Cineffable at 17

Cineffable at 17

The 17th Cineffable Film Festival proves that the largest panoroma of lesbian films in Europe is still going strong. A festival run entirely by volunteers on top of that and which is doing just fine. Several exceptional features, documentaries and short films including experimental work were featured this year and the crowds have grown. Fortunately all can be accomodated at the Trianon in Montmarte and Halle St Pierre.

The feature film section included Yau Ching's Let's Love Hong Kong (Hong Kong 2002), a film that has previously screened at Lesbian and Gay Festivals in San Francisco and London. The richly layered narrative on life in Hong Kong and the impossibilities and possibilities of real meetings in a futuristic digital world continues to impress lesbian audiences.

Hu Die, Butterfly won the audience award for best film this year, perhaps one of the best new lesbian films to date. Two young women find it difficult to be open about their relationship during the 80's. Later when one of the women, now married with a child finds herself attracted to a young vocalist, her memory of that time is awoken. During this time her lover from before has become a Buddhist nun.Yan Yan Mak blends Super 8 film with 35mm to create a time continuum between the two periods with a compelling story.

The D Word by Dasha Snyder (USA 2005) et al puts a spin on the cosmetically sealed The L Word with realistic characters, starring Marga Gomez, and set in Brooklyn. The parody works, if only because you know that most of the actors are bonafide lesbians and not recruited by casting agents. It doesn't have the slick budget of The L Word, but on the other hand its made for a lesbian audience to appreciate. Someone was bound to make it!

The work of Olivia Ontaneda was presented in a special screening at Halle St Pierre, a young video artist based in Philadelphia. Her video diaries about her father who died of AIDS, My Dad and Me and other short experimental pieces reveal an extraordinary and innovative new talent.

Keep Not Silence by Ilil Alexander (Israel 2004) is a provocative document on Ortho-Dykes in Jerusalem. Two relationships are contrasted. The first is a married woman whose husband tolerates her relationship with another woman. Many of the shots needed to be filmed in secrecy behind veiled doors to explore how the women must keep their lives secret. When the women dare to be open, as the second women interviewed, they risk the love of their parents and friends.

Two monumental docs on lesbian history at the fest were featured this year. One was The Lesbian Centennial Project by Kathryn Beranich (USA 2003). Though not an inclusive history of lesbians during the past century there were many personal portraits about the lives of women from the end of the century, arranged in a provocative visual tapestry. Best feature doc went to Katzenball, the other 'herstory' of a century of lesbian history by Veronika Minder (Switzerland 2005).

Our Bodies Our Choice by Crystal K. Uchino and Skunkrising A. Midnight (USA 2005) documents the huge manifestation of women in April 2005 who protest the conservative wave riding against the prochoice Roe Wade decision, an historic march on Washington featuring "Radical Cheer" and "Noise Bloc!"

Finally another excellent doc was Hearts Cracked Open: Tantra for Women who Love Women by Betsy Kalin, USA 2004. With the oversaturation of pornography this doc about the ancient practice of Tantra - with guide books, courses and films heretofore only made for heteros, Kalin does a quantum jump to bring lesbian sexuality into the spiritual equation.

Getting to Know You is one of several films distributed by PowerUp in Los Angeles. This one is the tale of a animator that just can't meet the right women. The clever story in the 20 minute short by Liz Lachman (USA 2004)is inventive enough to enlarge into a feature.

O'Bli Hos Meg (Abide with Me) by Norwegian director Anette Ostro is a beautiful film school debut on the pressures put on a young woman brought up in a Christian nuclear family. When forced to choose between a young painter and her pastor David, the choice becomes obvious.

Another classic short making its way around the festival circuit is Angels Out of the Closet with a comical Spanish voice-over about the "Charley's Angel" episode you never saw! By Sandra Brogioni (Brazil 2002). This a format to explore! Why not rewrite all the old heteronormative TV series!

Another stunner from a different genre altogether is the noir-like The Rules,by Laura Black (USA 2004) where a telephone sex game gets out of hand between a married woman and Kyla, a woman whose husband is out of town.

Some Real Fangs by Desiree Lim (Canada 2004) puts a new twist on lesbian vampire stories, in this case a vampire support group assists Tara with seducing a medical technician that draws blood, Leslie.

Yet to be translated into English is Une Chambre A Elle by Anne Lefant, which won the best documentary short of the festival, on French feminist Benoîte Groult, and her extraordinary writing often compared to Simone de Beauvoir. Beautifully photographed.

Also doc short worthy of mention was Yaoyolotl by Lisi Montserrat (Mexico 2005) about the lesbian artist Yan Narua Castro. Her political activism is filmed in a brilliant style that reveals the connection of politics to art.

Stay tuned for radio reports and interviews from Cineffable on November 23 and 30th on Movie Magazine International, San Francisco, and one week after on the site's webradio!