Sex, diversity and a kick in the head

This year's LGBT Film Festival offers an unusually evocative choice of subjects

Greg Corradini

The Bush administration is back by popular demand.

But don’t let anyone convince you the losers in this year’s election are the Democrats. The losers are still the marginalized communities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who never had the full support of either political party.

There is no better time than this week for the 15th Annual Minneapolis/St.Paul LGBT Film Festival, a weeklong

showing of more than 30 short and feature films from the queer community. While the films serve as a forum for much-needed LGBT representation in the cinema, the festival’s curator, Dean Otto, said there are still a lot of people to reach in light of President George W. Bush’s win.

“We have a whole lot of work to do getting the word out and changing people’s minds about our community,” Otto said. “More festivals and more organizations are using film to open up discussions.”

But with a new Republican Congress expecting to tip the legislative balance on issues such as gay marriage, the struggle for LGBT rights seems closer to being muffled.

“Any kind of rigid culture makes the people in the underground stronger,” Otto said. “It gives them something to fight against.”

In the world of media representation, fighting and filmmaking go hand in hand. And so the best metaphors for the struggle ahead might be found onscreen.

Take “Beautiful Boxer,” one of two new films from Thailand in this year’s festival.

The film recounts the life of Nong Toom, Thailand’s famous transsexual kick boxer, before he made a full transition to being a woman. The more make-up Toom wears into the ring for his fights, the more his male opponents despise him and the media distorts his image. Regardless, Toom dropkicks his opponents into accepting his imminent transition whether they like it or not, a lethal example of what fighting back entails.

Bring it on.

MUST-SEE FILMS:

“Wild Side”

7:30 p.m. Saturday and

9:30 p.m. Monday, Oak Street Cinema

Family is what you make of it in this story about a transsexual sex worker and her two lovers. Renowned cinematographer Agnes Godard, who shot “Wings of Desire,” also shoots this lyrically stunning film set

in France. Shifting its focus from the hustling streets of Paris, the film follows the intense relationship these outsiders form in their quest for family.

“The Adventures of Iron Pussy”

11:45 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oak Street Cinema

Heavily mixing the genres of kung-fu, spy adventure, melodrama and musical, “Iron Pussy” is definitely an under-the-radar Thai classic. There is only one transsexual private dick to call when the Thai government needs help tracking potential terrorist funds. Meet Iron Pussy, no mere Pink Panther, but a store clerk who finds time in her hectic schedule to moonlight as a talented singer. The ideal woman indeed.

PANEL DISCUSSION:

“Fast Forward: The Future of (New) Queer Cinema”

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oak Street Cinema

Not only a celebration of film, this year’s festival will also include a panel discussion about where the afterlife of queer film rests and who is its intended audience.

Otto said organizing the panel was a way of working out his frustration with the festival model.

“By showing these films, are we just preaching to (the) converted?” Otto said. “Or should we be presenting some more challenging views of our community as well?”

Among others, the panelists will include Otto, Hugh Wronski, of Landmark Theatres, and Emily Goldberg, the director of the famed documentary “Venus of Mars.”

15th Annual Minneapolis/St. Paul LGBT Film Festival

When: today through Nov. 18

Where: Oak Street Cinema

Cost: $8 general admission, $7 students and seniors, $30 five-film pass

info: For a full festival schedule, visit www.mnfilmarts.org.