Gay Film

Gay Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz On His New Documentary About Legendary Producer Allan Carr

LA-based, openly gay filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz, 48, makes documentaries. You might have seen his 2015 film Tab Hunter Confidential (now streaming on Netflix).

Schwarz cut his professional teeth working for legendary doc duo Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (who won Oscars for Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt and The Times of Harvey Milk). I met him years ago when I was in film school and spent a semester interning on The Celluloid Closet (1995). Schwarz had the enviable job of listening to and transcribing celebrity interviews with people like Cher, Susan Sarandon and Tony Curtis (who said some pretty gnarly things about working with Marilyn Monroe on the Billy Wilder classic Some Like It Hot).

I published an initial interview with Schwarz back in September about his new documentary The Fabulous Allan Carr, but below are further excerpts from our phone Q&A.

Carr just completed a national and international film festival run this past weekend and Schwarz told me additional distribution on cable and via streaming is being worked out now

Allan Carr was the flamboyant and legendary entertainment producer responsible for movies like Grease and Can’t Stop the Music, as well as the Broadway smash La Cage Au Folles. Schwarz said he made the film “to celebrate” Carr.

The notorious opening number to the 1989 Oscars he produced basically ended his career. What that homophobia, an excuse to use his gayness against him?

Jeffrey Schwarz: There are a lot of people who didn’t like Allan Carr very much. He was too much, too outrageous, too gay. And the opening number was designed to be over the top, to be camp, to be outrageous and ridiculous. We didn’t talk about this in the movie, but it was inspired by the San Francisco show Beach Blanket Babylon.

The creator of Beach Blanket Babylon was Allan’s creative partner. It’s a gay aesthetic, a gay approach. It’s camp.  

It does smack a bit of homophobia to me that people thought it was just too out there and may be disrespectful to Hollywood. But I don’t see it that way at all. It’s such a celebration and a love of Hollywood. I do think homophobia played a role. But I can’t prove that. But that’s my sense. 

After that he was really persona non grata. When you have a failure like that nobody wants to associate with you. He went into withdrawal for quite some time after that. He never, with the exception of the 20th anniversary re-release of Grease, which was a big success, he never really had another success.

Do you feel like a producer of a “bad” Oscars show today would be punished similarly?

I don’t know. I think we’ve seen some fumbles over the years but we’re still talking about Allan Carr’s Oscars all these years later. I hope this film redeems it in some sense and people will look back at it and say, “Hey, that was actually pretty bold, and pretty ballsy.”

You’ve made a lot of documentaries. Does your body of work have a theme?

“Be true to yourself” is a theme. “Accept who you are and try to leave a legacy.”

I’m really kind of driven to find stories about people or events in the past that have been marginalized or [are] on the verge of being forgotten. Like Vito Russo. Such a dynamic force, he changed our world.

I make these movies to bring these people, drag them out of their graves, and tell their stories and empower people. I think they are all stories of empowerment. 

If you could wave a magic wand and make any project you wanted, it would be?

I would like to do this for the rest of my life. I’d like to make movie after movie after movie. It wouldn’t be one specific project it would just be given the privilege to keep doing what I’m doing.

Who are some of your important influences and why?

Rob Epstein is a major influence. I saw his film The Times of Harvey Milk when I was in college, when I was coming out. And that was one of the first, if not the first documentary I saw about our history. And I am just devastated by it every time I see it. The storytelling, the way the story unfolds, the compassion, the humanity, the anger in the movie is, it’s incredible. And he’s also a trailblazer for being openly gay very early on in his career. He was just always interested in just being true to himself and telling stories about our community. Word is Out is an early film he was involved with and Harvey Milk. So I’d say Rob is probably a real inspiration to me. I got to work for him. My first job was working with him on Celluloid Closet back in the 90s.

Is there any particular message in your film for LGBTQ audiences?

I don’t make the films for the LGBT audience. I make them because I want these stories to be out in the world. But I don’t want them to be limited to an LGBT audience.

All my films have premiered at non-gay festivals. I feel that it’s a way to create empathy and understanding outside our community. Like the Tab Hunter film was a film that talked very explicitly about gay themes to audiences who already loved Tab Hunter. Maybe older people who loved Tab but didn’t know that side of him, so it’s a way for straight audiences to be gently led down this path of understanding. Tab’s story, that was one of the reasons I wanted to do that movie, was to share his story with people of another generation, and younger people who didn’t know his story.

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Tom of Finland Foundation Executive On "Tom of Finland" The Movie

S.R. Sharp is vice president and curator of the Tom of Finland Foundation, a nonprofit based in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. The Foundation was instrumental in the development of the feature film Tom of Finland, the Finnish-language biopic of the controversial, openly gay erotic artist, now concluding its U.S. run. The film is Finland’s entry into the 2018 Academy Awards for best foreign film.

I spoke with Sharp by phone recently and got some great tidbits of Tom of Finland history.

So I’ve interviewed both Dome Karukoski [the director] and Pekka Strang [who plays Tom of Finland]. You met with both of them as the film was being developed.

S.R. Sharp: We’d obviously reviewed casting, right? Pictures, bios, stuff like that, had discussions with the production company about who was being cast. But it wasn’t until I met [Pekka] here at Tom House that I looked at his hands. I was so smitten…he’s such a darling. I just said, “Wow you got the hands of a piano player!” Which is perfect…[the real] Tom being a piano player. [The film has the character playing piano]

So you met Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland’s real name) before he passed?

No. And call him Tom because all of his friends did. Even his Finnish friends called him ___ [sounds like Dom]. He kind of kept Touko for family and colleagues. But certainly in his world of freedom and certainly here at Tom House…everybody called him Tom.

I really related to the character of Doug in the film.

You know, he’s standing right next to me.

The real Doug?

Uh-huh.

Are you serious?

Uh-huh.

Oh my God I think that is just cool. 

He’s kinda like my boyfriend, too, and he founded the foundation with Tom back in 1984.

I loved how Doug’s character was portrayed, how Tom’s art was so influential for him. It’s really valid because lots of gays had that same experience, of seeing those powerful erotic drawings and saying, “I want to be like those men.”

Durk Dehner…is the real Doug. He founded the Tom of Finland company and the nonprofit Tom of Finland Foundation with Tom.

Durk actually saw Tom’s artwork in a third generation bar rag called Spike…just seeing this bad replica of his artwork, he said it spoke to him. Durk’s life work was working with Tom. And after Tom passed it is continuing his legacy here at the Foundation. We really get to unite the humanity with the artist, which is important in this film as well. Our missions are very much aligned.

How do you feel about Tom of Finland now that it’s done?

We went with a Finnish production company for obvious reasons. During [a] Q&A [at Outfest] I figured out the importance of this movie.

The country of Finland put out a postage stamp with a male butt right in your face…commemorative postage stamps for Tom of Finland in Finland. The first homoerotic stamp in the world. [Rural Finns asked] who is this guy? And why is he on our country’s stamp?

This movie answers that question. You have a great artist that came from your country. You had a great man that came from your country. You had a great brother, a great sibling, a great boss, a great employer. You had all these things in your country and that’s why he’s on your national stamp.

I think that’s exactly what this film is. It can tell people who don’t know who Tom of Finland is, why he is so important.

 Would you say that the genesis of the film started in the Foundation? Did you find the production company and Dome…or did it happen a different way?

Tom humbly admitted before he died that he had a global recognition in the queer community. But he didn’t have very much recognition in Finland.

So we sort have taken that to heart. We’d been doing Finnish exhibitions. We’ve been dealing with Finnish companies. We just came back from a Finland 100 Years celebration in Stockholm. So we have been very engaged in Finland. Because of our presence, we certainly made people very much more aware of Tom of Finland…but the film company did approach us.

Was Tom of Finland a Nazi sympathizer?

He was by no means a Nazi sympathizer. He hated all of that. It’s hard to be a big, bad Fascist when you have a 10-inch penis up your anus.

Most of the work that he did, that was even in that area, were commissions for other people. His response was, “I’m not political. I’m not political at all.” But he said, “Their uniforms are kinda sexy.” That pretty much sums up where he was.

Now that the film has been released, how would you say your organization’s work influenced the film?

I think having Dome and Pekka here in Tom House [was] in itself inspiring. [For them] to be in the real place where he lived and worked and slept is an inspiration unto itself.

When we, everyone’s familiar with his images, the art director and Dome, were here and we pulled out work from the safe…it’s not framed, it’s not placed, it’s not under glass…it’s the actual paper…and you actually see this drawing…they were able to experience not only the aura of the artist but they were able to experience how incredibly exquisite these pieces of work are.

Is there anything about the movie you wish you could change?

I wish it was more of a dick flick than a chick flick.

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New Jayne Mansfield Doc Opens In 13 Cities Nationwide

In the new documentary Mansfield 66/67, John Waters, the famously irreverent film director of cult classics Hairspray, Female Trouble, Polyester and Pink Flamingos, says Divine, the character he created with late actor Harris Glenn Milstead was inspired by a mash-up of the long-dead blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield and the post-World War Two B-movie monster Godzilla.

If that’s not enough camp for you, there are plenty of other reasons for LGBTQs young and old(er) to see this new film, which isn’t so much a biopic as an exploration of how and why the doomed Mansfield and her carefully-cultivated image mattered. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the actress’ death.

Mansfield was a woman who, like the larger-than-life fake lizard from Japan, also made B-movies in the 1950s and 60s. Her best-known roles include The Girl Can't Help It (1956) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).

Interview subjects include gender-fluid singer Marilyn, legendary drag queen Peaches Christ, gay experimental filmmaker and author of the seminal tell-all Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger, actress Mamie Van Doren, and Hitchcock escapee and animal rights doyenne Tippi Hedren.

Filmmaker Todd Hughes, 54, spoke to me by phone from San Francisco, where Mansfield screened last night at the Alamo Drafthouse, a restored old time movie house in the Mission District. “We had all these young people,” Hughes said, 18-25-year-old students from a

Bay Area film school. Often the audiences have skewed older so it was a nice surprise to see millennials becoming aware of Mansfield’s work.

Hughes and his filmmaking partner and husband P. David Ebersole, 53, live and work in Palm Springs. The film’s website lists them as editors, producers and directors.

Why did they make the film? “We think she’s quite extraordinary,” said Hughes, “an interesting cultural figure.”

He goes on to say how some people now see Mansfield as perhaps “the first reality star.” Like the Kardashians, but maybe less crassly confessional, Mansfield was known for taking charge of her career and making the media work for her – instead of the other way around. According to the Wikipedia page about her life: “She was also known for her well-publicized personal life and publicity stunts, such as wardrobe malfunctions.”

Thanks to a new deal with Gunpowder & Sky, a distribution company “for film buffs,” according to Hughes, Mansfield opens in 13 cities across the US and Canada tonight. Boston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Toronto are on the docket. Hughes said if the film does well, it could expand to seven more cities in coming weeks.

The film took the duo four years to make. Interviews were conducted in LA, San Francisco, Provincetown, Palm Springs and, of all places, Leeds, in the north of England.

Why Leeds? Connections. Hughes said the head of the film department at Leeds Beckett University encouraged them to apply for a grant. They got it and from January to August, 2016, Hughes and Ebersole were artists in residence. As a result, the school contributed resources the filmmaking team would not otherwise have received. A number of university departments, such as film, music and animation helped make Mansfield what it is today.

The film’s website cites quotes from major media outlets that have reviewed the film. The Los Angeles Times wrote: “A celebration of the sex-positive, taboo-breaking image she created for herself.” And USA Today said, “Beyond all of the shocking stories, eye-grabbing headlines and secondhand rumors,

Mansfield 66/67 is something incredibly important right now – believe it or not.” (Perhaps a reference to how women have been treated in Hollywood and the sexual harassment allegations so many of us are now becoming aware about.)

On November 10, Mansfield 66/67 can be purchased on demand via Amazon, Hulu and iTunes. Shortly thereafter, Hughes said the doc will also be available on DVD.

Finally, Hughes told me the film was just nominated for best documentary by the Women’s Image Network Awards. The filmmaking duo previously won this award for their doc about Cher’s mom, Dear Mom, Love, Cher.

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New Mexican Documentary Shows Baja California's Fight For Marriage Equality

 Award-Winning documentary "No Dress Code Required" will open theatrically in New York City this coming Friday, November 3 with a national release to follow.

 

Directed by Cristina Herrera Borquez, the film won best documentary at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and was an official selection of both the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Outfest, LA's annual gay film fest.

The doc follows the story of Victor and Fernando, who run a beauty salon in Baja California, Mexico. For many of their longtime customers they are a lovely gay couple -- until they decided to tie the knot.

Even though the Mexican Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June 2015, the city of Mexicali actively defies their nation's court order, preventing Victor and Fernando from marrying.

"No Dress Code Required" is a powerful, emotional story of two men in love fighting for what they want, learning how people they've come to know and love actually feel -- and enlightening the community in which they live. #DownWithHomophobia

Running time: 91 minutes / Not Rated / In Spanish (with English subtitles)

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"Tom of Finland" Biopic Expands Its Reach

Finland's 2018 Academy Award submission for best foreign film, "Tom of Finland," a well-made, if rather tame, biopic of the legendary gay artist, has been held over for longer regional runs in theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

And starting November 3rd, moviegoers can see the Finnish production (with English subtitles) across the United States in the following cities:

Harkins Valley Art – Tempe, AZ – November 3, 2017
Classic Gateway 4 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – November 3, 2017
Cinema 21 – Portland, OR – November 3,  2017
Tower – Salt Lake City, UT – November 10, 2017
Parkway Theatre – Baltimore, MD – November 24, 2017

Landmark Ritz at the Bourse – Philadelphia, PA – November 24, 2017
Landmark Chez Artiste – Denver, CO – December 1, 2017
Angelika Film Center (Dallas) – Dallas, TX – December 1, 2017
Landmark E Street Cinema – Washington, DC – December 8, 2017
Landmark Midtown Art Cinema – Atlanta, GA – December 8, 2017
Landmark Lagoon Cinema – Minneapolis, MN – December 8, 2017
Landmark Kendall Square Cinema – Boston, MA – December 15, 2017

The film stars Pekka Strang as Touko Laaksonen, a Finnish soldier in World War II who dreams of being an artist, Lauri Tilkanen, a handsome thirty-something dancer, and Jessica Grabowsky as his sexually-frustrated sister who also draws but doesn't believe she's any good. Anyone sensing love triangle? Just sayin'.

"Tom of Finland" was an official selection at Outfest and the TriBeCa International Film Festival, amongst other film festivals worldwide.

Both the director, Dome Karukoski, and lead actor are straight, yet sensitively bring to life the controversial and sexually provocative artist who became known the world over, especially to horny young gay men, as Tom of Finland. The influential power of ToF's drawings are brought to life in a heartfelt, amusing sequence in the middle of the film. Let's just say an American gay teen wants to look and live like Kake, one of the artist's most famous characters, and does everything he can to make it happen.

Karukoski is currently directing "Tolkien," a biopic of yet another artist, "The Lord of The Rings" and "The Hobbit" author J.R.R. Tolkien.

Running Time: 114 Minutes/ Language: Finnish With English Subtitles

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Armie Hammer Says He Almost Passed On His Role in "Call Me By Your Name"

Screenshot / via Youtube @SonyPicturesClassics

The cast and crew of Call Me By Your Name are out making the rounds to get more publicity for the upcoming gay romance movie.

One such event that was visited was the Toronto Film Festival. After having a screening of the movie, a press conference was held in which lead actor Armie Hammer confessed that he originally was afraid to take the role of 24-year-old academic Oliver.

"I was a little nervous about all the nudity that was originally in the script. And I had images of my daughter being at school, and she's 13 years old, and people are teasing her and printing out pictures of my penis and, I thought, 'Oh man!" Hammer recalled

But, after talking with the film’s director Luca Guadagnino, Hammer was convinced to take the challenge of the role on.

And the role is an interesting one.

The film’s story is actually an adaption of original novel of the same name by Andre Aciman. The story takes place in 1983 and follows a 24-year-old American student who has a summer romance with a 17-year-old Italian teenager.

The novel has been praised by multiple critics and won the 20th Lambda Literary Awards for General Gay Fiction. To go with that, the movie adaption of Call Me By Your Name is becoming a hot topic to talk about ahead of its official November 24th release. And perhaps the film couldn’t have come at any better a time as the film’s actors pointed out.

"In the States right now, where we are struggling with a crackdown on life, to make this kind of movie, with the explicit lack of a violent aggressor, is maybe the strongest antidote that there could be," said Hammer's co-star Timothee Chalamet said.

"It's a crazy, bizarre, weird and scary world," Hammer added, "And anytime you can infuse a little bit of beauty and remind people that, yes, things might be terrible somewhere else, … but you will feel like you're having a summer vacation if you watch this movie, and just that bit of escapism can be nice too."

h/t: The Hollywood Reporter

Watch: Kids React and Talk about Gay Animation "In a Heartbeat"

Screenshot: Youtube @FBE

When did kids get so smart?

The latest installment in the “In a Heartbeat” saga has come out, and it’s a video of kids reacting to the film.

The short film about a young romance between one boy and another has taken the internet by storm. And to keep the conversation going, Youtube Channel The Fine Bros Entertainment has made videos of Elders reacting to the short film, the creators reacting to the elders, and now kids reacting to the short film.

The very purpose behind the film’s creation, besides being a senior thesis project for the two creators, was to make an animation about same-sex love that was approachable for younger viewers.

Related: LGBTQ Koreans Talk About Gay Love & Bullying to An Elementary Schoolboy

So, it’s only right to show the reactions of children seeing the short film and then having a talkback to get their thoughts on the whole situation. They even talk about whether its appropriate to show these types of stories to kids their age.

And, it’s actually quite surprising how mature and precocious these children are. But, don’t take my word for it. Check out the video down below.

An African King Wants To Stop The Distribution of a Gay Film, And Not For The Reason You're Guessing

Credit: Urucu Media

The King of the amaXhosa people is trying to stop the distribution of gay film Inxeba or The Wound. And funny enough, the reason isn’t because of its gay content.

Zwelonke Sigcawu is the King of the amaXhosa people, an ethnic group found mostly in South Africa. The king and his people are worried because the recently released film The Wound is sharing too much of his people’s culture and customs.

As stated in our earlier post:

“The film follows factory worker Xolani (played by Touré), who has to guide young Kwanda through an age-old rite of passage into manhood. While doing this, Kwanda goes through the trial of discovering and understanding himself while also understanding Xolani’s sexuality and relationship with another tribe caretaker.”

Because this film focuses on the initiation process for young men into adulthood, several amaXhosa citizens have reached out to their leaders, and ultimately to the King, to ask for help keeping their secrets.

This is a very private practice for the amaXhosa people (even many amaXhosa women are unaware of how the male rituals go) and several are upset that it is being shared without their knowledge or consent.

Credit: Urucu Media

Matthew Mpahlwa, the king’s lawyer, told News24 that:

“His subjects are complaining. He is the custodian of custom and what is being dealt [with] in the film is custom. It is on those grounds that he would ... be an interested party,” Mpahlwa said.
“There’s a lot of panic among the amaXhosa people who have undertaken the rituals, some of the men mostly, and they called on the kingdom of the amaXhosa to intervene.”

That said, the king and his people have not yet seen the film, and it’s fair to say most didn’t even know of the film’s existence until trailers were released.

“He has been seeing [the] trailers and people are just shocked.”

"There is an extent [to] which freedom of expression can go...  there are limits [to] which customs... can be exposed."

The film has already released at the Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Film Forum in NYC, but King Sigcawu still wants to talk “amicably” with the film’s producers before going to court and filing a complaint with the Film and Publications Board (FPB) about the film’s distribution.

We’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer for the film down below, and see for yourselves what everyone is so angry about.

 

Watch: Trailer and Clip From Newly Released "Baby Steps"

All rights reserved to Gravitas Ventures

A couple days ago we talked about and showed you a clip for the Outfest judges winner The Wounded.

Today, we’re going to talk about Baby Steps. Baby Steps was a joint project between Taiwan and the U.S., but is only now being released digitally in America.

The story follows a gay Taiwanese-American man named Danny who, with his partner Tate, struggles to get a surrogate to give him the baby he so desperately wants. This is also complicated by Danny's mother who means well, but is also very controlling and thwarts the two during every step of the process.

The film has had limited releases such as at the Tribecca Film Institute, and has gotten some bad reviews based on the fact that it centers on a gay and interracial romance. But now that the film is releasing in Western internet waves, perhaps there will be a bigger audience appreciating the message behind the story.

If you want to see more of the film before potentionally buying it on Amazon, Google Play, or Itunes, you can check out trailers (the original trailer and one made for the Western release) and the clip down below.