the federal level through the Supreme Court in 2015. While the outcome is not a surprise, the film remains a compelling depiction of the struggle involved. It spotlights civil rights lawyer Mary Bonauto, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, and movement leader Evan Wolfson, who organized the national effort that led to the decision. A prefilm onscreen “wedding album” of local same-sex couples will illustrate the impact of same-sex marriage on Vineyard culture. The film is free to participating couples, and a dessert and wine reception follows Mary Breslauer’s post-screening Skype interview with Mary Bonauto.
On Friday, April 28, the comedy “Cloudburst” (2011) features Oscar winners Olympia
Dukakis and Brenda Fricker. As a lesbian couple together for 31 years, they head to Canada to escape life in a nursing home, and finally marry. As Stella, Olympia Dukakis plays a foul-mouthed, tough broad, and Brenda Fricker’s Dottie is her blind, sweet-natured partner. En route to Nova Scotia, they hook up with a male stripper/dancer named Prentice (Ryan Doucette), creating a comical threesome. Tom Dunlop will moderate a panel about the film that includes Tony Lombardi, Susanna Sturgis, and the president of the MVRHS Gay-Straight Alliance, Ev Wilson.
Also playing Friday are four film shorts. Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington, and acted as an adviser to Martin Luther King until he was pushed out because he was gay. The documentary “Bayard and Me” describes how Rustin adopted his partner Walter Naegle because marriage was not possible at that time. Director Matt Wolf will answer questions by Skype. “Pariah” tells the story of Alika, an African-American teenager (Adepero Aduke) who struggles with her identity as a lesbian and finds solace in alternative music.
In Mexico, “muxes” means people of mixed gender, and the documentary “Muxes” examines the Zapotec culture of Oaxaca, where men may identify as women or mixed genders. It is a category dating back to pre-Columbian times. In Kenya, the risk of an openly LGBTQ identity is jail. Made anonymously by the Nest Collective, “Stories from Our Lives” consists of five stories of Kenyans in the LGBTQ world. It has never been screened in Kenya.
On Saturday, April 29, the festival’s Youth Event screens three films, free for young people ages 13 to 21. The comedy short “Trevor,” about the outing of a 13-year-old boy, won a Best Live Action Short Oscar in 1995. It also resulted in formation of the Trevor Project, a LGBTQ suicide prevention helpline. A Skype Q and A with director Peggy Rajski will follow the screening. “Real Boy” is a feature-length documentary about 19-year-old Bennett Wallace’s transgender evolution. His parents, in particular his mother, find the transition difficult to accept. Bennett finds support from Coyote Grace musician Joe Stevens, who is older and has completed his transgender transition, and Dylan, a friend his own age who is also making the transgender transition. Mr. Wallace will lead a post-screening Q and A by Skype. Finally, the Italian film “Un Bacio” (One Kiss) describes how three high school students band together to resist their abusive labels as “the faggot, the slut, and the retard.” Tony Lombardi will lead a discussion titled “Navigating High School.”
One of the most powerful and unusual films in the festival is “Margarita with a Straw,” an Indian entry playing Saturday afternoon. It stars Kalki Koechlin, who has cerebral palsy, as Laila. Going to school in New York, Laila explores her growing identity as a bisexual. Her intelligence and energy make for a compelling tale about living with a disability. The film is a fundraiser for Camp Jabberwocky, and a post-screening Q and A by Skype features “The Last Taboo” director Alexander Freeman. Mr. Freeman, who has cerebral palsy, is a former Jabberwocky camper. Screening on Saturday evening is “God’s Own Country,” an Irish film about a Yorkshire farmer and his relationship with a migrant worker from Romania.
Playing Sunday, April 30, is “I Am Michael,” probably the most disturbing of the festival
offerings. James Franco stars as Michael Glatze, a nationally known gay activist who decides to become a heterosexual Christian minister. The movie is based on the true story of Michael Glatze. In a post-film panel titled “Homosexuality and the Bible,” the Rev. Cathlin Baker will discuss the relationship between religion and the LGBTQ community, along with the Rev. Bill Clark and other local clergy.
Also playing Sunday is “Rara,” based on the case of a Chilean judge who as a lesbian lost custody of her daughters. Local youth will discuss and answer questions about growing up with same-sex parents. The festival will close Sunday evening with “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” a documentary about the San Francisco–based writer whose column, “Tales of the City,” and many novels helped bring to light gay rights issues on a national level.
For tickets and information about the Spectrum Film Festival, visit mvfilmsociety.com.