LGBTQ SPECTRUM film festival goes virtual

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Coming up May 1 to 3 is the fourth annual SPECTRUM festival, sponsored by the M.V. Film Center. Six LGBTQ films will screen virtually. Viewers can watch the films online in any order they choose over the three-day period. Reviews follow of three SPECTRUM films that will be shown.

The documentary “Changing the Game,” is a special youth event. The fiction film, “And Then We Danced,” examines what happens when a Georgian dancer discovers he’s gay. “Gay Chorus Deep South” demonstrates the role of music in communicating ideas about sexual orientation. Reviews of the other three, “To the Stars,” “Retablo,” and “Straight Up,” will follow next week.

“Changing the Game”

The documentary “Changing the Game” features three high school athletes who have changed gender. Mack Beggs is a Texas high school wrestler who started life as a girl. In that state, athletes must have had gender re-assignment to compete in their chosen gender, so Mack must compete with girls. He has won the state championship twice, even though he wants to compete against other boys. The film illustrates Mack’s frustrations, the role of the grandparents who raised him, and his reaction to the criticism he elicits. Like 40 percent of trans individuals, Mack has attempted suicide, in his case by overdosing on sleeping pills.

Sarah Rose Huckman is a high school teenager and transgender woman who competes as both a Nordic and downhill skier. Her parents support her, as well as many of her friends. An activist, Sarah is instrumental in getting a bill passed in the New Hampshire legislature allowing trans males and females to use the bathroom of their choice.

In Connecticut, Andraya Tearwood, who was assigned male at birth, competes at her high school as a female track star. Her mother says that being visible as a trans girl has allowed Andraya to follow her heart. It has also inspired another runner at the high school to come out as a trans female. Andraya’s mother cheers her on at competitions, and her goal is to give her daughter “the right skills to survive in this world.” According to the film, trans women are five times more likely to be murdered than others.

“And Then We Danced”

The scene is Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia; the setting, a dance studio. Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani, trained as a dancer) and his partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili,) rehearse there with other members of the local troupe in hopes of winning a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble. Their instructor chastises Merab for his too-sensitive approach. “Georgian dance is based on masculinity,” he demands. “There is no room for weakness in Georgian dance.” Coming from a poor family, Merab makes ends meet working in a restaurant where his volatile brother David (Giorgi Tsereteli), also a dancer, causes problems for him. Both of the brothers’ parents, as well as their grandmother, have been dancers.

When Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), a naturally talented performer, joins the group, he soon takes over Merab’s spot in the duet with Mary. When the two young men practice together in the studio, Merab dances shirtless for Irakli to music from Swedish singer Robyn’s album, “Honey.” It’s the beginning of a passionate gay relationship in a rigidly homophobic society. Later at a party, the two share their first intimate moment. What follows is heartbreaking but inevitable, with an ending that is a tour de force.

“Gay Chorus Deep South”

In the documentary, “Gay Chorus Deep South,” the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Francisco decides to tour the Deep South in an effort to combat the region’s homophobia. Thirty-three states have laws allowing the firing and eviction of LGBTQ persons. The hospitality the South is known for hides a deep intolerance. In the advent of the Trump era, more anti-LGBTQ laws have led many to leave the area.

Three hundred strong, the chorus traveled from Mississippi to Tennessee. In Selma, Ala., the group crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge that Martin Luther King Jr. had walked over in the 60s.

Joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, they performed in churches, community centers, and concert halls.

Members of the chorus tell their stories, including a trans woman and Jimmy White, a gay man with cancer who was able to connect with his Mississippi father. Gay chorus artistic director Dr. Tom Seelig describes how, after 35 years, he came out and was fired and driven out of his Southern Baptist church. Songs like “Amazing Grace” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” illustrate the power of music as a universal language, and how it can support the LGBTQ cause.

Information and prices for SPECTRUM Film Festival films are available at mvfilmsociety.com.