Sugar Reel Affirmations 13: Washington DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Date: Saturday, 10/16/2004
Time: 11:00 pm

Venue: Lincoln Theatre
Tickets: $9 (buy online now)

Type: Feature presentation

Metro Weekly Rating: (4 out of 5)

by Randy Shulman

ACCORDING TO THE Internet Movie Database, John Palmer directed only one film before 2004's Sugar -- 1974's Me. The question you have to ask is: where has he been for 30 years?


Sugar is a fairly potent piece of work -- despite the typical ups and downs associated with a low-budget filmmaking. Based on the "J.D." series of short stories by Bruce La Bruce, Sugar is the gangly, loose-limbed story of an 18-year-old suburban youth named Cliff (the promising Andre Noble, who died last summer during a hiking trip) who becomes enamored with an inner-city hustler named Butch (Roswell teen dream Brendan Fehr, who, here, is both remarkable and remarkably brave).

The movie has moments of extreme sordidness (Butch pleasures a grossly overweight invalid woman, and virtually no detail is spared), and tempers its eroticism with a few harrowing, brutal sequences of carnal discomfort. It is, to be sure, one of the only movies in which you will ever see two young men masturbate together at a breakfast table, while enjoying their Corn Flakes. The movie is steeped in odd little curiosities, not the least of which being Cliff's enlightened eight year old sister, who is all-too-happy to supply a joint to anyone who asks.


Sugar evokes the gritty, bracing verite of Larry Clark's Kids and Hector Babenco's gripping 1981 masterwork, Pixote, but it lacks the narrative momentum to carry itself through to a satisfying conclusion. The movie's final half-hour feels forced and obvious.

There probably isn't a gay man alive who in his younger days wasn't drawn to a liaison with dangerous underpinnings. In youth, we can't see past the sugar coating of our own devising -- all we can see is the excitement, the possibility of what's out there. With age, comes the reality -- the horror, the degradation, the brutality. Sugar captures both, magnificently.

More information

Film Links:
· Reel Affirmations details
· Official film site
· Internet Movie Database
· Rotten Tomatoes

Festival Venue:
Lincoln Theatre
1215 U Street, NW; Washington, DC 20009. (202) 328-6000. (map)
Directly across from Green Line Metro / U Street-Cardozo station.

You may buy your tickets or passes in advance: Online at or by phone at (800) 494-TIXS (494-8497). Or you may visit the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U Street, NW, WDC); the DCJCC (1529 16th Street, NW, WDC); Lambda Rising (1625 Connecticut Avenue, NW, WDC); or Universal Gear (1601 17th Street, NW, WDC).

For more info visit the official Reel Affirmations website.