queer eye | Film reviews | Salt Lake City

  • First Threshold slash Riceball Films

The Utah Film Center’s Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival returns October 14-16 at the Regent Street Black Box near the Eccles Theater (144 Regent St.) and online, offering a wide range of features and shorts on LGBTQ+ themes. Here are previews of some of the 2022 offerings; the complete line-up and program are available at damntheseheels.org.

Unidentified objects: The mise en scene has proven its worth – the comedy ‘Mismatched Souls on a Road Trip’ – but the central performances of Juan Felipe Zuleta’s feature steer it towards something more authentic than the weirdness always threatening to bubble up. on the coast. In a New York building, misanthropic little person Peter (Matthew Jeffers) receives an unexpected request from neighbor Winona (Sarah Hay): to borrow her car so she can travel to Canada and meet the spaceship that she thinks she’s coming and takes her. Neither Hay’s performance nor Zuleta and Leland Frankel’s script emphasize the idea that Winona is either clearly delusional or just a free-spirited madman; there’s an edge to the character that suggests the Darkness Winona may be trying to escape. There’s even more complexity for Peter, entangled in his double-ostracized identity as a little person. and a gay man, but also tied to a death he still mourns. It’s also one of the few recent fiction films where the COVID pandemic is treated as a fact of life with some impact on the narrative, but not the defining subtext. The premise makes it hard to find an ending that would be completely satisfying, and the slant near the end feels a bit off. That sort of thing is more forgivable when scenes like Peter’s awkward flirtation in a bar hint at happiness for himself that he wouldn’t risk imagining possible. [Opening Night Film]

Framing Agnes: A solid conceptual foundation drives director Chase Joynt’s documentary focused on 1960s academic case studies of transgender people, built – in the words of historian Jules Gill-Peterson – on “performance as an aspect of the trans-ness”. For the main framing device, Joynt uses transcripts of these case studies, beginning with “Agnes,” the famous trans woman interviewed by UCLA sociologist Dr. Harold Garfinkel, and whose story inspired the discovery of many other such case studies in Garfinkel’s records. These interviews are dramatized in performances by trans actors, and Joynt spends almost as much time asking the actors what they learn from the people they play as he does on the staged interviews themselves. Then there is a plot of time spent with Gill-Peterson talking about historical transness, including fascinating observations on what ideas like “visibility” mean both positively and negatively, and the history of science defining “aberrant” sexuality. As potentially compelling as all of these ideas are individually, they coalesce: is this primarily a story about what these case studies tell us about the trans experience decades before social normalization was remotely conceivable? Or are they trans people today who find both solace and frustration in these stories? The 72-minute duration seems too dense in data and anecdotes for everything to be coherent.

Long live my happy head: What begins as something resembling a somewhat standard “triumph of the spirit” documentary evolves into a unique and heartbreaking COVID-era love story. Filmmakers Will Hewitt and Austen McCowan portray Gordon Shaw, a cartoonist who created a graphic novel titled bittersweet recounting his experience after being diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 32. As the film touches on his artistic endeavors – including a musical composition proposal inspired by the sounds of MRI machines – the focus ultimately shifts more to Gordon’s long-distance relationship. with his partner Shawn, American director of a non-profit artistic association. And as a grim turning point in Gordon’s prognosis coincides with the onset of the pandemic in 2020, both men face the added emotional strain of having to navigate this process while separated by an ocean. Gordon provides a lively and engaging centerpiece, even if the film isn’t afraid to show him at his most physically and emotionally vulnerable. But while it’s a record of a man turning terminal illness into art, it’s also a record of the love in our lives that gives people a reason to want to keep going.


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