Reel Affirmations 2008
Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/19/2008, 11:00 AM
Shorts presentation, $10 at AFI Silver
Romanian with English subtitles
WHEN CHIP & OVI () opens, our first impression is that we have cute couple. It’s also our last impression. In between, however, we learn of physical disability, psychological scars and tragedies.
Chip and Ovi are young lovers who met years earlier at a Romanian orphanage for disabled children. Chip was born missing half his right leg, while Ovi’s arms are not fully developed. They are birth defects that initially illicit a reflex of discomfort from most, a fear that the cosmic lottery can be cruel and we could be in Chip’s or Ovi’s situations just as easily as they are.
It takes far fewer than the film’s 45 minutes, however, to move through those emotions and simply start relating to Chip and Ovi personally. What separates these two from most audience members is not that they are differently abled, but that their sense of convention makes it a foregone conclusion that they will both, at some point, marry women and have children. In Romania, apparently, it’s still just what’s done. We’re rooting for Chip and Ovi to live happily ever after together, and it’s hard to stomach that at some point, they both plan to willingly bury their romantic relationship.
It would be hard to find another documentary that allows us such an intimate look into gay lives so far removed from most Americans. Technically, it would be helped by more subtitling. Chip speaks decent English throughout — right down to his hilarious attempt at a Texas accent — while Ovi’s better in Romanian. In English, Ovi gets by with, ”You like? This is house,” or, ”It’s good. This is life.” With the help of subtitles, we actually get to read his more worthwhile sentiments. ”I don’t hate my mother at all,” he says in Romanian when asked about being abandoned. ”She hates me.”
Chip, in English, delivers what may be the most telling and heartbreaking observation on the state of their relationship and its eventual dissolution: ”We don’t know how to offer much love, because we never had parents.”
With Loree Erickson’s Want (), on the other hand, we can put away the Kleenex. Asserting herself as ”queer crip” or ”femmegimp,” Erickson invites us into her world for quick peek at a woman who laments, ”I’m tired of your able-ist standards of beauty keeping me from getting as much action as I want…. I want to be recognized not only as a good friend, but a good fuck.”
Graphically, she shows the world just that — she is not to be pitied; she is to be laid. The point is underscored knowing that Want is not a film made about Erickson, but by Erickson.