Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: MIX Fest Opening Night

by riot

Last night I attended the opening event of MIX 23 (, the annual New York queer experimental film festival.  This year's festival is being held at Theater for the New City, which is a venue that works very well for this event.  After the jump I'll give a brief review of last night's festivities.  I highly recommend checking out some or all of MIX's programs!

First of all, I must admit my bias.  I am close with many of the staff and artists involved at MIX.

With that said, no spin is required to say that Theater for the New City is by far the best venue I've experienced in three years of attending the MIX Fest.  The main screening theater is large and comfortable, by all appearances doubling or tripling the number of seats from last year.  The various installations have room to spread out, both for the artists and the patrons.  There's even an area as large as some studio apartments filled with cushions and bean bags, ready for lounging and conversation.

And just to put the down-home feeling over the top, Bonus Yates provided delicious homemade cookies and milk, served alongside the "suggested donation" bar.  I frankly wanted to hang out all night with the sexy crowd, and look forward to doing so after the weekend programs, when I don't have to be up for work in the morning.

The opening program was entitled Bursting at the Seams, billed as "overflowing with imagination and creativity."  It's a loose concept into which these films definitely fall.  First among the standouts for me was The Glitter Emergency, by Paul Festa.  Peggy the Peg Leg Ballerina learns about life, longing, and laundry, set to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.  We were lucky to have Mr. Festa performing on the violin along with the soundtrack.  He did a fine job and the film was the most humorous of the evening.  All Flowers in Time, by Jonathan Caouette and starring Chloe Sevigny made me yell in surprise at its twist into horror, yet despite not enjoying the genre I found the film very compelling.  Les Nanas, by Danielle Morgan, was an amazing feat of Super8mm shot on one reel and edited in camera, delivering a cute story in bizarrely stilted human body movements, reminiscent of stop motion photography.  The evening wrapped up with Charles Lum's Lloyd ____ Fein Must Die, an indictment of capitalist greed that is punished with Internet porn and masturbation.

Though these stood out for me, all of the films in the program were interesting, which I can't always say of experimental works.  Often with experimentals I just don't "get" what is happening onscreen, but that uncomfortable, squirmy feeling didn't creep in last night, with one exception.  To be fair, Latham Zearfoss's I Give You Life wasn't uncomfortable due to its experimental nature so much as the subject matter.  The film consists of audio taken from Matthew Shepard's father's statement to the jury during the trial of Matt's murderers, as well as from a performance of The Laramie Project, along with the on-screen transcription of some of those words, and not much else.  Of course the entire audience is familiar with the story, but I hadn't heard Dennis Shepard's words to the killers that he wants nothing more than to see them dead, but would not pursue the death penalty so that the murderers would have lifetimes to contemplate and suffer for their crimes.  As I sat watching the film, I wracked my mind to identify exactly why I was reacting so negatively to it, but never settled on an answer.  Partially the film felt exploitative, an also-ran, oft-repeated attempt to manipulate my emotions and my tear ducts, without shedding any new light or insight on the tragedy.  Partially it simply felt tacky.  I can't deny, however, that I'm still thinking about the film, so it definitely succeeded in challenging me.

Performance and installation art is always a big part of MIX.  I didn't pay close attention to all the installations, as I'm saving many of them for later this week when I attend other programs.  I couldn't help but enjoy L. Shea's Space-Time Modulator, a large chrome mechanism that whirls and projects just inside the front doors.  I probably could have watched its hypnotic motion for hours.  In the rear lounge, Blaise Garber's Under the Queer Fruit Tree dominates the room in an explosion of pages and glitter, poised in anticipation of his performance piece coming on Sunday.  I also can't wait to experience Peter Cramer's Ars(e) Moriend and L. Shea's Mal Amis.

Mr. Garber's performance will precede the grand finale of the event, a screening of Bruce La Bruce's new film, L.A. Zombie, and though I don't care for either horror or gore, I was so impressed with La Bruce's Otto or Up with Dead People that I'm very much looking forward to seeing his latest effort.

Check out the MIX web site ( and take in some amazing queer film this week!  You won't be disappointed.

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