Why Are This Fall's Best LGBT Movies Going Straight to DVD?

blue is the warmest color

This is not a fall preview.

If such a thing were possible, I would write it. Yet the landscape of LGBT film in the United States in the coming months is uncharted, and perhaps a bit sparse. As Indiewire so thoughtfully and depressingly explained last month, queer movies just don’t make money anymore. Not even the most acclaimed ones, the ones that mainstream critics rave about, the ones that do get released. Meanwhile, the films that don’t even make it that far get stuck. The year’s best work often will play a bunch of queer film festivals, skip a theatrical release, and end up on DVD without much fanfare.

And so, this can’t be a traditional fall preview. I can’t tell you about the LGBT films that are going to be getting a wide release, because nothing is. I could tell you what will be getting a high profile limited release, of course. Two LGBT-focused films were on Film.com’s massive fall preview: “Blue Is the Warmest Color” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” Both films are must-sees.

Also, both of them are directed by straight men. “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is already in the midst of a controversy regarding its portrayal of lesbian sex. Julie Maroh, who wrote the original graphic novel, is particularly critical of Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palme d’Or winning adaptation of her work, pointing out how obvious it is to her that there were no lesbians on set. Meanwhile, Peter Knegt very aptly pointed out in his review that “Dallas Buyers Club” tells the story of the AIDS crisis through the mostly problematic response of a homophobic straight white man.

So where do we go from here? NewFest, New York City’s LGBT film festival, offered an exciting slate. The opening night film, “Concussion,” was picked up by RADiUS-TWC, so keep an eye out for it. Yet their most daring selection, “You and the Night,” continues to languor. Somehow, by virtue of being only the third-most discussed queer French film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this debut feature by former M83 member Yann González, may remain unavailable for American audiences. “Mohammed to Maya,” a documentary portrait of a transgender woman’s transition, is another exceptional film without distribution.

And then there’s TIFF. An awful lot has been written this week about the Canadian mega-festival’s size problem. Some argue that there are simply too many movies, and lower profile selections inevitably get drowned out. Others counter with the point that at least these films get the glory of playing Toronto, and that the festival screenings packed with Canadians should be worth plenty on their own. Perhaps the test should be after the festival, seeing whether any of the films without celebrity actors and Oscar campaigns have a chance to move on to new audiences.

The struggle to distribute the films of Xavier Dolan over the last few years has been an instructive, bleak example. Now his fourth film, “Tom at the Farm” seems to have inspired quite a positive, or at least excitable, reaction. Will it find distribution in the United States? What about other queer TIFF films, like “Gerontophilia,” “The Dog,” and “Salvation Army”? Only time will tell.

I could go on and on. “Big Joy,” which I raved about back during the Tribeca Film Festival still has no distribution. “Floating Skyscrapers” was picked up by Artsploitation but appears nowhere on their website. “God Loves Uganda” will open theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on October 18th, but “Born This Way” has no such prospects. This is a banner year for LGBT cinema, and everyone would know it if they could actually see the movies.

But enough griping. Three of NewFest’s best films actually will get some form of release in the coming months. Watch them, rave about them if you like them, and then demand access to more queer film. You deserve it.

 “In the Name of…” – directed by Malgoska Szumowska

The Teddy at the Berlin Film Festival is still the most significant award for queer film on the international festival circuit, Cannes’s Queer Palme included. This February it went to this dark, thrilling Polish tale of forbidden desire and religious guilt. It is, of course, about a priest who lusts after teenagers. Yet there’s nothing sordid about the way it presents the tortuous life of Father Adam (Andrzej Chyra). Rather, this is a probing look into the way religion and sexuality almost violently coexist in the minds of the most devout, and a surprisingly ominous critique of the Catholic Church.

“In the Name of…” will get a two week run at Film Forum in New York City beginning October 30th. It will also continue bouncing around the festival circuit.

“Pit Stop” – directed by Yen Tan

“Pit Stop” is the best Austin movie of the year. Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda shared the Best Actor award at Outfest for their portrayal of two rough and beautifully lonely men in a dull town in Texas. It looks like “Weekend” in cowboy boots, but turns out to be something else entirely. The screenplay, written by Yen Tan and David Lowery (yes, the one whose movie I half-maligned three sentences ago), wisely turns the “gay hook-up” genre on its head and delays our narrative satisfaction. Its characters even seem to breathe differently than those we’re used to. It might even be the best American queer film of the year.

“Pit Stop” has a few more festivals lined up, and will be released on DVD and VOD in 2014.


“Free Fall”

Winner of the Jury Award for Best Feature Film at Philadelphia QFest, “Free Fall” is a melodrama of the highest order. The conflict centers on Marc (Hanno Koffler), a young police officer in training. He and his pregnant wife Bettina (Katharina Schüttler) have just moved into a house right next to his parents, the epitome of traditional family life. Then he finds himself entangled in an affair with another cadet, Kay (Max Riemelt). Boldly erotic and written with an impressive empathy for all of its characters, “Free Fall” is an uncompromising and thrilling debut feature from director Stephan Lacant. All the performances are dead on, but in a just world Koffler would be an instant star.

“Free Fall” has also been picked up by Wolfe Releasing, and will be available on VOD and DVD.