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United weíre bland (continued)




Far more entertaining and enlightening are the home movies of Darren Stein and Adam Shell in Put the Camera on Me (2003; screens May 23 at 5:30 p.m.), which is kind of like Capturing the Friedmans conceived as a Disney kids movie. Growing up in a sheltered community, Stein, whoís now a professional filmmaker, and his friend Shell and a number of children in the neighborhood collaborated to make some 50 movies ranging in genre from musical to noir. Filming a chorus line from The Rocky Horror Show with some of the little boys in drag might seem cute and precocious, but as the neophyte auteurs move on to such subjects as sex, violence, and gender preference, the little movies become more a case study than a coy memoir. Intercut with present-day interviews with the principals, some but not all of whom are, like Stein, as "Gay As a Whistle" (the title of one of the films), these earnest and perverse gems show not only the growth of a cinematic imagination but the subtle dynamics of peer manipulation and sado-masochism that is movie directing. How disappointing that Stein, in whom we see glimmers reminiscent of directors ranging from Kenneth Anger to Steven Spielberg to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, ended up making a piece of piffle like Jawbreaker (1999).

Maybe what I like about Turn the Camera on Me is that, unlike It Will Probably Pass, itís engagingly self-centered without being self-pitying. But both films pale before Ruthie Shatz & Adi Barashís Garden (2003; May 16 at 12:30 p.m., co-presented by the Boston Jewish Film Festival). Nino and Dudu, teenage Arabs who hustle for a living in the Tel Aviv pick-up district of the title, make the hard times of Midnight Cowboy look like a game show. The product of abusive or disintegrated families and a brutally divided society, the two have been on the street since childhood, dodging pedophiles, gangsters, and both the Palestinian Secret Police and the Israeli Secret Service. They survive on drugs, brute cunning, prostitution, and their own seemingly unbreakable, often contentious, and remarkably noble love.

Such a bond is also apparent among the lesbian punk-band members, all survivors of abuse, discrimination, addiction, and worse, who are profiled in Tracy Flanniganís Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary (2003; May 15 at 8 p.m., with the director and band members Lynn Breedlove and Leslie Mah present). That is, once you get past the shirtless, obscenity-laden, hilarious outrage of Tribe 8ís stage act. Liz Phair material they are not (though after shocking the Birkenstocked faithful at the 1992 Michigan Womynís Music Festival, they were invited back four times). They make Courtney Love seem like just another talk-show guest as they pound out three chords and bellow witty and assaultive lyrics about sadism, masochism, sexism, and rage. In between sets, lead singer Lynn Breedlove, an Iggy Pop with breasts, invites straight men to come up on stage and suck off a 12-inch strap-on. On the other hand, she might just pull out a Bowie knife and slice the thing off. The point, in part, is parody, though they donít care whether they offend anyone and rather hope they do. Neither do they hate men. "We like penises," says Breedlove. "Especially the detachable kind. And all penises are detachable."

Talk about cutting-edge. But even these seeming reprobates show signs of slowing down. Some have dropped out of the band and turned to more conventional careers, even marriage (same-sex, of course). "You never have to grow up!" asserts the fortysomething Breedlove, rather unconvincingly, to fans half her age.

Perhaps an individual can be not only simultaneously male and female but also young and old, parent and child? That might be the theme of Aleksandr Sokurovís Father and Son (2003; May 22 at 6:30 p.m.). Itís anyoneís guess. Forget Turgenev; Father and Son may be the festivalís most outré ó and gayest ó entry. Sokurov would vehemently deny both charges, especially the latter (the product of "sick European minds," he has said). But if anything is clear in this radiantly obscure parable, itís that the opening embrace between dad, who looks like a candidate for Tom of Finland, and his willowy and wiry son, more the Bruce Weber type, is not just paternal and filial.

Turns out itís only a bad dream. Or something (and you thought The Return was cryptic!). Set in an uncanny seaside city suffused in a golden, unearthly light, the film takes place mostly on a rooftop that looks sometimes like a set from Mary Poppins and sometimes like one from Querelle. The plot ó the boy is in military school, his girlfriend is dumping him, dadís an army vet with a troubling lung X-ray, a young man visits who is the son of dadís war buddy ó seems half-baked and distracting. Which may be the point, though I preferred the limpid simplicity of its predecessor, Mother and Son (there will be a third in this series). Unlike many of the other entries in this festival, Father and Son is not family fare.

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Issue Date: May 14 - 20, 2004
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