Festival Screens Sapphic Flicks

Festival Screens Sapphic Flicks

A fledging social endeavor has become a noted cinematic endeavor organized by lesbians

Lesbian cinephiles, get your tickets now for “Lesbian Film Fest 2004.”

This weekend, April 23-25, New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center opens up its third floor Lerner Auditorium to three full days of parties, panels, and films about lesbian life and love.

Lesbian Cinema Arts co-chairs Dorothy Leung and Lisa Lipkind, with the help of a board of eight, have seen their five-year plan become a reality in only two years. The board culled through the 30 films submitted, rating them on quality, content, and lesbian themes, to come up with six panels of feature films, shorts, documentaries, and experimental films. The judges have also had the good fortune to have, among their many sponsors, The New York Times.

Not bad for their second year, Leung conceded.

“We have sometimes stumbled, but we have never fallen,” she said with a good-natured laugh. Leung recalled how her involvement with the project began in November 2000.

“I had come to Lesbian Film Night at the old Community Center, and the staff member in charge ran the film backward,” she said. “She was so frustrated, she said, ‘I’m having a committee meeting. Anyone who wants to do this should come.’”

“Lisa and I were the only two that showed up,” said Leung, “so the woman handed us the materials and said goodbye. We were on the same wavelength with what we wanted to do, so we sat for three hours, put together a mission statement, and wondered if the Center would take it seriously. They have.”

Leung and Lipkind changed the group’s name, recruited volunteers, including some in the film industry, and began holding movie nights, usually on the fourth Friday of the month.

“Dorothy and I met and shared a vision, and have been very consistent in furthering that vision,” said Lipkind.

“In 2001, we decided we’d like to have a film festival. We looked at a five-year plan, but after we presented it to the committee, we said this is viable, we can do this,” Leung recalled. “We put it together with the help of the administrative staff at the Center, and wound up with 400 people attending six sessions. It was totally awesome that we were able to pull it off. We didn’t know what our limitations were, but we realized that there weren’t any!”

Leung anticipates this year’s event will attract even more attention. The festival kicks off on Friday with a cocktail party and live performance of Lesbian Pulp-o-Rama’s “Reformatory Girls” by On the Verge Theater, one of the festival’s sponsors. An evening of shorts follows, including a screening of Jenny Rogers’ experimental film “Trick Saddle,” an underwater cowgirl ballet in the tradition of the films of Sam Peckinpah (“Straw Dogs,” “The Wild Bunch”).

“When I saw ‘Trick Saddle’ initially, I thought, what a wonderful expression of women!” said Leung.

Also in that session are segments from the monthly TV newsmagazine “In the Life,” another sponsor, and a screening of “Wave Babes,” a campy, 1940s-style surfing movie that Lipkind described as “very tongue-in-cheek.” This is one of two pieces in the festival by producer Georgia Ragsdale. The other is “Knock ‘Em Dead,” a lesbian boxing film.

Saturday kicks off with the critically acclaimed short, “D.E.B.S.,” featuring “Popular” star Tammy Lynne Michaels and Clare Kramer of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The word in Hollywood is that the short, about four sly schoolgirls turned crime fighters, is being developed into a major motion picture.

That afternoon, festival sponsor Women Make Movies—a group that helps fund aspiring women filmmakers, and who Leung says helps the Lesbian Cinema Arts program obtain quality screeners—hosts a session of four films. Among them is “Black Sheep,” a short from Western Australia about an aboriginal lesbian dealing with racism and sexism to find her identity.

Another favorite with both Leung and Lipkind is “Toothbrush Tango,” a tale of a Don Juana who measures her prowess in the guest toothbrushes stored under her sink.

For aspiring filmmakers and those with an interest in the industry, Saturday evening features a filmmakers panel organized by board member Kate Fitzgerald, bringing together filmmakers, actors and industry professionals.

The night wraps up with the feature film, “Prey for Rock & Roll” starring Gina Gershon, Lori Petty, and Drea de Matteo.

Sunday marks the final two rounds of shorts, with screenings including Melanie La Rosa’s short “Risk,” an opposites-attract story about two women who find love on the ferry and take risks to pursue it; and “Butch Mystique,” which Lipkind described as “candid talk about the continuum of sexuality.”

“I loved ‘Butch Mystique’ because it is a well-produced piece from an African American perspective and we just don’t get enough of them,” Lipkind added.

Leung said that at each session, they will raffle off T-shirts, Center memberships, LCA passes for 2004/2005, and DVDs provided by sponsor Power UP, a professional group for lesbians in the entertainment industry.

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