Information: 323-4274 runs Oct. 19-25 at Cinerama, Egyptian, Little Theatre, and Pound Gallery

WADING THROUGH ubiquitously naked backsides,


Beyond the flesh


Information: 323-4274 runs Oct. 19-25 at Cinerama, Egyptian, Little Theatre, and Pound Gallery

WADING THROUGH ubiquitously naked backsides, gratuitous nipples, and sometimes taxing cinematic earnestness, Kirsten Schaffer and Justine Barda have been co-directors for the last four editions of the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Their shrewd attentiveness has been crucial to shaping the ever more adventurous quality of the weeklong event, where at least 10,000 moviegoers will sort through over 100 titles (including shorts, features, and documentaries). Together, Schaffer and Barda have managed to sandwich thoughtful offerings between the bare-assed breadwinners. This year, the duo explained in a recent interview, the fest is focusing less on uncomplicated pride than on the frustrating ambiguities of being queer and trying to love and live in a troubled world.

Seattle Weekly: What's changed about the gay film scene in the last six years?

Kirsten Schaffer: This actually is the first year when I haven't had a hard time finding films for lesbians, which is remarkable. We're opening with a film with lesbian characters for the first time ever [Bob Gosse's Julie Johnson, with Lili Taylor and Courtney Love].

Now that more gay movies have theatrical distribution, is it harder to get films for the festival?

Justine Barda: Well, in some ways it frees us up to do other things with our programming. We're not obliged to show every single gay romantic comedy that comes down the pike because we know that they will get seen somewhere, so we can do more experimental programming.

Is a film with no queer content made by a queer filmmaker quote-unquote gay?

K.S.: Sometimes. If a well-known queer filmmaker makes a film without any queer content, we think that a queer audience wants to see what that filmmaker's up to, so it's worthwhile to show that film.

J.B.: And also, I think, that filmmaker's sensibility will affect whatever they do, whether it's gay subject matter or not.

How do you balance between what you think your audiences want to see and what you think they should see?

K.S.: I actually think that a programmer's job is to show things that audiences think they want to see. Audiences tend to buy tickets for films made for men with naked bodies in them. So that is half of our job. And the other half of our job is to push them, to show stuff that they're not sure they're ready for but in 10 years is going to be classic. Audiences weren't ready to see John Waters' films in '75, and now they flock to them and it's regular fare. The Barbara Hammer film, History Lessons [playing in this year's festival]—for years people have sort of shied away from her films, and this, I think, is actually the most accessible of her films, and I feel like it's the one that's going to get that lesbian audience in. And they're going to realize that experimental films [are] not that bad.

How difficult has it been to cater to the particular tastes of both gay men and gay women?

J.B.: Well, we don't always have the Ten Great Lesbian Films, because those films aren't getting made in the same profusion that the gay-boy-naked-body films are getting made. So sometimes it's about being creative with our programming for women, and sometimes it's about taking risks. We know that the boy films are our most solid sellers—does that mean that we should never open the festival with a women's film? No. But it is a risk.

K.S.: Every year we will put a couple films into the Egyptian that we know aren't going to sell out—but we think it's important to have a strong women's presence and so we do it. And hopefully, in 20 years, [more lesbians] are going to come. Which is what's happened at the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. They just keep putting [lesbian films] in the Castro [Theater] and finally the girls are showing up. But it's taken years and years to cultivate that audience.

What's the main thing you wanted to do with this year's festival?

K.S.: I want to show films that have moved me emotionally or have caused me to think about the world in a new way. But I've felt that way for six years. That's what makes me want to program, is to find those films that are somehow life affecting and, in the best case, life changing.


Allow yourself a guilty pleasure. My choice: Second Skin (Segunda Piel), a big, sopping, sensual love triangle-a Spanish Making Love about a closeted married man, his beautiful wife, and his male lover (Before Night Falls' Javier Bardem. Mmmmmmmmm). It's slick, monotonous, and melodramatic, and people say things like, "You know what I'd like? Just to lose ourselves, far away from all this." I loved it. 7:15 p.m. Sun., Oct. 21. Cinerama.

Freely admit to the flesh. Don't pretend you're above the booty. A good way to see butt without shame: homoerotic photographer Bruce Weber's documentary self-portrait Chop Suey, filled with dreamy nude gambolings but actually more interesting when exploring his other obsessions (particularly cult lesbian jazz chanteuse Frances Faye). 7:15 p.m. Sat., Oct. 20. Cinerama.

Cine-oke! Cine-oke! Cine-oke! Say what you will, Butch, but karaoke is the surest way to glimpse someone's soul, and this afternoon of fanatics performing along with their favorite movie musical scenes is a chance to view gay spirits in action. 4:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 20. Egyptian.

Select at least one shorts program. Short films are usually among the fest's gems. I'd try the Trans Am program, if only for No Dumb Questions, Melissa Regan's sweet, no-punches-pulled doc about three precocious sisters trying to accept the fact that their uncle has become their aunt. 9 p.m. Sun., Oct. 21. Little Theatre.

Take chances with a documentary. Don't go for the obvious. Without having seen the highly touted Trembling Before G-d, I did view, and can heartily recommend It Will End Up in Tears (Ze Igamer Bebechi), a quietly complex look at a supportive Israeli family troubled by a daughter's homosexuality. 5:30 p.m. Mon., Oct. 22. Little Theatre.

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