Orange County LGBT Pride Parade and Festival returns to Downtown Santa Ana Saturday, June 24! The Frida Cinema is turning over both of our auditoriums to this exciting annual community event, with panel discussion series PRIDE SPEAKS in one of our rooms, and in the other, a series of films showcasing and celebrating some of cinema’s most celebrated LGBT icons – the latest one of which came rather unexpectedly…
MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO – Gus Van Sant, 1991
With uncompromising, sexually graphic LGBT films like Blue is the Warmest Color, Shortbus, and The Handmaiden now widely-seen films that are no longer consider under-the-radar provocateur art, it’s hard to imagine that twenty-five years ago, Gus Van Sant’s queer reimagining of “Shakespeare’s IV, Parts I & II” would be so controversial. Long before the film was released to critical acclaim, the film raised eyebrows with its casting of then up-and-coming youngsters River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as, respectfully, a gay hustler and his “gay for pay,” but otherwise straight, companion and love interest. Seen by many as Van Sant’s greatest work, My Own Private Idaho finds its actors and director working at the peak of their careers, and delving into a weird, sympathetic, and beautiful piece of cinema that must be experienced by all film lovers alike. Notable for a heart-wrenching – and mostly improvised – fireside confession of love that, for many young LGBT audience members of the era, was the first expression of romantic love by a man for another man they’d seen on the big screen.
FEMALE TROUBLE – John Waters, 1974
Most conversations about pioneers of LGBT cinema start with John Waters – and whereas he did have his predecessors, it’s safe to say no one made quite as much of a splash (pun firmly intended…). The same could be said his muse Divine, the the De Niro to his Scorsese, the Messina to his Fellini, the Mifune to his Kurosawa – and everything in between. Bad taste is John Waters’ middle name, and Female Trouble finds the director working well within his wheelhouse. Disgusting! Shocking! Wicked! These describe Waters’ films of course, but the same could be said for the iconic Divine. Born Harris Glenn Milstead, the towering figure that was Divine starred in six of Waters’ films, and went on to a career that included disco albums, modeling, and television and film work as assorted unsavory characters – and not all of them in drag. But it was in the films of Waters that the duo seemed mutually determined in finding the beauty in the bizarre, the strange and unexpected grace in the absurd, and in Female Trouble, the strange phenomenon of finding yourself rooting for characters who might be the most repulsive, self-interested, and monstrous you’ve ever seen – if only they weren’t so funny!
AS ONE – OC LGBT Pride, 2017
At 7pm, join us as we present a new documentary film showcasing interviews with dozens of Santa Ana and neighboring communities that were asked one simple question by OC Pride Marketing Director Andy Connor: “What does Pride mean to you?” Featuring many familiar faces sharing their experiences, As One was filmed right inside The Frida Cinema over the last three months by director Richard Guzman and producers Andy Conner and Bryan Terry, and celebrates some of the many faces, stories, perspectives, and dreams within our vast and eclectic LGBT community. We are proud to present this work of local LGBT independent documentary cinema as part of this free presentation of films celebrating LGBT icons.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH – John Cameron Mitchell, 2001
Since perhaps the game-changing 1975 cult phenomenon The Rocky Horror Picture Show or criminally-unseen 1969 Japanese New Wave masterpiece Funeral Parade of Roses, there hadn’t been a film that celebrated personal expression and freedom better than John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and The Angry Inch – not until, perhaps, Cameron’s own follow-up, Shortbus. The comparisons to other musicals that speak to the LGBT experience are surely worn by now, but there is something uniquely magical about Mitchell’s poignant, 95-minute fable. It’s that rare film that seems to speak to every person who experiences it – yet seems to communicate something different to each one. You may exit the film feeling like you need to go out and find your missing half; you may exit the film feeling like you’ve spent too much of your life seeking that missing half entirely. A rollicking, laugh-a-second riot that slowly reveals itself to be both a mirror and a call-to-action, the film gives us one of LGBT cinema’s most formidable, inspiring, beautiful, and complex characters – and one heck of a soundtrack too.
BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER – Jamie Babbit, 10pm
Released in 2000 after making a midnight-movie splash at Sundance, But I’m A Cheerleader is that rarest of zany, colorful, and gleefully irreverent comedies that looks and feels like an offbeat cult classic, but as its heart is a genuine, soulful, and poignant LGBT coming-of-age story. Babbit’s tale introduced filmgoers to one of LGBT cinema’s greatest teen icons Megan (Natasha Lyonne), a virginal blonde who considers herself a typical American girl, excelling at school, dating the handsome football player, and – yes – cheerleading for the home team. Wrestling with her frustrating lack of sexual interest in her boyfriend, and completely naive to the concept that she might not be altogether heterosexual, she is stunned when her parents decide she’s gay and send her to True Directions, a boot camp meant to alter her sexual orientation. While there, Megan meets a rebellious and unashamed teen lesbian, Graham (Clea DuVall), for whom she soon starts to have surprisingly strong feelings. A sweet and wholly romantic comedy/drama with final moments that reinvent the familiar An Officer and a Gentleman/Pretty Woman climax for a new age of LGBT indie cinema.
THE BABADOOK – Jennifer Kent, 2014
Talk about your unexpected LGBT icons… If cheerleaders and love stories isn’t your thing, we will also be screening one of the most critically-acclaimed, award-winning, and terrifying horror films of the new millennium, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. A story about a recently widowed mother who is struggling to keep her emotionally distraught young son in order while also dealing with her own crippling depression – only to find herself dealing with the new and altogether sinister presence of a dark figure haunting their quiet home – The Babadook is a surprising source for LGBT’s latest overnight icon sensation. How did it happen? Blame the internet – Netflix accidentally listed it under their LGBT Films category, and the rest is history. People noticed, memes were created, and a star was born. And then things got really interesting when film and culture theorists started writing articles suggesting that The Babadook, and its themes of unchecked trauma bubbling up to the surface and manifesting itself in destructive ways, might be a valid and justifiable film to speak to LGBT themes after all.