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Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009

LGBT Film/Video Festival Marks 22 Years

Powerful, unconventional cinema in Milwaukee

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For the 22nd year, UW-Milwaukee’s Department of Film presents the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival. For 11 consecutive days starting Oct. 15, the festival will screen features, documentaries and shorts that include Midwest premieres, restored works and several programs dedicated to the experimental video of a certain artist whose fame has endured well beyond his allotted 15 minutes.

One of the city’s longest-running film festivals, LGBT Film/Video offers a fine selection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender works of moving pictures. But that’s a limited way to think about it. The festival is not just about gay cinema; it’s about new forms of cinema and unconventional expressions. Program Director Carl Bogner calls it “redirecting the power of queer.” Beyond a mere slang term, Bogner appreciates the disruptive quality of “queer,” a word that goes against what is normative, challenges categories and keeps personal expression unmoored from any conventional narrative.

Bogner was a film student at UWM when he was first asked to take over festival programming. Twelve years later he continues to direct the festival, although now as a film teacher at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts. The first few years of the festival under Bogner’s direction, which came without any financial backing, were much more do-it-yourself. Eventually, though, the Peck School of the Arts and community donors helped to shape the program into a more fully realized film festival.

But the historically well-attended festival has not grown into the community event it is today without adversity. There have been bomb threats against the event as well as visits by religious organizations that criticized the festival’s so-called “sinful” nature. These kinds of occurrences have largely subsided, as has being denied permission to post festival fliers at businesses purporting to be “family establishments.” But this is not an indication of less need for the festival, Bogner explains.

“The festival has always been about bringing representations of gay and lesbian/bisexual/transgender life to the big screen because they’re not available on the screen otherwise. And that, for the most part, still seems to be true,” he says.

Opening night of the festival will take place at the Oriental Theatre with a showing of the Swedish film Patrik, Age 1.5, followed by a post-screening reception at Beans & Barley. Unique to this year’s festival is a free program from Daniel Barrow, who, employing an overhead projector, narrates a story while manipulating transparencies to create “live animation.” Teaming up with the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) exhibit “Andy Warhol: The Last Decade,” the festival unrolls Andy Warhol Video & TV.An experimental video extravaganza of Warhol and his Factory cohorts will play at the MAM’s Lubar Auditorium as well as on the UWM campus. The festival closes Oct. 25 with the regional premiere of the recently restored Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives. This 1978 film is the first documentary about gays and lesbians made by gays and lesbians.

Filmmakers scheduled to be in attendance for the festival include John G. Young, director of the powerful drama Rivers Wash Over Me, and H.P. Mendoza, director of the fun ensemble film Fruit Fly. Complete program information on the festival can be found at www4.uwm.edu/psoa/programs/film/lgbtfilm/.

Also from Matthew Konkel