APPALACHIAN QUEER FILM FESTIVAL
September 27-29 – Floralee Hark Cohen Cinema – Charleston, WV
TO THE STARS
2018 | USA | 111 min
In a god-fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma, bespectacled and reclusive teen Iris endures the booze-induced antics of her mother and daily doses of bullying from her classmates. She finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school, who hones in on Iris’s untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. When Maggie’s mysterious past can no longer be suppressed, the tiny community is thrown into a state of panic, leaving Maggie to take potentially drastic measures and inciting Iris to stand up for her friend and herself. Martha Stephens (co-director of Land Ho!, 2014 Sundance Film Festival) directs this period piece with flair, utilizing classic black-and-white landscape cinematography to create an aesthetic feast. On one level, this is Iris’s coming-of-age tale, a story about finding power and comfort in one’s own skin. Yet Stephens also infuses the film with elements of the western genre to tell a deeper story, about women as outsiders in a time and place of repression and intolerance.
Director: Martha Stephens
Screenwriter: Shannon Bradley-Colleary
Kara Hayward, Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Shea Whigham, Malin Akerman, Tony Hale
2019: Sundance (World Premiere)
BEFORE YOU KNOW IT
2018 | USA | 98 min
Stage manager Rachel Gurner still lives in her childhood apartment—along with her off-kilter actress sister, Jackie; eccentric playwright father Mel; and deadpan preteen niece Dodge—above the tiny theatre they own and operate. Level-headed and turtleneck-wearing Rachel is the only thing standing between her family and utter chaos. Then, in the wake of a sudden family tragedy, Rachel and Jackie learn their presumed-deceased mother is actually alive and thriving as a soap-opera star. Now the sisters’ already-precarious balance turns upside down, and Rachel must figure out how to liberate herself from this surreal imbroglio. Co-writer/director/star Hannah Pearl Utt is a triple threat with an impeccable sense of timing and a flair for juxtaposing unpredictable elements. Just as pragmatic Rachel and off-the-wall Jackie seem to hail from different planets while inhabiting the same universe, so too do the film’s over-the-top moments and characters coexist alongside subtle, grounded ones. Equal parts madcap comedy, adult coming-of-age story, and poignant drama, Before You Know It gleefully defies categorization, and that is its genius.
Director: Hannah Pearl Utt
Screenwriter: Hannah Pearl Utt
Hannah Pearl Utt, Jen Tullock, Judith Light, Mandy Patinkin, Mike Colter, Alec Baldwin
2019: Sundance (World Premiere)
Jules of Light and Dark
2018 | USA | 85 min
In present-day Texas, Maya (Tallie Medel) and her on again, off again girlfriend Jules (Betsy Holt) total their car after a night of backwoods raving and teen mischief. They’re rescued from the wreckage by Freddy (Robert Longstreet), a divorced oil worker whose stoic facade crumbles as he comes to see himself, and his repressed desires, in Maya. As Jules recovers, Maya and Freddy develop a rapport that dulls the debilitating silence of their small-town lives. Together, they subtly encourage one another to chase after what they want the most (or at least figure out what that might be).
JULES OF LIGHT AND DARK is an iridescent coming-of-age story boasting the rural isolation of Deb Shoval’s AWOL and the wanderlust of Andrea Arnold’s AMERICAN HONEY. Defined by earnest, full performances and a blue palette, Daniel Laabs’ first feature solidly articulates the universality of queer loneliness and uncertainty across genders and generations.
2018: New Orleans Film Festival (World Premiere)
OutFest AWARDS Grand Jury Award — OutFest
Gay Chorus Deep South
2019 | USA | 100 min
In response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws in Southern states and the divisive 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarks on a tour of the American Deep South. Led by Gay Chorus Conductor Dr. Tim Seelig and joined by The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, the tour brings a message of music, love and acceptance, to communities and individuals confronting intolerance. Over 300 singers traveled from Mississippi to Tennessee through the Carolinas and over the bridge in Selma, performing in churches, community centers and concert halls in hopes of uniting us in a time of difference. The journey also challenges Tim and other Chorus members who fled the South to confront their own fears, pain and prejudices, on a journey towards reconciliation. What emerges is a less divided America, where the lines that divide us—faith, politics, sexual identity—are erased through the soaring power of music, humanity and a little drag.
Writer & Director: David Charles Rodrigues
Producers: Bud Johnston, Jesse Moss
2019: Tribeca (World Premiere)
Audience Award—Documentary (Tribeca)
Audience Award for Best Documentary and Best Music Documentary (NorthwestFest)
Audience Award—Best Documentary (Pink Apple Zurich)