This year’s Qfest, St. Louis’ annual LGBTQ film festival, features 28 films which offer a window into a wide variety of LGBTQ experiences. While most of the festival films are contemporary, one classic will also be shown: Funeral Parade of Roses, a 1969 Japanese film written and directed by Toshio Matsumoto, which closes the festival. Of particular local interest is the documentary TransGeek, whose St. Louis connections include the director, producers, and several of the interview subjects. The first show on each day of QFest will be free and open to the public.
Qfest kicks off with the documentary TransGeek (28 April 1:00 pm; free screening). Directed by Kevin McCarthy and Sayer Johnson, TransGeek focuses on transgender people who work in the tech industry and/or take part in geek and gamer cultures, often persisting in the face of extreme prejudice and harassment. TransGeek features an original score by British electronic musician Zoë Blade, a transgender woman, and will be shown with Jake Graf’s 4 minute short “Listen,” which offers a look at struggles faced daily by trans children and teenagers. Directors McCarthy and Sayer will attend the screening along with crew members and subjects from the film.
Dear Fredy (28 April 3:00 pm), a documentary directed by Rubi Gat, uses archival materials, interviews, and animation to tell the remarkable story of Alfred “Fredy” Hirsch, a German Jew who emigrated to Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) in 1935. Despite being an openly gay man, he worked as a sports trainer and was active in the Jewish Scouting movement. Among his other accomplishments, Hirsch served as head of the Youth Services Department for the Terezin concentration camp, and helped organize a daycare center at Auschwitz before dying there in 1944.
Perhaps the highest-profile film at Qfest 2019 is Vita & Virginia (28 April 5:30 pm), directed by Chanya Burton. The film is set among the bohemians of the 1920s Bloomsbury circle and focuses on the relationship between two well-known literary women: Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton) and Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki). Other members of the starry cast include Isabella Rossellini as Lady Sackville, Rupert Penry-Jones as Harold Nicolson, Peter Ferdinando as Leonard Woolf, and Emerald Fennell as Vanessa Bell.
The first day of Qfest 2019 closes with Christophe Honoré’s narrative feature Sorry Angel (Plaire, aimer et courir vite) (28 April 8:30 pm). Set in France in 1993, Sorry Angel focuses on the relationship among writer and single father Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), aspiring filmmaker Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), and Jacques’ neighbor Mathieu (Denis Podalydès). Sorry Angel premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where Honoré was nominated for the Palme d’Or and the Queer Palm, and has won awards at several other international film festivals.
Jim Brown’s documentary Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives (29 April 5:00 pm; free screening) offers an in-depth look at the pioneering singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. Near’s resume includes founding the independent record label Redwood Records, singing in the Broadway cast of Hair, appearing on numerous television programs as well as movies such as George Roy Hill’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and performing with a wide variety of musical artists including Ronnie Gilbert, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Harry Belafonte. Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives. She was also recognized by many organizations, including the ACLU, the National Organization for Women, and Ms. Magazine for her social justice work.
Stu Maddux’s documentary Gen Silent (29 April 6:45 pm) features interviews with six LGBTQ seniors conducted over the course of a year, highlighting the challenges they face in receiving the care that they need, including in some cases hiding their sexual and/or gender orientation in order to avoid discrimination and abuse. Gen Silent also spotlights a group of professionals who have been specifically trained to care for LGBTQ seniors, and are leading the fight to ensure that their needs are met. Gen Silent is a free screening and will be followed by a discussion led by Sherrill Wayland, Director of National Education Initiatives for SAGE, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults, and including Renee Shea, Sales Director for Crestview Senior Living and Arlene Zarembka, an attorney who represented plaintiffs in the Friendship Village case.
Hard Paint (Tinta Bruta) (29 April 9:00 pm), directed by Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon features Shico Menegat as Pedro, an online erotic performer or camboy living in a small Brazilian city. When a rival (Bruno Fernandes) steals some of Pedro’s techniques, and thus his audience and income, Pedro is forced to defend himself, discovering in the process a connection with the man he had previously regarded only as a competitor. Hard Paint has won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival, and the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.
You might not expect to find gay culture thriving in the heart of the Ozarks, but Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri’s documentary The Gospel of Eureka (30 April 5:00 pm; free screening) will prove you wrong. The Gospel of Eureka explores the culture of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where gay resorts, bars, and other businesses co-exist with the 1,500-foot Christ of the Ozarks (the third tallest statue of Jesus in the world), originally built for a religious theme park. Narrated by Mx Justin Vivian Bond, The Gospel of Eureka explores the coexistence of these two cultures through stories such as that of Lee and Walter, married owners of a local gay bar who are also devout Christians. The Gospel of Eureka is a free screening and will be shown with Kat Cole’s 7-minute short “Grandmother and Me,” which explores family history, the complexities of love, and longing for acceptance in the face of transphobia.
Making Montgomery Clift (30 April 7:00 pm) a documentary directed by Robert Anderson Clift (Montgomery’s nephew) and Hillary Demmon, re-examines the legacy of Montgomery Clift, a Hollywood star whose many accomplishments were often overshadowed in official histories by emphasis on his reputation as a repressed gay man who drank himself to death. Using a variety of interviews and archival materials, Clift and Demmon challenge that interpretation of Clift’s life, finding instead a dedicated actor who chose to live his own life in his own way.
Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart (Un couteau dans le coeur) (30 April 9:00 pm) is a stylish murder mystery set in the gay underworld of Paris in the 1970s and animated by a soundtrack by M83. Porn producer Anne (Vanessa Paradis) is already coping with the loss of her lover and co-worker Lois (Kate Moran) when she finds herself thrust into the role of detective after police decline to follow up on the murder of several of her actors. Gonzalez was nominated for the Palme d’Or and Queer Palm at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and Knife + Heart has won numerous awards on the international festival circuit.
Queer Shorts 1: Ready or Not, Out I Come (1 May 5:00 pm; free screening) features six short films by directors from Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, which share the general theme of coming out (or discovering that your secret is already out). The films include “Clothes & Blow” (Sam Peter Jackson, 23 min.), “Home Girl” (Poonam Brah, 12 min.), “How to be O.K.” (Graham Halstead, 13 min.), “Misdirection (Carly Usdin, 14 min.), “Sammy the Salmon” (Jake Shannon, 7 min.), and “Sequins” (Michael Beddoes, 18 min.).
Frédéric Tcheng’s docudrama Halston (1 May 7:00 pm) examines the life of America’s first superstar fashion designer: among other things, he designed the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore to her husband’s inauguration, invented hot pants, and designed uniforms for the 1976 American Olympic team. Tcheng, whose previous work includes Dior and I and Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, tells Halston’s story through interviews, archival footage, and scripted scenes featuring Tavi Gevinson as a young archivist digging through company records.
The story of Christiaan Olwagen’s Canary (Kanarie) (1 May 9:15 pm) takes place in South Africa in 1985. Johan (Schalk Bezuidenhout) a singer in the South African Defence Force Choir and Concert Group, also known as the Canaries, had initially hoped for no more than to finish his compulsory military service without incident. But as he gains a broader perspective on his country and the role he has been playing in it, he can no longer remain silent.
Queer Shorts 2: Mixed Perspectives (2 May 5:00 pm; free screening) includes six shorts from four countries: Brazil, Iran, the United States, and the United Kingdom, offering a wide-ranging look at contemporary gay life. The films include “Engaged” (David Scala, 17 min.), “Heather Has Four Moms” (Jeanette Buck, 14 min.), “Land’s End” (Ben Strebel, 20 min.), “The Orphan” (Carolina Markowicz, 15 min.), “Parking” (Ahmad Seyfipour, 9 min.), and “rouk” (Jay Russell, 13 min.).
Jamie Patterson’s Tucked (2 May 7:00 pm) features well-known television and film actor Derren Nesbitt as 80-year-old drag queen Jackie Collins, who wants to spend his few remaining days performing and acting as if everything is fine. Fate has something else in mind for him, however, and his final days turn out to be surprisingly eventful. Tucked won numerous awards on the 2018 festival circuit, including the Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at the Los Angeles Outfest.
Qfest 2019 comes to a close with a screening of Toshio Matsumoto’s 1969 classic Funeral Parade of Roses (Bara no sôretsu) (2 May 9:00 pm), an avant-garde film that influenced, among other things, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Matsumoto plunges the viewer into a kaleidoscope of Tokyo’s gay underground, centering his film around a love triangle formed of club hostess Eddie (Peter, a.k.a. Shinnosuke Ikehata), drag queen Leda (Osamu Ogasawara), and club owner Gonda (Osamu Ogasawara). | Sarah Boslaugh
All screenings for Qfest St Louis will be at the Tivoli Theatre (6350 Delmar Blvd) in the University City Loop. Advance tickets may be purchased at the Tivoli box office, through the Landmark Theatres website, or through the Cinema St Louis Qfest website. Tickets are $13 for general admission, $10 for students and Cinema St Louis members with current IDs. For free screenings, tickets must still be acquired from the box office. Further information, including a downloadable program for the festival, is available from the Cinema St Louis Qfest website.