Third Kalei­do­scope has tal­ent, qual­ity

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - DAN LYBARGER

With the qual­ity of tal­ent and films it at­tracts, it’s hard to be­lieve that Lit­tle Rock’s Kalei­do­scope LGBT Film Fes­ti­val — which runs Aug. 11-19 at the Ar­genta Com­mu­nity The­ater — is only in its third year.

Ar­mis­tead Maupin, au­thor of the in­flu­en­tial nine novel se­ries Tales of the City (which be­came a minis­eries on PBS and Show­time) and The Night Lis­tener will not only at­tend the show­ing of the doc­u­men­tary The Un­told Tales of Ar­mis­tead Maupin at 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 13, but he’ll also speak at a din­ner in his honor co-spon­sored by the Ox­ford Amer­i­can at South on Main

the fol­low­ing Mon­day.

In ad­di­tion, Kalei­do­scope is pre­sent­ing Fran­cis Lee’s God’s Own Coun­try, which won Lee a di­rect­ing award at Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val and a best film award at the Ber­li­nale in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val in Ger­many. It con­cerns an al­co­holic York­shire farmer who falls for a Ro­ma­nian mi­grant. Princess Cyd, which closes the fes­ti­val, is a com­ing of age drama about a teenage ath­lete, and di­rec­tor Stephen Cone will at­tend a Q&A.

Also sched­uled to at­tend are Glee alumna Jenna Ushkowitz, rep­re­sent­ing Hello Again, in which she stars, and pi­o­neer­ing film­maker Ch­eryl Dunye, who will be cel­e­brat­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of the re­lease of her break­through film The Wa­ter­melon Woman, which blurred racial, sex­ual and nar­ra­tive di­vid­ing lines.

If Kalei­do­scope seems es­tab­lished now, fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Tony Tay­lor says the

event filled a void that frus­trated movie lovers of all sorts, not just les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der folks. He said that around seven years ago, he no­ticed a grow­ing au­di­ence that wasn’t be­ing served.

“I was re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion to Out­fest (which is based in Los An­ge­les) and Frame­line (in San Fran­cisco) that year, and I just started notic­ing a sea of change in LGBT films,” he says. “They just seemed to be be­com­ing — and I hate us­ing this word — more ‘main­stream.’ They seem to be clicking with more peo­ple. They seem to be mov­ing be­yond a very niche mar­ket ….

“That was be­fore same­sex mar­riage was le­gal. Peo­ple’s opin­ions have evolved when it comes to LGBT rights, but Lit­tle Rock has al­ways been a spe­cial place in Arkansas. You have more open-minded peo­ple. I felt like Lit­tle Rock had not just an LGBT com­mu­nity but al­lies in the city that I knew could sup­port an LGBT fes­ti­val.”

Yet, Tay­lor notes, none of these films were screen­ing in Arkansas.

“We would have other fes­ti­vals in the state that would oc­ca­sion­ally pick up one here or there,” he says. “But I look at Out­fest and Frame­line’s lineup, and there [are a] dozen films that I wanted to watch here in Arkansas. That’s what got it started. There was this plethora of … great-sound­ing movies at that time [but] I didn’t have a chance to watch them un­til many months or years later on [video on de­mand].”

Tay­lor seems elated about the level of tal­ent and crafts­man­ship in­volved in this year’s fes­ti­val se­lec­tions, and he cred­its di­rec­tor of fea­ture film pro­gram­ming Mark Thiede­man’s eye for qual­ity for find­ing films like Jen Ger­ber’s Arkansas-made The Re­vival, which screens Aug. 19, and Sun­day Church, which star Luka Kain (who

won best actor at Out­fest) will present Aug. 18.

He says that hav­ing tal­ent on hand is cer­tainly a plus, but sim­ply get­ting to see the films is a sadly rare ex­pe­ri­ence.

“With dis­tri­bu­tion, no one knows how it works now,” he says. “It’s an ever-evolv­ing thing. You never know if it’s go­ing to be dis­trib­uted. If you don’t watch it at a film fes­ti­val, es­pe­cially with in­die films, it can be a long time be­fore you have an op­por­tu­nity to watch it. Not ev­ery film gets picked up for dis­tri­bu­tion. A film fes­ti­val, es­pe­cially an LGBT film fes­ti­val, that could be your only op­por­tu­nity to watch that film.”

Tay­lor is ini­tially coy about in­di­cat­ing if he has any fa­vorites in this year’s lineup. It’s al­most like ask­ing a par­ent to pick a fa­vorite child. He then ex­presses fond­ness for Princess Cyd and God’s Own Coun­try, and seems es­pe­cially

glad to present The Wa­ter­melon Woman to a new au­di­ence.

“When I very first started Kalei­do­scope, in my head I wanted to show new films but also retro films, and The Wa­ter­melon Woman was at the top of my list, with Ch­eryl [Dunye] here,” he says. “That was the key part. I didn’t want to just do a screen­ing of The Wa­ter­melon Woman. I wanted a screen­ing with Ch­eryl here.

“It’s about the only chance to meet these peo­ple in per­son be­cause we’re in Arkansas. We’re not in L.A. There’s not an op­por­tu­nity ev­ery year to meet peo­ple like this for a book sign­ing, or what­ever. There are peo­ple I look for­ward to meet­ing, but I also want to give peo­ple in Arkansas the chance to meet these peo­ple and talk with these peo­ple about their films.”

Tay­lor also says Arkansas

of­fers some at­trac­tions for the film­mak­ers. Maupin may have set most of his sto­ries in San Fran­cisco, but he grew up in Raleigh, N.C., so Kalei­do­scope is a re­turn to his South­ern roots.

“I’m not sure what there is to it be­cause I’m a life­long res­i­dent, but there is a mys­tique to Lit­tle Rock and Arkansas that makes peo­ple cu­ri­ous about the city and state,” he says. “Right off the bat, I had many film­mak­ers who wanted to at­tend the fes­ti­val in Lit­tle Rock. They said that. They thought it would be great to come to a city like Lit­tle Rock and a state like Arkansas. To be hon­est, not ev­ery­one has a rea­son to come to Arkansas, so to be given a rea­son to come to a state adds to it, I be­lieve.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to: kalei­do­scope­film­fes­ti­val. com.

A screen­ing of Ch­eryl Dunye’s first film, 1996’s The Wa­ter­melon Woman, high­lights the third an­nual Kalei­do­scope LGBT Film Fes­ti­val. The movie fol­lows Dunye as she at­tempts to make a doc­u­men­tary about 1930s ac­tress Faye Richards.

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