The Fargo Theatre’s big screen is going gay for the weekend of Sept. 12 and 13 for the 6th Annual Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival.
This year, 14 shorts and feature length films will be screened. Prepare for a couple days of heart-melting love stories, queer quests, Hawaiian transgender culture tales, eye-opening educational experiences and Sundance-awarded lesbian hooker adventures. You’ll laugh, slap your knee, pump your fist, cry, shout and, perhaps most importantly, be inspired.
Remember, all are welcome! The films contain numerous universal themes applicable to all walks of life. Visit facebook.com/FMLGBTFF for trailers to the films and fmlgbtff.com for the full program.
High Plains Reader interviewed four directors from four different films, including the festival’s three feature lengths.
“The Foxy Merkins,” a comedy about two lesbian hookers, is the main headlining feature film of the festival. It was screened at Sundance, Moscow International Film Festival, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, among other prestigious gatherings. The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair and The Village Voice have also reviewed it.
“We think people in Fargo will especially enjoy this, I decided,” director Madeleine Olnek said. “Even though the events are crazy, the rendering of them is in an a believable fashion, we hope.”
As a director, Olnek said she’s really into absurd humor, hence naming the movie after the nickname of a vagina toupee, a.k.a. a merkin. After all, merkins are as foxy as it gets.
“I hope to raise awareness. The thing about my films, they serve very educational purposes,” Olnek joked. “It’ll drive up the merkin sales for the merkin manufacturers, some of the whom have struggled to support their families. Now they’ll have a better income.”
The idea for the film is entertaining because of the character set up, where one is straight and great at picking up women and the other is lesbian struggles with it. So it leads to a unique relationship between the two, and of course an ongoing series of hilarious and absurd events.
“It’s worth watching,” Olnek said. “Please leave your Fargo homes. It may be the only chance you have to see a lesbian hooker comedy in theaters.”
“Kumu Hina” is Friday’s feature length documentary film about a native Hawaiian transgender woman, Hina Wong-Kalu, who is a compassionate, powerful and respected teacher of her native cultural traditions.
Director Dean Hamer, also a best selling author and geneticist, said he was compelled to tell Wong-Kalu’s story not just because of her unique role as a cultural director and practitioner, but also because of her uncommon marriage to Tongan man.
“What’s great about having this film be a love story is that it shows that, despite those differences and despite the different theme it has for most people, there still is this universal story of seeking love,” Hamer said. “Everybody wants somebody to love and respect them and to know them and so that’s sort of a universal story on top of a very different culture.”
The story also puts the spotlight on a boyish young girl that is training, with Wong-Kalu, to be leader among a group of men. Hamer said the girl’s story is inspiring and compelling in its own right.
“For the story of this young girl, it’s a classic story of overcoming adversity and triumphing against god,” Hamer said.
Overall, audience members will sense that the film is about “love, honor and respect for everybody,” what Wong-Kalu calls the true meaning of aloha. It’s a theme we can all relate to.
“Usually transgender films tend to be kind of negative and deal with all the problems and issues that people have,” Hamer said. “And we see this film as more of a positive view, a view of society where transgender people are really respected and revered.”
Actor, director, writer and producer Michelle Ehlen stars in her own film “Heterosexual Jill” about a self-proclaimed ex-lesbian that re-dates her ex-lover only to prove she’s not attracted to her anymore.
Ehlen, as multi-role professional, said while writing, directing and acting in her own films may seem like a lot to juggle, it has allowed her to work in unique ways.
“As a director, I like capturing spontaneous moments with the actors,” she said. “And so when I act I just give myself permission to be in the moment and do what feels natural and so I don’t feel like that’s too much of a compromise.”
So how exactly does a lesbian muster up the will to date an “ex-lesbian ex”?
“It basically boils down to the character’s motivations and showing the character’s traits in a ways that we believe it,” Ehlen said. “For example, Jill is desperate enough to try it and I think Jamie, the woman who agrees to date her, feels guilty enough because they have a past together where Jamie and Jill used to date when Jill thought Jamie was a man.”
Creating great chemistry between Jill and Jamie is perhaps what was most important to Ehlen.
“I don’t think this is giving away too much, but (audiences) say they enjoy watching them fall in love on screen, which is something you don’t see a lot because it’s not an easy thing to portray.”
Those who enjoy Ehlen’s films and characters can look forward to “S&M Sally,” which will be released early next year. The movie will contain most of the same characters with a brand new premise.
While the LGBT community is continuing to make great strides in the United States, film producer and co-director Stephanie Lincoln said some countries around the world seem to be making backward strides.
“City of the Damned,” in particular, explores the extreme anti-gay culture of Uganda, where government has passed legislation that criminalizes and punishes people for being gay.
“It’s easy for us to look at another country and just see what’s going on there, but it’s not so easy to understand what people are going through. So we wanted to give the film a Ugandan perspective,” Lincoln said.
Part of getting the culture’s perspective meant interviewing everyday Ugandans on the streets.
“We received shocking reactions that we didn’t expect,” Lincoln said. “Some people thought that homosexuals should be killed and burned and hanged and destroyed – that was the majority of the reactions. And then some people thought they should be counseled not to be gay. No one really said that it’s OK and they should be just left alone because it’s their own personal lifestyle.”
The movie also follows an openly gay Ugandan who stands up for what he believes in despite the high risks involved.
“It’s important to understand the perspective of those in the homosexual community in Uganda and the straight community as well,” Lincoln said. “We have to look at it from a Ugandan cultural perspective and I think once we understand their culture and their community, it’ll make it easier for us to affect change over there too.
Fri, Sept. 12, 8 p.m.
Out Smart (10 min), One More Night (9 min), Foreign Relations (25 min) and Kumu Hina (1:14)
Sat, Sept. 13, 3 p.m.
Sibling Rivalry (8 min), Angie & Jackie Final Cut (12 min), It’s Consuming Me (3 min), In My Skin (18 min), Heterosexual Jill (1:20)
Sat, Sept 13, 8 p.m.
The Album (14 min), Teagan (3 min), Brace (24 min), City of the Damned (15min), The Foxy Merkins (1:30)
IF YOU GO:
FM LGBT Film Festival
Fri and Sat, Sept 12 & 13
Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway
September 24th 2023
September 21st 2023
September 17th 2023
September 3rd 2023
August 27th 2023
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