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Home / Articles / Movies & TV / Film Reviews /  Damn! These Heels 2012
Film Reviews

Damn! These Heels 2012

Previews of 9th annual LGBT film fest

By Scott Renshaw
 Gayby
Posted // July 12,2012 -

From July 13 to 15, the Utah Film Center presents the ninth-annual Damn! These Heels Film Festival, showcasing 11 fiction and documentary features on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes. Here’s a look at a few of the films available for preview.

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In writer/director Jonathan Lisecki’s farcical romantic comedy, New York single girl Jenn (Jenn Harris) asks her gay best friend, Matt (Matthew Wilkas) to help her have a baby—the “old-fashioned way.” Their respective relationship issues complicate their strictly business sexual partnership, and Lisecki does find some funny material in the unorthodox complications. But the comedy remains resolutely superficial, including one too many quippy queens, so that the story feels more built around punch lines than characters. Appealing central performances don’t quite make up for a story that doesn’t seem to take anyone’s emotions all that seriously. (July 13, 7 p.m.)

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Country-music star Chely Wright caused a sensation when she came out as gay in her 2010 autobiography; this documentary from Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf takes a look at what came before that pivotal moment. The filmmakers cover the necessarily biographical background about Wright dealing with closeted life in the conservative country-music milieu, but focus largely on the behind-the-scenes preparation for the big announcement. The result is both fascinating as a procedural in the workings of a publicity machine, and wrenching as a tale of someone facing the same difficult conversations typical of coming-out narratives, even if the structure at times feels a bit clunky. (July 14, 12:30 p.m.)

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Director Chris Arnold attempts to cover the entire spectrum of issues related to transgender—and that’s the main thing that gets in the way of the film’s effectiveness. It cuts between several individual stories—including a male-to-female doctor who has become an expert in gender-reassignment surgeries, a female-to-male teenager and a 7-year-old male-to-female—in a way that doesn’t always make it easy for those stories to be optimally effective. But there’s a compelling subtext in the generational shift in understanding which, while gradual, is changing the chance that these people might understand who they are—and have others understand—before their lives turn irrevocably tragic. (July 14, 10:30 a.m.)

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The impressionistic study of film icon James Dean attempted by Matthew Mishory certainly impresses with its stylized look; too bad about those performances, though. The narrative flits back and forth through the months leading up to Dean’s (James Preston) breakout as a star, focusing on his relationship with his UCLA roommate (Dan Glenn). Mishory doesn’t shy away from graphic sexuality, and the black-and-white photography does lend an air of romanticized mystery to the proceedings. But the characters never register as anything more than props in Mishory’s pretty pictures, fumbling with line readings and plenty of Rimbaud poetry. Ironically, some of the most interesting scenes focus on Dean’s classes in Method acting, lessons that didn’t cross over to the actual cast. (July 14, 7 p.m.)

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While the setting may be somewhat unique, there’s too much that’s pat and predictable about this earnest Iranian drama from co-writer/director Negar Azarbayjani. Rana (Qazal Shakeri), forced to drive a taxi to earn money while her husband is in prison, picks up Adineh (Shayesteh Irani), fleeing her family so that she can transition as a female-to-male transsexual. The growing friendship between Rana and Adineh evolves effectively, but there’s too little fully fleshed-out characterization beyond the speeches and pleas for tolerance. The presence of subtitles doesn’t change the fact that you could probably anticipate the entire arc of the plot without them. (July 15, 4:45 p.m.)

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Title notwithstanding, the setting is actually Flemish Belgium—but the story is a coming-of-age story that resonates beyond that specificity. Set in a vaguely defined period that appears to be the early 1960s, it tells of teenager Pim (Jelle Florizoone), whose burgeoning awareness of his sexual orientation leads him into a relationship with his neighbor, Gino (Mathias Vergels). Writer/director Bavo Defurne keeps the drama low-key, even as the older Gino breaks away and Pim’s affections turn to another man. Some broader material involving Pim’s single mother and an abrupt ending hamper what is otherwise a solidly observed character study about falling in love in a way that’s impossible to share. (July 15, 7 p.m.)

DAMN! THESE HEELS
LBGT Film Festival
Rose Wagner Center
138 W. Broadway
July 13-15
$25 full festival pass; $4 individual screening tickets
UtahFilmCenter.org/DamnTheseHeels

 
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