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Of Movies and Men: Our Provincetown Film Festival Retrospective


One of the best times to visit Provincetown is during their international film festival (it was held June 17-21 this year). June is a great month, as it’s just ahead of the summer madness that the July 4th always brings, and is a week that’s void of the dated, sometimes silly, conspicuous, and fetishized themes that dominate the rest of the summer. 


For a few weeks in June, people are in Provincetown because they want to explore the United States’ original art colony, eat at some of the best restaurants in the region, mingle with both burgeoning and highly-established writers, buy a drink or three for a young painter heading to grad school in the fall, and see some really good films. 

Nothing beats the energy in June, as the locals get fired up for another season—they’ll be burned out and jaded in a matter of weeks, but in June, they’re genuinely excited for the high season around the corner.


This is a legitimate film festival, routinely attracting submissions from top talent.  Films that play in Provincetown may have premiered at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, or Cannes. Unfortunately, the people running the festival are programming for an older, local audience, looking for a pre-season diversion and the result is a slate of films that feels like it’s mostly been curated for an over-50 crowd.

Granted, this formula works perfectly for the attendees. Homeowners in Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet make a point to buy tickets or passes, arrive early to screenings (especially anything during the day), and genuinely enjoy the opportunity to hear someone marginally involved with the film introduce it at the charming Town Hall venue. Then they file out, shuffle down the street to buy fudge, and go home for the night.

But young people are conspicuously absent from the festival, which is a real bummer.  (I’m 39, and was, definitely, one of the youngest people at most of the screenings and parties that I attended.) When I asked a few younger guys around town if they were seeing any films, they had no idea there was even a film festival happening, and they had no plans to see anything.  


Few films would have appealed to them, anyway. The “celebrities” attending were at least twice their age, and the crowd at screenings is over 50, straight, or—gulp—lesbians. But there were a few films that definitely would have appealed to them, like Tangerine, the deliciously fresh and edgy Sundance standout that brilliantly explores the crazy world of trans hookers in L.A., with an incredible cast, writing, and directing. And Those People, which premiered at the festival, with a smart, sweet, contemporary story of young love in the rarified world of Upper Eastside Manhattan.   

Unfortunately, the festival didn’t do a great job of getting the word out on films like these. On the other hand, a midday screening of Tab Hunter Confidential, the documentary about the iconic ‘50s crooner and matinee idol, was completely packed. In many ways, it’s a metaphor for the town itself: getting older, still revered, but losing its edge. 

The festival could be a tremendous asset for Provincetown, but it’s unfortunately playing to the crowd it already has, rather than working hard to attract one for the next 10 years.

Here are the 10 Best Things about our week at the Provincetown International Film Festival:


1.) Fag Bash
​​ Following a cute opening film (Sleeping With Other People) and a nice reception at The Crown & Anchor, we hit the legendary Wednesday night pop-up club, Fag Bash.  It was absurd, sexy, and fun—exactly what you’d expect of a trip to PTown.

 ​
2.) Larry Kramer in Love and Anger (…and in real life)  
Watching the powerful documentary about the iconic gay activist and playwright was even better, having met the man himself at the festival.


3.) Tangerine
Hands down, the coolest film in the festival. This manic Hollywood romp follows a couple of “tranny hookers” on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. The filmmaker shot it almost entirely on iPhones, with a shoestring budget, and the result is rad. 


4.) Garden Party
At this press event we were able to meet the few filmmakers who attended the festival and see honoree Jennifer Coolidge…and ponder why Stifler’s mom was getting an award (although they did screen Best in Show). We also got to chat with the always-awesome John Waters, and take in the incredible view from the lawn at Land’s End Inn, followed by…

5.) Happy Hour(s) at The Red Inn
At the water’s edge, just across from Land’s End it’s hands-down, the most gorgeous spot in town, and $1 Wellfleet oysters start at 2pm on the weekends. The cocktails are perfect, and are best enjoyed in an Adirondack chair on the deck, sitting with a cute guy, as the tide goes out. 

6.) The State of Marriage
The screening for this smart documentary on the fight for marriage equality now feels like a prescient precursor to the long-awaited SCOTUS decision, that arrived just days later (June 26, 2015 shall go down in history!).

7.) Those People
This contemporary, complicated story of young love made for one of the better films of the festival. Imagine if three of the guys from Gossip Girl were in a love triangle, and you get the gist of what (and who) goes down here.

8.) Tab Hunter Confidential and Peggy Guggenheim Art Addict
Two outstanding documentaries that were entertaining, educational, and perfectly programmed for this festival.

9.) The End of the Tour
This smart, subtle, intimate story of a wildly successful author and the cynical Rolling Stone writer covering his book tour surprised us, and was one of the better films of the festival.


10.) I Am Michael
Based on Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ New York Times Magazine article about a friend who’d flipped from gay activist to crazy Christian, the James Franco film closed the festival with flare, before everyone strolled down Commercial Street to buy a drink at The Boatslip.

Here are 5 Things That Were Not So Great about PTown’s film festival week:


1.) Cash Bars
Apparently no one thought to get a liquor sponsor.  Next year, we’ll bring one. Unless the event venues won’t agree to pour free drinks?  Hmmm…


2.) Town Hall
While delightful in its own right, this venue has the most uncomfortable seats ever—so bad, they give you cushions, but that doesn’t help. Sadly for sponsors, we sat on their logos all week.

3.) The Crowd
The people at the screenings are perfectly nice, but it’s not the peeps of PTown you’d like to be spending all your time with.  Where are the guys from out of town that love films? And if they’re young(er) and hot(ter), so be it; we won’t complain.

4.) The Wolfpack
This was the most disappointing film of the festival, somehow coming off serious Sundance hype. It was a 90-plus-minute reality show sizzle reel about a kooky family, with no point, whatsoever. Waste of time.

5.) Clambake
If you’re looking for a doc that covers 30 years in the journey of PTown and its lesbians, this one’s for you. If you’re covering the fest for Instinct, it turns out, it wasn’t meant for us. Point taken.

All in all, it was a fabulous week, and we’re already looking forward to going back next year. Hopefully, we’ll see you there.

Learn more about the Provincetown International Festival and prepare for next summer now!
 

Matt Heller is a writer, film fanatic, media professional, and PTown regular who prefers to do all things with at least one cocktail in hand. Follow him @Millennialsinfo

(PIFF Photos by Brett Plugis)

1st Annual Lake Tahoe Gay Ski Week Announced

Who says Utah and Colorado should have all the fun? Promoter Tom Whitman has just announced the inaugural Lake Tahoe Gay Ski Week is set for Feb. 6-9, 2014.

Rounding out his popular Elevation series of events, Elevation:Tahoe will feature seven parties over the four-day event, not to mention plenty of slope time. DJs Casey Alva, Pornstar and Blacklow are already confirmed, and host hotels Resort at Squaw Creek and the Village at Squaw Creek are accepting reservations now.

More info on Elevation:Tahoe can be found here. Elevation:Utah is set for Feb. 20-23, with Elevation: Mammoth set for March 12-16, 2014.

Cuban Curiosity

By David Duran

 

My fascination with Cuba was finally realized this past year when I visited the small island country for the first time in 32 years. The last time I was on the island was when my mother was pregnant with me and had returned to visit friends and family and, of course, show off her belly. My mother left Cuba shortly after graduating university and was fortunate to be granted permission to enter the United States legally with my grandmother. It was years later, while in my early teens, that I began to ask questions about Cuba. My mother worked so hard for years to legally bring her sister and her family over from the communist country by sponsoring them each and petitioning both governments, which she finally succeeded in doing in 1992. All I would hear was the negative about the government but sprinkled within the hatred, there was always beautiful stories of how life use to be.

 

My grandmother was in love with the U.S. She got to live out her fantasies of dressing up, putting on makeup, wearing perfume and just being a woman. I would always tell her as teenager that I wanted to visit Cuba and she would quickly dismiss my curiosities. Later in life, after my list of travels expanded beyond two hands, my family opened up to the idea of me visiting their homeland. I had put in two years of living in Bolivia, my father’s place of birth, so in their minds, I had passed the test of the third-world living conditions. I then had full support from my overly cautious family to plan a trip. The only problem now was getting through the long visa applications.

 

Just six months before my trip, was when my fascination became an obsession. In a rare and controversial occurrence, Mariela Castro,  daughter of the Cuban President Raul Castro, came to the U.S. to speak on a two-week press tour of New York City and San Francisco. This was the niece of Fidel Castro, the man responsible for all of horrible stories my grandmother and mother would tell me about growing up. I jumped at the opportunity to hear her speak; especially when I found out her topic of discussion was LGBT rights in Cuba. I was also fortunate to be able to attend a private reception with her the following night where I met her and candidly spoke with her about her efforts in Cuba.

 

 

From the stories my family told me about growing up in conservative Cuba, I was shocked at what Mariela was preaching. Looking back, my Cuban family didn’t take my coming out as harshly as I thought they did at the time. It was mostly just denial and not talking about my life in front of family members.  After hearing how Cuba was changing, I finally felt a deep connect that I had been longing for to go and see for myself where my family was from. One month before my flight, my family decided to shock me with news that I still had a cousin left in Cuba, two to be exact. I couldn’t believe the news because I am very close with most of my family and the fact that I had cousins I didn’t know existed was painful but quickly changed the purpose of my adventure.

 

The moment the plane landed in Havana and everyone around me began to clap their hands, I shed a tear. I had finally made it. I walked down the stairs of the aircraft toward a relatively new Chinese-made airport shuttle bus, and my sensory overload was in full effect. The Havana airport was crowded and I immediately felt like I had stepped into a time warp as I peaked outside the doors into a cloud of cigarette smoke. Through the thick air of tobacco, I saw what I had only heard of but never imagined would be the reality I was seeing with my own eyes; vintage cars.  The ride to my hotel was mostly me crying and looking at old cars while my traveling partner would grab my shoulder and pinch me every 20 seconds or so because he was in complete culture shock. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he should be pinching himself, instead of me. But for me, it wasn’t just the old cars and the lush green we were driving by, it was the interest from the van full of foreigners who were all so inquisitive and intrigued in everything they were seeing. I knew from that moment that I was in for something that would change my life.

 

 

Cuba was everything I had dreamed of. The old cars, the gorgeous mansions that were now converted to office space or museums, and lots of music accompanied by some of the best mojitos I had ever had. The beautiful coastlines of Havana were breathtaking. It’s made up of an extended sidewalk that stretches the entire span of the city and each night the “malecon” would be full of life as mostly locals would socialize, drink and just hang out all night.  All that was missing was the quality food that I grew up eating all my life. When I asked my mother after returning why her food tasted so much better, she quickly pointed out that she had spices and condiments available to her in the states but that in Cuba salt was pretty much the most flavoring one would get; the food in Cuba is as good as they can possibly make it.

 

Havana has to be one of the most picturesque cities I had ever visited. I found myself snapping photos of cars, superb architecture and just people living their life. Early in my visit, I had set up a time to meet with my long lost cousin and drop off a backpack full of clothes I had brought him. It was the least I could do after not even knowing he existed. I walked into the hotel lobby and there he was. I had no idea what he looked like, or a description of what he was wearing, but somehow, our eyes met and we just knew. It was one of the most important embraces in my life. I forced him and his uncle to eat at my hotel restaurant buffet and was so confused to only see them pick up one tiny potato and a piece of toast. I insisted that it was a buffet and that they should fill up on all they wanted. Now that I think about it, what they had on their plate was a good representation of what would most likely fill up their unaccustomed stomachs.

 

 

The attitudes of most every Cuban I met on the streets were ones of joyfulness and interest. Everyone had so many questions about the United States and the world. People were so nice as to offer private tours and show you their Cuba. And it’s not all about the money they want from tourists. I encountered folks who at times just wanted someone to talk to and show their city off to. I would commonly ask the question, “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?” The overwhelming response was always, “Cuba.” Most pointed out that Cuba is so beautiful and its people are naturally happy, loving people. Of course, they wish they didn’t live the way they did, but they tolerated it, not because they had to, but because what else where they to do? Cubans in general had made the most of a rotten situation and were thankful for what they had. In the end, I still gave them money but it was hard not to when you realize there are two types of money; one for tourists and the worthless one for them. My cousin worked independently as a mechanic to earn more money than he would be getting working for the government. The average Cuban, whether a doctor or a plumber, makes anywhere from $10-14 per month. Many Cuban’s have side jobs or work privately to make more money instead of being employed by the government. Luckily, that option is now available to them. Lots of changes had happened in Cuba in the last few years. People were now able to sell their property and own their cars, as well as attend gay pride events if they so chose to.

 

Cuba’s gay scene is alive and active. Although it’s not normal to see two people of the same sex walking around holding hands, there are areas in Havana that are now considered gay cruising or meeting spots. It’s a large area in the city where everyone feels comfortable to be who they are and find out where the gay parties are happening that particular night. On our first night we went to the Yara Theatre, the best of the best cruising spots to learn about any parties that night. We were immediately approached by two younger boys who quickly started up conversation and complimented insistently. It’s not uncommon to find male escorts in these areas. (They are actually the best sources for these gay parties.) We happily offered to pay their taxi and party entrance fee if they would take us and made certain that our deal ended immediately afterwards. We still somehow ended up paying their bar tab, but we didn’t care, we were in Cuba! Later in our trip we discovered a private cabaret built on the roof of an old home in the outskirts of Havana that seated about 50 and put on one amazing show. “El Show de las Estrellas,” was a highlight of the trip.

 

 

And it’s not only in Havana. Even in the small town of Trinidad, I met gay men who couldn’t wait to tell me about the monthly drag show where the entire town comes to watch. Cuba wasn’t nearly as repressed as I had imagined. In Trinidad, we met a young man who, together with his cousin and mother, ran a gay bed and breakfast. We stayed at a nearby hostel and our young hostess was so eager to introduce us all to each other after finding out we were gay. When speaking to him and his mother about gay life in Trinidad, he quickly opened up and confirmed everything I was experiencing. He even openly told me about being HIV-positive and how the government paid for all his medical care. But it was his mother who was so proud of him and supportive of her son that opened my eyes to the love that exists there. When asking gay Cubans about Mariela, there was an overwhelming support of love, respect and gratitude toward her. I couldn’t find one person that had anything negative to say about her. I even went out of my way to meet strangers on the street who appeared to be heterosexual couples of all ages and somehow bring up Mariela just to get their input. Again, nothing but praise for the woman who helped change the minds of so many in her country.

 

Mariela, who is the Director for the National Center for Sex Education in Cuba, decided to take her fight in strides, focusing on one issue over the course of a year. She went on national television and educated the population first. With the support of the people, she then took her fight to her father and his government, where surprisingly enough, she got through to them. First focusing on transgender rights, Mariela broke ground by helping pass legislature to allow gender reassignment surgery to be covered under the basic government healthcare system. The following year she took on causes championing gay men, followed by bisexual men, and most recently she focused her efforts on HIV services. After talking to many of her activists and volunteers, it’s possible that her next move will be to fight for equal benefits for same-sex couples as those that are afforded to married couples.

 

I never had the “talk” with my cousin and his family about me being gay, but I knew that they knew from the topics of conversation I had brought up from my travels. It wasn’t until I returned home and received an e-mail from him where he told me that he and his family loved me no matter what and they too support Mariela’s efforts in Cuba. What I took away from my visit was not only the beauty of the Cuban people, architecture, rundown cars, bland food or up and coming gay scene. Instead what I learned was to appreciate my life and where I came from.

 

There are currently strict visa requirements for American’s entering Cuba. Unless you are on a humanitarian mission, religious excursion, a member of the media or come from Cuban decent, entry is not legal and comes with potentially severe consequences if apprehended jumping borders to enter. The U.S. embargo on Cuba is hopefully within eyesight’s view of ending and when it does, American’s will be able to experience something they could only have dreamed of.