Overall Rating for this Program: ★★★★☆, CRITIC’S PICK
The program kicks off with Greetings from Washington, D.C. (★★★★☆), featuring a diverse range of interviews with attendees of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian Gay Rights in 1979.
Captured by Rob Epstein, Frances Reid, Greta Schiller, and Lucy Winer, the documentary spotlights activists from all walks of life — among them a lesbian clown named Prosciutto — who helped catalyze LGBTQ rights. Above all, the participants of the historic event capture a tangible — and radical — sense of joy, optimism, and self-acceptance.
With LGBTQ rights currently under attack in schools and legislatures nationwide, and with today’s protests often seeming reactive, Greetings from Washington, D.C. — and its humorous lines like “You don’t like my preferences? More power to you, you don’t pay my bills” — could not come at a better moment.
The most radical thing about the next film in the cluster, The Proof is in the Pudding (★★★☆☆), is that it showcases lesbian sex, though this, of course, should not be radical in 2023.
Written and directed by Suçon,the film stars Milly (Faye Darling) and Lise (Mia Nitrile), former classmates who — double entendre incoming — bake a cake after being invited to a birthday party, where the only “products of animal origin” they’re allowed to bring are themselves and “the bacteria that colonize” their bodies.
Picturesque and powerful, The Proof is in the Pudding shows the duality of woman as animal and goddess, but ultimately tries too hard to eat its gâteau and have it too. That is to say, it does not clearly establish its belonging with the rest of the films.
Sobre Elas (★★★★☆), too, highlights the multitudinousness of women, narrating the stories of three women who are disrupting barriers: a trans skater, a disabled surfer, and a professional wrestler who had been abused by her partner.
The mini-documentary, directed by Bruna Arcangelo, manages to accomplish a lot in a baker’s dozen of minutes, offering rich and memorable insights into its characters’ identities.
At the same time, Arcangelo makes sure that her starring women are not defined by their defiance; toward the end of the short, one character delivers the iconic line, “Gender is falling apart, but there’s still much to talk about it before it disappears.” Watch Sobre Elas for a slice of that conversation.
The next and last film in the package, Surviving Voices: AIDS Memorial Quilt Panel Makers (★★★★★), masterfully tells the story of the stories behind the stories of more than 100,000 lives lost to AIDS.
In other words, director Jörg Fockele recounts how parents, partners, and more channeled their grief into collaboratively weaving together a manifestation of the toll of the AIDS pandemic.
Through moving interviews, the documentary chronicles the project’s growth from an idea born in 1987 at an annual tribute to San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk to 48,000 panels evoking love, courage, and hope.
Surviving Voices affirms that the personal is the political, as well as reminds us that the AIDS pandemic is both a fabric of the American story and very much alive today.
Radical Shorts plays exclusively in the Virtual Festival through Oct. 29.
Reel Affirmations 2023 includes the Virtual Film Festival, providing online access to 43 films for those film lovers who cannot attend the festival in person, with a viewing window from Oct. 23 to 29.
Browse the full Virtual Festival catalog here.
Buy Virtual Festival passes here.
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