Lights, camera, flames!

Flaming Film Festival at Intermedia Arts

Don't expect to see "Will and Grace" or "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" at the 4th Annual Flaming Film Festival (FFF) at Lowry hill East's Intermediate Arts.

FFF focuses on emerging issues in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. Featured films include comedies, documentaries, dramas and surrealist works. Wednesday-Sunday, May 12-16, FFF will feature 70 short movies, nine workshops, three feature films, and a performance from gender-bending glam rockers, All the Pretty Horses.

"This is not about putting our sexuality in people's faces and offending them. It's more about educating people who want to learn about the queer culture," said Jake Yuzna, the festival's assistant curator and a Whittier resident.

Films are either queer-themed or were made by GLBT filmmakers. Content ranges from sex and relationships to political oppression to more humorous topics. There are also some animated pieces (i.e. cartoons).

Obviously, FFF is geared towards GLBT or gay-friendly audiences. Yazna said many viewpoints presented in the festival find little exposure in mainstream media. He added that some topics are rarely discussed within the queer community itself. For example, some films address issues related to transgender people who, though considered part of queer culture, are sometimes misunderstood by the larger GLBT community.

'Dangerous Living'

Yuzna and FFF Curator Lisa Ganser toured other gay and underground film festivals in places like New York City and San Francisco for material and solicited the rest. Many films are by local filmmakers, including Kim Brown, Amanda Taylor, Julie Becker and Kate Kibby.

The Friday, May 14 emerging artists showcase features 13 short films by young queer filmmakers, including "Between the Boys" by Yuzna, a third-year student at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2501 Stevens Ave. S.

The showcase is followed by "Hot Topic: Queer Reaction to Current Political Events," films about the war in Iraq, 9/11 and gay radicals' reactions to assimilation.

The perils of being gay in some Second and Third-World nations is the focus of "Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World" a documentary by John Scagliotti. Showing Thursday, May 13, 9 p.m., the film focuses on the "Cairo 52" -- 52 gay men who were arrested by Egypt police in May 2001 for being on The Queen Boat, a Nile River disco. Many were jailed for as long as two years. Government-controlled media denounced them as "perverts," "infidels" and "traitors." A panel discussion led by workshop facilitator Carolina Munoz Proto and FFF Program Manager Eliza Schrader follows the film.

However, there is no lack of humor in this festival. In "Pussies from Outer Space" by Nanci Graglio, an artist is on her way to her first real job interview when she's abducted by ominous interplanetary felines. "Five Alarm Muff" by Kirston Fortune and KJ Mohr is the tale of one woman's get-rich scheme to produce a lesbian porn movie. (It hits a snag when she's unable to recruit a cast and must play each role herself.)

A few films, like Bruce LaBruce's "Raspberry Reich," screening Friday, May 14, 11 p.m., are X-rated and not intended for those offended by Janet Jackson's Super Bowl antics. "Raspberry Reich" tells the tale of Gudrun, whose quest to smash the "bourgeois construct" of heterosexual monogamy forces her straight male followers to have sex with each other in order to achieve true revolution. (People under 18 will not be allowed into such screenings.)

Incidentally, there aren't any films on current hot button, gay marriage. Controversy at the Capitol began brewing after the filmmaker's Feb. 1 submissions deadline. Yuzna predicts a slew of gay-marriage-related films will be submitted next year.

Towing the line

Yuzna said FFF organizers stand behind all the featured films. He noted that some submissions were rejected based on their content, such as "Chickenhawk," a documentary about middle age, middle-class white men who organized to make pedophilia legal.

"Though it was a very powerful, objective film, it stood outside of our values," Yazna said.

Sandy Augustin, associate director of Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., said hosting FFF is in keeping with the organization's mission. "FFF is about sharing stories," she said, "We're attempting to get people to look at issues from a variety of perspectives. We're not trying to debate the issues; we're trying to have a dialogue within our community about issues that don't get talked about on the street. We think art does that better than anything." Augustin noted that film is an especially accessible form of art.

FFF also includes nine workshops to discuss important issues in and beyond the GLBT community -- racism, substance abuse and addictive behavior, etc. -- and to produce works of art: as part of the "Kill Your (Reality) Television: Queer Confession Booth" workshop, individuals are invited to give 30-second confessionals to be presented in a film at the festival's end.

Augustin said she understands that sexual identity or preference "sets off people one way or another," but she said Intermedia Arts is dedicated to fostering understanding of divergent viewpoints.

Last year, Intermedia sponsored an Arab film festival that took place the same week American forces invaded Iraq. Organizers feared there might be trouble, and went so far as to ask for police protection; however, no incidents ensued. A second Arab film festival is being planned for September.

Yuzna said FFF "is not a peep show; it's a pretty good representation of what queer culture is."

The Flaming Film Festival runs Wednesday-Sunday, May 12-16 at various times. Tickets are $7 per film or three-for-$15. For more information, stop by Intermedia Arts at 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., call 871-4444 or log on to www.Intermediaarts.org.