By Hans Pedersen, Oct. 9, 2014.
Throughout the past 14 years, the Scottsdale International Film Festival has grown into one of the biggest film festivals in Arizona.
This year, more than 55 movies – including foreign films from more than 30 countries – are set to hit the big screen at Harkins Shea 14 Oct. 10-13. (Opening night screenings will take place Oct. 9 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts).
Here’s an overview of five films that include LGBT themes or characters and a few other standouts to catch at this year’s festival.
This tightly knit tale of three different people living in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, including a trans woman and two other young characters, culminates with a traditional coming of age ceremony. Director Sydney Freeland said she was inspired to make the film after a 20/20 story aired that called her hometown Drunktown, USA. The movie sheds light on a community that has been so rarely represented in cinema. (Read the full review here).
Another LGBT-themed movie generating a lot of buzz is Match, starring Patrick Stewart in his first gay role since Jeffrey (1995). Stewart is straight, but he was recently (and inaccurately) “outed.” Without missing a beat, he expressed his gratitude, via Twitter, for becoming an “honorary member” of the LGBT community.
Directed and adapted by Stephen Belber, from his 2004 Broadway play, Match focuses on a famous gay dancer and teacher (Stewart). What is supposed to be a Q&A session for research with a grad student and her husband turns into an interrogation. The husband begins asks the dancer brazen questions about his sexuality, leading to some playful teasing. Ultimately the couple’s true motivations come to light as the dancer learns he may need to reconcile with the past.
Also playing at the fest is Finding Neighbors, a comedy about a graphic novelist who is six months late on his deadline, alienated from his wife and falling into a midlife crisis. When his unusual friendship with his gay neighbor, Jeff, sparks the rediscovery of his creative side, his wife suspects it’s more than just a creative connection. A dryly-funny approach to aging, the movie was written and directed by Ron Judkins.
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker is a documentary that shines the spotlight on one of the feistiest, most talented performers in history. The predecessor of everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna, Tucker was also an early supporter of gay rights and feminism.
This doc pieced together archival footage and items from newly found scrapbooks tracing the performer’s 60-year career, stretching from vaudeville to television. Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Paul Anka, Chubby Checkers and Barbara Walters are among those praising Tucker, who is arguably one of the most underrated performers in show business.
Open Up to Me
Another LGBT offering is the Finnish movie Open Up to Me focusing on a sexy trans woman named Maarit, who keeps a distance from her daughter, as well as anyone associated with her former life as a man. When Maarit falls in love with a teacher, her new love interest must decide whether he’s ready to commit in an unaccepting world.
Other Films Worth a Watch
Of course, the festival is screening a slew of other films worth exploring. Juliette Binoche plays a photojournalist documenting the perils of war in 1,000 Times Good Night. Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Shirley MacLaine play a pair of neighbors willing to take a chance on love again in Elsa and Fred (the original 2005 movie from Spain is also being screened).
Also worth checking out is The Imitation Game a new drama about gay British math whiz Alan Turing, the cryptologist who cracked the Nazi codes during World War II. Turing was repaid for helping the Allies win the war by getting convicted of homosexual activity in 1952.
One of the gems at this festival is Laggies, starring Keira Knightley as a 28-year-old who starts hanging out with high schoolers again, instead of her upwardly mobile marriage-minded peers. Soon the single dad of one of her new BFFs becomes a love interest in this comedy by Lynn Shelton, director of gay-themed movies like Your Sister’s Sister and Humpday.
Opening and closing night films are often worth catching at any fest. Launching the event at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (all other screenings will be at Harkins Shea 14) is Rudderless. Directed by William H. Macy, this film tells the story of an advertising executive (Billy Crudup) who’s shattered after the death of his son and hides by living on a boat.
The festival’s closing night will include a screening of Wild. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) and stars Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) as a recovering heroin addict who’s decides to trek across a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.