The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF) completed its 22nd annual run Sunday, offering any sort of movie involving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters.
This year’s lineup ranged from acclaimed films like the AIDS documentary “We Were Here” and Iranian drama “Circumstance,” to new releases like “Dirty Girl” and “Gun Hill Road” – as well as complete camp like “Bite Marks.”
Scene & Heard looks at two of TIGLFF’s final offerings and decides if they’re worth your time upon release.
“My Summer of Love” meets “Persepolis” in this film, which tells the story of teens Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) battling a restrictive Iranian government.
“Circumstance” resembles the former in the tale of two female friends tentatively starting a lesbian relationship while one’s former criminal brother looks on. It evokes the latter because it follows a young Iranian woman who loves Western culture and ducks the morality police.
In some ways, the film could be improved if it distinguished itself more. However, it is able to get by on its lush cinematography and intriguing subject matter. The best moments come from watching the Muslim girls bounce off of Western culture, such as the two dubbing dialogue for a version of that all-too-forbidden film “Milk.”
Though it’s interesting to see Atafeh and Shireen react to gay icons like Harvey Milk and Kathleen Hanna, they never quite convince as lovers and their scenes work better as a sumptuously shot political point. More believable is the relationship between Atafeh and her liberal parents, influenced by their time studying in the United States.
Then there’s her brother Mehran (Rena Sixo Safai), a drug addict turned devout Muslim. His turn into a paranoid, surveillance-camera-using villain may seem too easy, but when you consider the real-life headlines involving Iranians and the morality police, it becomes a little more understandable.
“Circumstance” isn’t the most original or groundbreaking film, but director-writer Maryam Keshavarz is able to a get a good amount of mileage out of competently telling the story of liberal Muslim lesbians – not exactly the everyday movie topic.
With Evil Ed actor Stephen Geoffreys turning to gay porn, its romantic interest character being played by lesbian actress Amanda Bearse and the implications of vampire Jerry living with a man, it’s arguable whether the 1985 cult horror film “Fright Night” really needed a gay homage to make its subtext the entire text.
Yet that’s only the first mistake “Bite Marks” makes in a movie full of them. It starts off with a horrifically misguided opening sequence full of cartoon characters and sounds.
From there, the movie moves on to its “story” – supposedly fiercely heterosexual truck driver Brewster (Benjamin Lutz) is on his way to deliver a cargo of coffins when he picks up a gay couple. It doesn’t take long into the journey, however, before the group starts to realize they’re carrying more than wooden boxes.
“Bite Marks” actually looks pretty well shot for a low-budget movie, but that’s about where its virtues end. Director Mark Bessenger’s script is full of groan-inducing attempts at quips, the film’s logic about its vampires is completely non-existent and this horror-comedy is ultimately never scary or funny.
Even when Geoffreys makes an appearance – perhaps the only time his presence could ever be considered a big “get” – he’s squandered in a two-minute appearance that only really allows him to say his trademark “Fright Night” line, “You’re so cool, Brewster!”
If nothing else, the film may have the dubious honor of being the most amateur film to ever be shown on Tampa Theatre’s 15-foot-high screen.