queer cinema

 EASTSIDERS Season 2 - DVD CoverEASTSIDERS (Season 2)

EASTSIDERS is the first web series reviewed here in our Queer Cinema column, and rightly so. This series is on par with many LGBT films today. The show follows an ensemble cast of gay, bi, and straight people exploring their emotional and sexual relationships. The driving story is Thom (Van Hansis, As The World Turns) and Cal (Kil Williamson, Mad Men), a gay couple of four years recently separated over infidelity. They’re trying to rebuild their relationship by experimenting with sexually opening up their couple to a third–many different thirds. One regular, Jared (Satya Bhabha, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), gives them more psychological than sexual physical help.

The cast also includes Cal’s recently dumped sister Hillary (Brianna Brown), who falls into a codependent relationship with Ian (John Halbach) who is on the rebound after breaking up with Kathy (Constance Wu). Jeremy (Matthew McKelligon) has fallen on hard times and moves in with his sister Bri (Brea Grant, Pitch Perfect 2) and her wife Vera (Vera Miao). Finally there’s Quincy (Stephen Guarino, Happy Endings), a party promoter who can’t stop performing long enough to connect with Douglas (Willam Belli, Ru Paul’s Drag Race), an aspiring drag queen that might just be his match.  While all that may sound like a lot of soap opera drama, the performances are strong and interconnect nicely. Diving into EASTSIDERS Season 2, without ever seeing Season 1, was remarkably easy. The characters are diverse and well-rounded enough to jump right in and follow along–but it does make me want to go back and watch Season 1.  (Available at WolfeOnDemand.com.)

 

12x18templateRAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE

The award winning documentary RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE sheds light on the often contentious relationship between the LGBT community and the police. Directed by Robert L. Camina, this film delves into the 2009 police raid of the Rainbow Lounge a Fort Worth, Texas gay bar that resulted in multiple arrests and serious injuries. On June 28, 2009 (the 40th anniversary of Stonewall) police and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided this newly opened gay bar. Their 40 minute invasion resulted in multiple people detained or arrested, and one young man being sent to the ICU with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. Allegations of a targeted attack and police brutality spread, while the police reported that during the raid multiple patrons allegedly grabbed them in a sexual manner and “pretended to have sex with them from behind.”

While RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE does a good job walking us through the events of that night interviewing eyewitnesses from both sides of the story, it’s what happens next where this film really shines. In the wake of the raid, we see the Fort Worth police go from near stereotypical homophobic Texas cops to leaders in LGBT equality, diversity training, and domestic partner benefits that spread throughout the city. What starts as a police procedural becomes an emotionally moving story of transformation against the odds.  (Available at TLA Video and raidoftherainbowlounge.com.)

 

BLACKBIRD_KA_FINAL.inddBLACKBIRD

Race relations, homophobia in the African American community, and the role of religion are all central to the story of the BLACKBIRD–yet they the story itself is quite simple. Seventeen-year-old Randy (Julian Walker) is simply trying to be a good kid by doing well in school, staying true to his Baptist upbringing, and caring for his emotionally disturbed mother (played by Mo’nique). The only problem is Randy’s dreams are plagued with his lust for his hot male friend causing him to eventually confront his own sexuality. Isaiah Washington gives a strong performance as Randy’s estranged father who returns to help guide Randy through his coming of age. Fresh out of its highly successful film festival run, this film has gained national attention for its look at community rarely seen on film. While a bit uneven in parts, BLACKBIRD is definitely worth watching.  (Available on Amazon and Netflix.)

 

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