(USA) - "Freeheld: The Laurel Hester Story," Cynthia Wade's 38-minute film that chronicled the battle of a 25-year veteran of the Ocean County, New Jersey police, as she was dying of cancer, to transfer her earned pension to her lesbian partner, won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary in Hollywood on February 24. Ocean County freeholders had the legal option to extend those benefits under New Jersey's 2004 domestic partner law, but did not do so until Lieutenant Hester waged her successful struggle on partner Stacie Andree's behalf against their initially adamant refusal. Garden State Equality, the New Jersey LGBT civil rights lobby, celebrated the film's nomination (and victory) at the South Orange Performing Arts Center while the Oscar broadcast was being aired.
Note: Read more on Gay City News
(Germany) - This year's Berlinale also offered a clutch of films dealing with aspects of sexuality and Islam that have long been considered taboo. Indian director Parvez Sharma's "A Jihad for Love," a documentary about gay and lesbian Muslims, includes interviews with Muslim homosexuals from 12 countries, while Tanaz Eshaghian's "Be Like Others" examines the ramifications of undergoing a sex change in Iran. Another documentary "The Other Side of Istanbul," by Dondu Kilic, explores discrimination in Turkey's capital from the perspective of a gay man whose family has accepted his homosexuality.
Note: Read more on AFP
(Russia) - The EAST/WEST - Sex & Politics documentary by German director Jochen Hick will be shown at the Annual International Film Festival Berlinale on February 11. The film is about Russian Gays attempts to hold a Gay Pride parade in Moscow, parade organizer Nikolay Alexeyev told Interfax on Monday. Hick and his colleagues visited Russia for two years. The director filmed the two unauthorized Moscow Gay Pride parades of May 2006 and May 2007, the protest against Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov during his meeting with other mayors in London, and a visit of Russian Gay activists to the European Parliament.
Note: Read more on Interfax
(USA) - Hollywood actor Heath Ledger has been found dead at his home in Manhattan. "He was found unconscious at the apartment and pronounced dead," the New York Police Department said, adding that pills were found near the body. Police are reportedly investigating if the Australian actor - nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain - died of an overdose of prescription pills. Father Kim Ledger said that the death of his 28-year-old "dearly loved son" had been "tragic" and "accidental". Speaking in the actor's home town of Perth, in Western Australia, Mr Ledger said that his son had been a "down to earth, generous, kind hearted, life-loving, unselfish individual".
Note: Read more on BBC
(USA) - A dying wish of Lt. Laurel Hester was that the documentary film made of her last days as she battled against cancer – and the ‘freeholders’ of Ocean County in New Jersey – would be able to compete for an ‘Oscar’. Today, in Los Angeles, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences granted that wish when FREEHELD made it to the final four titles in the “Best Documentary Short Subject”. The film won the Special Jury Prize at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and awards at 11 other festivals. The 38-minute film, made by Cynthia Wade, tells the story of Lt. Hester, who for almost 25 years served her community as a police officer, and her fight with local officials to be able to leave her police pension to her long-term and committed partner Stacie Andre.
Note: Read more on UK Gay News
(Egypt) - Religious scholars in Egypt are outraged by a lesbian scene in a new movie, telling audiences to stay away from the sinful flick and calling for the director and actresses to be prosecuted. Preacher and Islamic Studies professor at Cairo University, Dr. Abdel-Sabour Shahin accused the new movie, Hina Maysara (Until Further Notice), of 'spreading homosexuality' and promoting debauchery. Director Khaled Youssef said he was offended by criticism leveled at the movie and asked people to watch it before they passed judgment. "I will not respond to those who criticize without even watching the movie. Lots of people accuse me of apostasy and immorality based on seeing the film poster."
Note: Read more on Al Arabiya
(USA) - It's hardly a secret in Hollywood that Jodie Foster is Gay. Everybody with an interest in her private life – whether prurient or more personal – has known it for at least as long as she has been an Oscar-winning actress, which is pushing 20 years by now. (She won an Academy Award for her role as a rape victim in 1988's The Accused, and again three years later for her indelible performance as Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs.) An equally open secret is that she is one of the Hollywood few who is actually in a stable long-term relationship. Scour the internet and it doesn't take long to find out that her partner's name is Cydney Bernard, that they have been together since 1993, and that they are bringing up two children conceived and delivered by Foster – Charles, who is nine, and Kit, six.
Note: Read more on Independent
(Israel) - In a ceremony held Sunday in Jerusalem, the film V'ahavta was declared the best feature film produced by a Ma'ale film school graduate. The movie, directed by Chaim album, depicts the struggle endured by an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva student forced to sublimate his homosexual tendencies in a largely intolerant society. Ultimately the film's protagonist comes to the realization that his struggle is futile, and comes to accept himself as a religious Gay man. He makes peace with himself and with his creator, in a haunting story line that largely parallels Album's own life story.
Note: Read more on Ynet
(USA) - The Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival turns 12 this year and, after viewing some of the 75 programs and 150 narrative features, documentaries and short films, one feels like the fest has undergone a rite of passage that's pushed it to a higher plateau of sophistication. The low-budget outlaw days of "queer cinema" may seem to have ebbed since AIDS turned 25 and once-radical activists are now middle-age boomers. Many of the great rebel filmmakers who revolutionized gay movies -- Derek Jarman for one -- are gone. At least the spirit of those times still underscores the scene.
Note: Read more on SeattlePi
(UK) - A coming-of-age drama about a Lesbian teenager has won the £25,000 Iris Prize - thought to be the largest ever award for a Gay and Lesbian short film. Its director Dee Rees, from the United States, will now use the money to make another short film in the UK. Her film Pariah was chosen by judges as the best entry of the 30 shortlisted at the end of a three day film festival in Cardiff. It also won the NewFest festival award in New York earlier this year. Ms Rees' 27-minute film follows the teenage girl as she unsuccessful tries to juggle multiple identities to avoid rejection from her friends and family.
Note: Read more on BBC
As the singer for Queen, one of the most successful British bands of the '70s and '80s, Freddie Mercury was one of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable personalities rock has ever produced -- a flamboyant icon millions of fans around the world thought they knew, despite his many chameleon-like glam-rock guises. In sharp contrast, very few people knew Farrokh Bulsara, the kind, shy but intensely ambitious child born on the African island of Zanzibar and raised by parents who were Parsis, hailing from the Indian province of Gujarat and practicing the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Mercury and Bulsara were nevertheless one and the same, and this is part of the fascinating story told in director Rudi Dolezal's documentary, "Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story."
Note: Read more on Sun Times
(UK) - A film festival featuring what the organisers claim is largest ever prize for a gay and lesbian short film is opening in Cardiff. The inaugural Iris Prize Festival will screen the 30 films shortlisted for the prize, worth £25,000, and host premieres for feature-length films. Talks, debates, workshops and parties will also be held at Chapter Arts Centre and Cineworld. The prize winner will be announced on the festival's last day, on Saturday. The prize will allow the winner to make their next short film in the UK.
Note: Read more on BBC
Now Hollywood has also gone playgay. This week sees the UK release of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry in which two New York firefighters (played by Adam Sandler and Kevin James) pretend to be Gay lovers in a domestic partnership for financial reasons (sound familiar?). So why the current crush of straights on playing Gay? Probably the main reason for the popularity of playgay is that it's reassuringly straight. In a world that is getting gayer by the day the only way to be sure of straightness is by having straight men pretend to be Gay. Because, in the end, despite being made to wear designer
underwear, use moisturiser and treat women with some respect they are still straight and still untouched. Gayness turns out to be sexless.
Note: Read more on Guardian
(Italy) - Ed Radtke's film Speed of Life won the Queer Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, a new prize for the best film that accurately portrays Gay themes or characters. Lyrical and raw, The Speed Of Life tells the story of Sammer (Jeremy Allen White), a 13 year old Gay boy who escapes the streets of New York City by stealing video cameras from tourists. The kid and his friends retreat to their working class neighborhood to quickly change the cameras for cash, but Sammer always keeps the tapes. Read more...
(USA) - Sean Penn will play Gay politician Harvey Milk in director Gus Van Sant's biopic of the popular public official. The movie will start production in San Francisco in December this year. A story in the Hollywood Reporter also claims that Matt Damon will play Dan White, who shot the San Francisco city supervisor and Mayor George Moscone in 1978. The assassin, Dan White, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Outrage over the mild verdict led to the White Night Riots in San Francisco. White committed suicide in 1985 after serving five years of his seven-year sentence. Read more...
Cruising is William Friedkin's notorious thriller starring Al Pacino as a NYPD cop deranged - sexually and otherwise - by his contact with the "hardcore Gay underground." Cruising's seedy ambience and dubious sexual politics inflamed the Gay community, leading to protests throughout its filming in the summer of 1979, and continuing outside movie theaters when it opened in February of 1980. Gay folks took to Village rooftops, pointing mirrors at the shoot to interfere with the lighting, and surrounded the set blasting whistles and air horns. The most resourceful found out which apartments Friedkin would be using and set up in adjacent units to blast stereos.
Note: Read more on Village Voice
(Canada) - With 9/11-themed films dominating the Toronto International Film Festival this week, Indian filmmaker Parvez Sharma is grabbing attention with "A Jihad For Love," a documentary six years in the making about Islam and homosexuality. The filmmaker insists his documentary illuminates more of an "inner struggle" on the part of Muslim gays and lesbians for recognition of themselves and their faith, rather than the cultural wars and religious battlegrounds often depicted in contemporary media accounts. Sharma filmed gay Muslims in 12 countries and nine languages, including India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and France, and always shot footage in secret to escape the attention of local authorities.
Note: Read full article on Hollywood Reporter
(New Zealand) - Triangle Television Chief Executive Officer Jim Blackman says despite the popularity of YouTube and other easy-access internet forums, filmmakers still see television as an important vehicle for their works. However, Blackman does admit that the YouTube generation may have impacted the length of the films submitted this year. All are less than an hour long, many just minutes in length, and the German security camera offering lasts just 50 seconds. This is the fourth year Triangle Television has organised Sproquets, inviting film and documentary makers from around the world to contribute their works.
Note: Read more on Gay NZ
(Indonesia) - Indonesia's gay film festival faced violent opposition in its early years. Members of a hardline Islamic group tried to storm theatres to stop screenings, but as the festival enters its sixth year, organizer John Badalu has no such fears. The opening of the week-long Q! Film Festival (QFF) on Friday drew a flamboyant crowd in Jakarta, with members of the audience dressed in colorful wigs, fish-net stockings and cupid wings. Homosexuality is not banned under Indonesian law, but remains taboo in a country where 85 percent of the 220 million people are Muslim. "The festival has provided some sort of impetus for the gay rights movement in Indonesia, and has enabled many issues to surface," Badalu said.
Note: Read full article on stuff.co.nz
(Rome, Italy) - The Queer Lion award is finally coming to the Venice Film Festival after four years of negotiations. The prize will be awarded to the best full-length film in competition or in any of the festival's sidebars that features a gay theme or character, even if the character does not play a central role. The name Queer Lion is a take on Venice's main prize, the Golden Lion. With 22 films in competition at the 64th annual event - which runs August 29 to September 8 -- and about three dozen others screening in sidebars, Casagrande said he expects "around 10 or 12" films to be candidates for the prize. The plaudit is a gold plaque with the Venice Lion winged logo in black with the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag on the wings. A small international jury will select the winner.
Note: Read full article on Reuters