Gazing through the queer lens at this year's Flaming Film Festival

By Veronica Cassidy

This year’s Flaming Film Festival will bring over 100 films by, about and for the queer community to a variety of Minneapolis venues from May 25 to 31. In addition to films that range from music videos to sexplicit titles, there will be an abundance of live music, discussions and general debauchery that is not to be missed.

Although the festival has specialized in more obscure, edgy works, this year’s absence of the annual Twin Cities GLBT Film Festival means a broader range of titles with mainstream appeal. Opening night at Suburban World Theatre in Uptown will screen All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise, a new documentary about the first ever queer family cruise (chartered by Rosie O’Donnell), which generated a buzz after its favorable “New York Times” write-up and recent premiere on HBO.

One of the week’s highlights is Pick Up the Mic, a documentary about queer hip-hop that includes interviews and performances from the Twin Cities’ own queer hip-hop artist Tori Fixx, an energetic and all-around fantastic artist who had me out of my chair and dancing during a recent performance at Acadia Caf’¨. The screening is followed by a Q & A with director Alex Hinton and live performances from some of the featured artists.

May 30 at Suburban World promises to be another exciting evening with Love is Blind, a short video showcase screening the newest work of various experimental filmmakers. Included in the showcase are The Driver & Do by William Scott Reese and Jo Ellen Martinson and Better Left Alone by local filmmaker Jake Yuzna, both of which present disturbing, thought-provoking (okay, confusing) and beautiful filmmaking at its best.

If you’re looking for more up-beat, move-your-feet activity, Cheap Date Night, on May 29, will showcase music videos from artists such as Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney and the Decemberists at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

For those of us under 21, screenings at District 202, a queer youth center, are free and include dinner. So if you’re strapped for cash but don’t want to miss out there is For Youth By Youth on May 26, a showcase devoted to films by and/or about queer youth that includes a heart-warming short documentary Just Call me Kade about sixteen year-old FTM (female-to-male transgendered person) Kade Farlow Collins. You can also check out Pick Up the Mic at District 202 on May 27, with the artists in attendance, or head over to Drive Me Crazy: Relationships in Flux, a showcase of films that look at relationships which, according to the press release, “question what’s normal and enforce the atypical”.

Should you be more inclined towards the risqu’¨, turn your attention to the 18+ screenings at Bedlam Theatre, including May 25’s Queer Europa, which brings film shorts that push sexual boundaries over from Europe, many for their U.S. premiere, or one of the two showcases presented by Lisa Vandever, the Director of CineKink, New York’s annual sexplicit, leather and fetish film festival.

In addition to the array of films, singers/songwriters Ellis and Coleman Lindberg will perform throughout the week, as well as Gay Beast, the nothing-but-rock-and-roll-fun band that includes former Macalester student, Isaac Rotto.

In an attempt to make the festival as interactive as possible, closing night will be open reel and allow anybody to submit a film about anything (yes-anything) as long as it’s under five minutes, with prizes awarded to staff and audience favorites.

There is no doubt that this year’s festival will achieve its goals to illuminate those issues affecting the queer community that are generally ignored, push people’s boundaries (and buttons) and, most of all, create a safe, fun environment that can be enjoyed by everyone. This burgeoning festival is a real contribution not only to the local queer and film communities, but to the general cultural landscape of the Twin Cities and you shouldn’t miss out.