When seeking civility in the increasingly lawless frontier of Hillsboro Village, it's difficult to imagine that a glass door can be all that separates you from the drunken sexual harassment of soused Vandy undergrads proliferating on 21st Avenue. But just inside the Belcourt Theatre last weekend was an oasis of respectability, sexual equality and fabulousness in heaping portions of all three. The Second Annual Nashville Gay & Lesbian Film Festival's opening night was almost shockingly calm; the potential for protestors and shock went unrealized, and what lingers from this event is the idea that Nashville's GLBT community has both found itself and been found.
"I go," said Christopher D., a striking twentysomething, "because it's a refreshing sabbatical from what the rest of Nashville thinks of as gay subculturenightclubs where negative stereotypes abound and intellectual depth is never a prerequisite." The only prerequisite for the NGLFF is a social impulse and an interest in film. And, thanks to a couple of gracious stars of the opening night feature (a viciously funny and scabrous indie called Eating Out), a little tendency toward stargazing doesn't hurt either. The presence of an initial American Idol contestant created ripples in the social tidepool, certainly.
The Belcourt is a fascinating place to people watch under normal circumstances (any of the International Film Series presentations, Indian movie Sundays, Titans games), but when there are special events like this, it's even more so. It's utterly refreshing to see couples of all kinds coexisting in big numbers, dealing with what to have for dinner after the film, making calls to babysitters, and all the usual things that people do when they go out. Gay, straight, bi, transall present. The only labels people mentioned were on the abundant tight jeans (though the shoes were casualmore so than you would expect). Sipping cosmopolitans and talking to attendees, it was evident that gay and lesbian film festivals can be enjoyable for everyone. Since all the films had GLBT themes, queerness itself was a non-issue. And when all of society's collective problems with sexual minorities aren't dragging everyone down, the end result is breezy and fun.
There was a weird, alien feeling omnipresent during the opening night festivities. It wasn't until after the first short film that I realized what I was feeling was...respectable. Can it be that Nashville is taking its GLBT community for granted?
For contrast to all this subdued pleasantry, I decided I had to come back for the super controversial Bruce LaBruce epic The Raspberry Reich. LaBruce is a Canadian provocateur who makes interesting films about sex and politics, and his past two efforts have been made with the repertory company of Germany's Cazzo Studios (hot guys for days, you should know). First sign this was going to be good: the bar had to close early because of liquor laws. When society feels that the content of a film is so shocking that the addition of alcohol would result in the collapse of civilized discourse, then said film deserves at least a cursory viewing. Second sign this was going to be good: the people in line in front of me were embarrassed to specify the film they wanted to see when they bought their tickets. A good rule of thumb: if a movie is dirty enough that people don't feel comfortable mentioning it by name, then it's worth your attention.
"Bruce LaBruce is an important figure in gay filmmaking," Christopher D. said. "He continually advances our understanding and relationship with sex and the sociopolitical world around us, and provides a satirical narrative." And after seeing the film, I can say, "and how." When Nashvillians go to naughty films, everyone is very focused and on edge before the film starts. To compensate for this, many of them become overly gregarious, which can be highly amusing.
"How is the film?" one patron asked the box office attendant. "Very political and very dirty" was the response. Which is certainly the way to be, at least this election season. For the time being, it's back to the real world, where sex and politics get in the way of everything, rather than playing nice for a few days. Like they did at the Belcourt last weekend.