The visionary mind of Orson Welles believed artists should work within certain parameters—that without parameters art does not exist. MIX: The New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film/Video Festival seems to boldly contradict his theory.
Asserting a “Resistance is Fertile” theme, this year’s 17th annual festival will showcase over 150 queer-themed experimental films ranging from the political to the absolute avant-garde. Many of the entries will be making their U.S. premieres. Through film, video and multi-media installations the festival aims to aggressively challenge the present-day status quo—especially the mainstreaming of gay and lesbian culture. Screenings will be held at Anthology Film Archives. In addition, MIX will host an art auction / benefit party and an opening night gala.
Founded in 1987 by Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard, MIX gives lesbian and gay audiences the opportunity to view experimental films which are so often denied a wide screening by the mainstream media. The political and emotional integrity of previous MIX festivals have earned the event a faithful following over the years.
Past festivals have exhibited work from celebrities such as Jean Genet, Andy Warhol, and Gus Van Sant and have introduced the public to lesser notables such as Chantal Akerman, Derek Jarman, Barbara Hammer, Todd Haynes, and Jennie Livingston.
Tending to last minute festival details at a cold Brooklyn waterfront studio, executive director Larry Shea spoke a bit about this year’s MIX and defined the “Resistance Is Fertile” theme.
A destabilizing radicalism among the lesbian and gay community is a topic that moves Shea to expound on his cinematic theory. Believing that the current lack of community resistance and the mounting possibility of being overcome by a mainstream consumer market threatens queer individuality, Shea was prompted to declare that this year’s theme is resistance. “There is no reason why we have to hide in the corner with our opinions,” Shea said. “Being yourself is what really counts.”
The 150-plus entries submitted from domestic and international filmmakers had free reign over their projects from beginning to end. According to Shea, that freedom of expression is a good practice that may open creative doors for the artists. “People want to make money and make a living. MIX can’t offer that, but we can offer a reputation and an audience.”
Shea said MIX is unlike any other lesbian and gay film festival due to the grass-roots feel of the event. Other festivals such as the annual June New Festival in New York tend to be less accessible to lesbian and gay filmmakers on limited budgets, he said.
Previously a programming committee member, Shea takes the reigns as MIX’s executive director for the first time this year. His impassioned and often outspoken beliefs on art, gay culture, and politics have certainly influenced this year’s festival slate.
The opening night gala screams resistance from the get-go, boasting a selection of festival favorites for gay, not straight, guys.
Some of this year’s entries include:
“Seven Minutes in Heaven,” a film in the spirit of surrealist experimentation where each seven minutes the film builds on the prior seven minutes giving the piece an entirely new cinematic meaning.
“Head Case” is a disgusting mockery of a sexually dysfunctional couple in psychotherapy. He is an ex-gay man and she is a post-operative male to female. A serial killing whodunit unfolds.
“MIX Brazil,” New York’s sister festival, shows a selection of short Brazilian films.
“Kristy,” by Stephanie Gray, explores the images of Kristy McNichol, the working class tomboy from the cult classic “Little Darlings.”
“Malfunction Boulevard” by Christopher contains archival footage of soldiers in the field, bathing, swimming, and caressing. Is this blatant homosexuality or just male bonding?
“I Am a Boyfriend,” is the U.S. premier of Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay’s minute musical.
“Why Are You So Wet” by Pierre Yves Clouin looks closely at the things you see everyday.
“Die, Faggot, Die!” by Shawn Durr is the New York premier about vengeful lesbians on a sexual binge gone awry. The prey is the women’s roommate, a doomed gay man.
“Sparks” by Virginie Danglades, is the world premier of a hospital orderly who changes the lives of others through dance.
“Smalltown Boys,” by Matt Wolfe, is a blend of biographical fantasy and historical fiction about a teenage lesbian who fights to save the television show “My So Called Life” from cancellation. She is later identified as artist David Wojnarovich’s offspring through a sperm bank.
Besides the experimental genre, Shea says there is something for everyone at this year’s MIX festival. If expressionism, an edgy short about psychotic lesbians, or documentaries about the gay cause does not motivate you, perhaps an interactive slot machine which takes photos of festival patrons upon entry will. The photos be entered into a virtual slot machine for the most unconventional pay off of all.
The legendary Ann Street Bookstore will be transformed into a venue. The usual buddy booths will be reprogrammed to show a series of MIX films. The once user-friendly downstairs will become a dance floor.