Cineffable 16--Magnifique!

The 16th annual Cineffable Lesbian Film Festival ended last week in Paris (31 October- 2 November 2004)—an event that typically is held during the Tousssaint holiday (France reluctantly embraces Halloween) when hundreds of lesbians around the country are off work. This year the festival located at the "Trianon" below one of Paris’ most famous landmarks the Sacre Coeur was home to over 720 lesbian women. The high quality of the films this year distinguishes this Cineffable from others. This event has proven time after time that it earns the distinction of being a quality showcase of cutting edge work by lesbians, funded either by film schools, state film boards or privately. Film school and privately funded work is usually the best.

The Cineffable team wants to bring to the screen films that represent a broad range of topics that impact lesbians around the world, with workshops on some of the subjects of the films such as 'Drag Kings'. This year there was a 'Drag King' rap show and competition for the best 'Drag King' among Paris' finest. This year the award went to a somewhat of an Alain Delon lookalike with moustache--and a saucily placed hat. The pageant was followed by the screening of one of the best short features at the festival, a remake of the 1967 The Graduate called The Undergrad by Michele Mahoney from the US. This ingenious film shows Mrs. Robinson as the colorful mistress of Benjamin, resident drag king, set in Ripon, Wisconsin, the alleged birthplace of the Republican party.

The Grand Prix feature film award went to Goldfish Memory by Liz Gill from Ireland, a film with multiple characters including Angie, a broadcast journalist who falls for Clara a protestor in the Dublin St Patricks parade, who carries a sign claiming that the patron saint of Ireland was Egyptian. More to come, the relationship fails, with rebounds and swaps,which also happen to the relationships of several other characters. In trying to be all things to all people, the film fails to have any compelling core, and is light entertainment at best.

The feature films this year (including the grand prix winner) primarily from the US or produced by national film boards where compromise dilutes authentic lesbian subjects for mainstream viewers, were a disappointment but great fun to watch with this alert public who supplied all the necessary comments to make the screenings worth their time. My favorite was watching Inescapable by Helen Resnick (US) with the Cineffable crowd - a film about two couples who go on holiday over a weekend. While their mates are off at a seminar the other two women embark on an affair with no end in site, a film intended to be passionate but that wound being comical. When the credits started rolling with the banner '', the crowd roared with laughter at the irony.

Don’t you Worry It Will Probably Pass, by Cecilia Neant Falk from Sweden is an excellent documentary making its way round the lesbian and gay film festival circuit about young lesbians coming out to their family and friends. The film won the best documentary feature award. Each women films her story like a diary entry, making the film an unique and personal document.

The short fiction film award went to Alexandra Czok from the UK for P-P-P-Pick-Up about a woman dressed like a penguin who tries to pick up a woman at a swimming pool, a film that captured the hearts of the public. There was also an animation award that went to Allison Sweeney from the US: A Cow Walks into a Bar -- an enchanting film about a lesbian bar for cows decorated with a portrait of Annie Lennox kissing two cows, and a floor show with a Marlene Dietrich look alike cabaret singer who falls for the cow. Imagine this short showing up at regular film festivals!

Liberty : Three Stories About Life And Death by Pam Walton from the US won the short documentary prize, a film that captures the lives of three close friends, two of which are dying of cancer, interwoven with documentary footage of their lifelong relationships with close friends. One of the women is given a miniature Statue of Liberty, a prized possession that winds up being one of the last objects she is filmed with her in her rich life.

There was other excellent work in this panorama of 60 films by lesbians. Boyskout, that’s spelled with a 'K' , a musical clip from a young female boyskout band. Imagine this on MTV! Kristen Wolf’s Club Q: The Legendary Dance Party for Women , was one of several historical documentaries about a grooving dance club from San Francisco, started by Page Hodel that ended with the bust! Club Q was unique in its style and the original Q dancers claim it was the only one of its kind in the world.

From Los Angeles comes Guinevere Turner’s short film debut Hummer- the actress from Go Fish and current scriptwriter for the TV series from the US The L Word (directed by Rose Troche, also director of Go Fish ). Turner and Troche have come a long way since the days of Go Fish and explore the terrain of LA lesbian live style in The L Word , a successful series that is syndicated around the world. Turner's short, made in this style, shows that she has absorbed the tradition. You can imagine this short, after the success of "The L Word" on prime time televion.

Is your Wife a Secret Lesbian, is an experimental film of found footage stag films complete with text from a 1966 men’s magazine from the 50’s, made by Szu Burgess from the US. Its hard to believe that the images from the 50's were as detailed as they were. The Red Apple by Christina Kallinikoy from Greece is a film made in the German expressionist style about the oppression of two women in love with some striking images. Rise Above; the Tribe Eight Documentary was a controversial film at the festival on the legendary rock group, criticized for its politics of outrageousness and inappropriateness at the 'Michigan Women's Music Festival'. Director Tracy Flannigan interviews the musicians providing compelling background to their provocative style. Also a controversial choice to the program, Dr Lau came to the festival with hard porn by lesbians for lesbians for a late nite screening--Dirty Pillows, with scenarios and art direction inspired by gay porn films from the 1970's. In a tragi-comical role reversal, Azucena De La Fuente as actor and director of A Woman’s Day Dream shows what would happen if men had the role of women in society, a film that was cheered by the public.

The Cineffable team is made of a collective of non-hierarchical volunteers who work all year long to bring films from all over the world. The even is open only to women and funded by ticket sales and the City of Paris. Its the best extravaganza of lesbian film--feature, shorts, experimental, animation and documentary (waiting for an underground film category!) in Europe. Because of being a non-mixed festival, its possibly the best in the world. The intensity of energy on the final day showed that this festival could have gone on, a fantastic meeting place for women with venues for books, films, political activism, clothing, souvenirs, walking tours, gatherings -- and an outstanding cinematic program to appraise images about our lives, our histories, that show the diversity in the lesbian world today.

The Awards for the 16th Festival 2004
Poster Competition : Ourida Dif, photo: Muriel Bortoluzzi.
People's Prizes :
Feature film: Goldfish Memory, Lizz Gill, Ireland
Feature length doc: Don’t You Worry, It Will Probably Pass, Néant-Falk Cécilia, Sweden
Short fiction film: P-P-P-Pick-Up, Alexandra Czok, UK
Short animation or experimental: A Cow Walks into a Bar, Allison Sweeney, USA
Short documentary: Liberty : 3 Stories About Life And Death, Pam Walton, USA
Scenario Competition: "Maintenant et jamais" from Luki Massa, Italia.
  Specials Mentions - Lucioles, Dalila Kadri, France
- No! (A work in progress), Aishah Shahidah Simmons USA
- Sueño de una mujer despierta ( A Woman's Day Dream), Azucena De La Fuente, Spain.