Cutting room 

Cutting room

Cutting room

Pride of Ownership

About a decade ago, when I went to see a special screening of Prick Up Your Ears at the Sarratt Cinema, gay-themed movies were such a rarity in Nashville theaters that when I bumped into a high-school friend in the lobby, she hemmed and hawed for several uncomfortable minutes before asking if I were “out.” It’s no big deal now to see Beautiful Thing or When Night Is Falling at a local theater with a large audience of both gay and straight viewers. The popularity of these and other movies with little or no advertising hasn’t been lost on local theater chains—well, not on Carmike, anyway. (Where art movies are concerned, Regal Cinemas still pretty much has its head up its projector.)

But Nashville still gets only the mainstream front of “queer cinema”—not the striking experimental shorts, nor the topical documentaries, nor features beyond a handful of established distributors. Don’t hold your breath waiting for All Over Me, Female Perversions, The Watermelon Woman, or any of a dozen other recent releases to come to town. The programming of gay-themed films is largely left to chains whose interest in movies stops at the popcorn counter.

Which is exactly why we need the 1997 Pride Film Festival, currently under way at the Sarratt Cinema through Saturday. A benefit that helps finance local Pride Week celebrations every year, the Pride Film Festival brings in movies and short subjects that would never be shown in Nashville otherwise. Previous festivals have introduced local viewers to the work of such filmmakers as Marlon Riggs and Sadie Benning, and this year’s five-day festival, under the supervision of chairman Deidre Duker, is the most ambitious yet: 18 films, most of which have never been shown before locally.

The festival started Tuesday night with a diverse lineup. Sonja de Vries’ Gay Cuba, a documentary about the treatment of gays in Castro’s Cuba, was paired with Pratibha Parmer’s “Jodie: An Icon,” a film about why lesbians look up to and lust after Jodie Foster. Mark Christopher’s “The Dead Boys Club,” about a youth who comes out after slipping on a pair of disco shoes, shared the bill with Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams’ Shinjuku Boys, an acclaimed documentary about a Japanese club where women dressed as men romance straight women. (If you missed them, all four films will be screened once more on Saturday starting at 2:30 p.m.)

Each of the remaining nights is at least worth a look. Thursday’s main attractions are Forbidden Love (7:30 p.m.), a documentary that juxtaposes stories of “lesbian sexuality and survival in the 1950s and ’60s” with gay pulp fiction, confidential mags, and vintage photos; and Anne Claire Poirier’s Salut Victor (9:30 p.m.), in which romance blossoms in a retirement home between two men. But Duker cites the short film “America the Beautiful,” a passionate embrace staged by filmmaker Tag Purvis, as one of her favorites. It precedes Forbidden Love at 7:30 p.m.

Friday night brings the first local showing of It’s in the Water, a gender-bending indie comedy by first-time director Kelli Herd about same-sex couples fending off bigoted locals in a small Texas town. The 7:30 p.m. screening is followed at 9:30 by a walk on the wild side: a program of short films about piercing (“Stigmata”) and B&D (“Leather”), along with Homo Promo, a montage of movie trailers for gay and lesbian movies from 1956 to 1976.

“We’ve got everything covered, from parenting to piercing,” jokes Duker, a freelance Nashville film and video producer chairing the event for the first time. She’s especially proud of the presence of Southern filmmakers such as Kelli Herd and Tag Purvis. Selections were discovered through recommendations, magazines, and the San Francisco distributor Frameline, which supplies films to the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

The 1997 Pride Film Festival’s cost was borne by the Middle Tennessee Pride Committee and a roster of sponsors, including Nashville director/cinematographer Armanda Costanza, Hometown Productions, Pangaea, Hands On Productions, White Way Antique Mall, and several other individuals and businesses. They’re all listed on the program, and they all deserve thanks. For a complete schedule, call Sarratt at 322-2425.

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