Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California backslap: Fight for equality continues and we will win eventually...

In 2000, 61% of Californians voted to ban equal marriage (although not explicitly in the constitution.) In 2008, 52% of California voters also marked ballots banning equal marriage, this time explicitly in the state constitution, a drop of almost 10 points from 2000.

The trend is clear and, according to a poll released today, support for equal marriage may indeed now be over 50% in California. I haven't had a chance to dissect various aspects of today's Supreme Court ruling, which upholds the ban passed by 52% of voters in November, but allows those same sex couples who married in California last summer to stay married. But I suspect the majority of judges probably made their decision to uphold Proposition 8 long ago, and simply found the legal justification to back up that conclusion.

It always seemed unrealistic that the Court would overrule the wishes of voters. I also do believe that progressive change like this is best achieved through legislatures, not through the courts (although I'll take the courts when politicians often prove too gutless to do the right thing.) For a great analysis by someone who has read the ruling, check out this article.

Today's ruling just means that full equality under the law for LGBT citizens in California is delayed for a couple more years. The next referendum on equal marriage in California, I predict, will go our way.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My film 'The Golden Pin' wins Best Canadian Short Award at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival

Last night, the short dramatic film I co-wrote and helped produce, The Golden Pin, by Toronto director and my dear friend Cuong Ngo, won the top short film prize at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival, the Colin Campbell Award. All of us who worked on the film are enormously humbled and thrilled to have achieved this accomplishment. I want to thank all of my friends, family and colleagues who have given us much support and love during this incredible week!

This marks the beginning of the festival run for our film; we have 10 festival submissions pending, including two in Toronto later this year. Plus many, many more to come. Stay tuned. Below is the press release we issued today:

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Golden Pin wins Best Canadian Short Award at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival

Toronto – Toronto director Cuong Ngo's The Golden Pin won the Colin Campbell Award for Best Canadian Short at the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film & Video Festival's closing night party on Sunday.

"I'd like to thank my team for everything. Without them, we can't go together this far," says Cuong Ngo. "It's such a great collaborative work. I'm so glad to prove to the world how strong my love is."

Ngo has great praise for his team, including co-writer Matt Guerin, producer Igor Szczurko, production designer Tom Yarith Ker, DOP Stu Marks, composer Mike Freedman, executive producer Doug Dales, as well as his actors Minh Ngoc Nguyen, Kris Duangphung and Ben Bela Boehm, and everyone else who worked on the film.

Ngo also thanks his professor and mentor, Canadian director John Greyson, as well as the rest of the faculty at York University’s Film Department, who provided Ngo with much support and advice during the production of The Golden Pin.

The jury award comes with a $500 cash prize, which Ngo intends to donate to the AIDS Committee of Toronto. "My dream is to make people happy and help people. Now, my dream came true and I wanted to offer this prize to the community."

The Golden Pin screened during Inside Out's Hogtown Homos showcase on May 20th at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, ON. Many more festival screenings are planned, with pending submissions across Canada, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Together with producers Igor Szczurko, Matt Guerin and Tom Yarith Ker, Ngo's in the development phase of adapting The Golden Pin into a feature film.

Additional information and bios of the filmmakers and cast are available online at www.thegoldenpin.com


Cuong Ngo - Director/Co-Writer, The Golden Pin

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he graduated at the Cinema and Theatre University of Ho Chi Minh City, BFA (02) before pursuing his second degree in Film Production at York University in Toronto, BFA (09). Cuong directed 2 award winning short comedies in the years of 2003 and 2004 while studying Writing and Linguistic at International Royal Melbourne Institute of Technologies University. Cuong has also directed short films, documentaries and video arts such as: Oops! (06), The White Day (07), Dana (07), Visual Poetry (08), The Hitchhiker Project (08), Cultural Anthropology, National Identity through Ukrainian Dance (08). Cuong Ngo's The Hitchhiker Project (08) was officially selected for presentation at numerous International Film Festivals. His most recent film The Golden Pin (09) world premiered at the Toronto Inside Out Film Festival in May 2009. Together with producers Igor Szczurko, Matt Guerin and Tom Yarith Ker, he's in the development phase of adapting The Golden Pin into a feature film.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tom Flanagan's dumb argument against human rights commissions..

Tom Flanagan's right-wing tendencies seem to have gotten the better of him today with this bullshit article about human rights commissions being unnecessary. Flanagan argues that discrimination in the private sector is unprofitable, therefore there is no need to legislate against it; instead, we should let market forces slowly, gradually convince bigots to stop their evil ways.

It's like saying murder is unprofitable to the murderer. After killing innocent people, the murderer will find himself shunned by his fellow citizens, they won't trust him, he won't be able to work and live in peace, so eventually he'll be convinced that he should give up his murdering ways. We don't need criminal laws against murder, market forces will do the trick.

Dumb, Tom, really, really dumb! It's the kind of argument made by older, conservative, straight, White guys who have never really experienced any kind of discrimination in their lives and therefore can't understand the real damage that it causes.

Reasonable people know that market freedom alone cannot stop things we deem undesirable. If you let the private sector govern itself with little regulation, we get the excess that helped lead to the 2008 economic collapse, you get environmental degradation, you get anything private forces deem the most profitable for them. Without the sober, objective stick of government regulation, the private sector runs amok and leads us all to disaster.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Film on the brain: Four queer movie reviews...

I've been meaning to write reviews on a few movies I've seen lately. The four films below represent a wide gamut of what's currently being put out there by queer or queer-friendly filmmakers, ranging from sharp and thought-provoking to mindless and amusing.

First up, Outrage, which I managed to see during the recent Hot Docs festival in Toronto. Directed by straight filmmaker Kirby Dick, this extraordinary feature documentary shines a light on many closeted, mostly Republican U.S. politicians and other politicos who have found success by scapegoating other gays and lesbians, or at least remaining indifferent to their cause. Many of you have likely heard the names before: Larry Craig, Mark Foley, former New York mayor Ed Koch and many others...

One name I hadn't heard before seeing the doc is current Florida Governor Charlie Crist (pictured right). Watching the numeous clips of Crist in the doc, the assertions are made all the more obvious. The filmmaker interviews two separate sources who claim Crist's former boyfriend once told them about their relationship. Crist, a longtime bachelor, of course, has been a vocal opponent of equality for gays and lesbians since becoming governor of Florida. His opposition to same sex marriage is said to have been a determining factor in the recent 62% victory banning equal marriage in that state's constitution (it needed 60% to pass.) When Crist was running for governor in 2006, he suddenly revealed a female fiancee. After being elected, their relationship came to an end. In 2008, when Crist's name was being bandied about as a possible running mate to John McCain, Crist suddenly came up with another woman who agreed to marry him. They tied the knot in December, just in time for Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Kirby Dick has claimed in interviews that he's got ample proof on every politician he outs in the film. Most of that info. comes to light before the final reel. He doesn't do so to embarrass them, but to instead expose their hypocrisy. One interviewee in the film compares the terrible, anti-gay voting records of these closeted politicians with young closeted gay men, who tend to be the most outwardly homophobic to try to seem as "straight" as possible. There's no doubt this film is a public service and should be required viewing. I also hope it puts to an end any talk of Charlie Crist running for U.S. President in 2012. Truly Crist fits the bill of a politician who's willing to say and "be" anything in order to win higher office.

Patrik, Age 1.5 was the opening night screening at Toronto's Inside Out festival on Thursday. It's the polar opposite of Outrage, profiling a mostly happy same sex couple living in Sweden seeking to adopt a little baby. Due to a bureaucratic mix-up, the men think they're about to adopt a child aged 1.5 years named Patrik. When the real Patrik, aged 15, with a troubled history, shows up on their doorstep, all hell breaks loose. I loved it!

No doubt Patrik, Age 1.5 represents the "coming of age" of queer cinema, in which gay men's lives not only begin to strongly resemble their straight counterparts, but queer cinema itself becomes very PG-rated and family friendly. There's no nudity in this flick, just sweet, well-rounded performances and many predictable, yet satisfying plot twists. It's feel-good film at its best and definitely deserves a watch for those looking for light, untroubling entertainment.

Two other queer films I saw recently are definitely not family-friendly.

Casper Andreas' Between Love and Goodbye, filmed in New York and starring Simon Miller and Canadian Justin Tensen as ill-fated lovers, could be described as the feature narrative polar opposite of Patrik, Age 1.5.

French immigrant and wannabe actor Marcel (the stunningly hot Tensen, the blond on the right) is madly in love with his boyfriend Kyle (Miller), a wannabe musician who plays gigs around the East Village. In order to stay in the U.S., Marcel fake marries their lesbian friend Sarah (Jane Elliott), and it looks like happily ever after is about to begin. Unfortunately, Kyle's troubled transsexual hooker sister/brother April/Cole (Rob Harmon) reappears after a year out of the picture and needs a place to crash. Eventually, sis gets in the way of our two lovers and high drama and much angst ensues.

For most of Andreas' flick, the melodrama works, with frequent flashbacks to various stages of the boys' relationship, showing early passion and love giving way to resentment and deterioration by the end. I was quite taken with the film's theme exploring how a relationship can strangely turn from beautiful to ugly, and the non-linear script highlighted that devastating contrast. Plus the frequent nudity by the two incredibly hot leads certainly spices things up.

But Andreas loses it at the end, torturing us with a terrible conclusion that not only undoes his entire theme but also undermines his characters. I felt cheated. It had been a decent movie up until that point and all I could ask was, 'Why didn't anyone with an ounce of writing talent stop Andreas from leaving this dumb ending in the final cut?'

Stiff Luv, by Toronto director Adrian Keats, is a quirky comedy filmed in the manner of John Greyson's Lilies (i.e. all parts, male and female, are played by male actors, mostly in drag.) That's where the similarities with Greyson's 1996 masterpiece end as Stiff Luv is slightly amateurish, yet not lacking in charm and gusto.

The silly story centers mostly around Liz, played by Sean Kaufman entirely in drag, as she conspires to cover up the death of her fiance. The ultra low-budget flick tries to be a gay slapstick comedy. On that front, it works occasionally, with several laugh-out-loud moments including the hilarious open bar at the funeral home! Why haven't more real funeral homes opened their own?

But the acting is uneven. Some of the drag performances were stunning to watch, while others were not as impressive (sadly I'd have to include the two leads in the latter). Adrian Keats, himself, who shows up near the end as 'Alice Big,' is truly impressive and tears up the scenery in a role reminiscent of Terence Stamp in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Too bad he/she didn't show up earlier. I also really liked the hilarious 'Brian Arser' character played by Bartholomew Sammut, and all the actors playing the male characters were quite cute. Overall, Stiff Luv is watchable and funny, but probably could've used a few more screenplay drafts before proceeding to principal photography.

Tim Hudak shows off his political immaturity...

This kind of promise will come back to bite Ontario PC leadership hopeful Tim Hudak big time should he win the leadership next month. Veering to the far-right might help Hudak win over many of wing-nut Randy Hillier's supporters once the country bumpkin finishes last in the first round of voting June 28th. But if Hudak wins the leadership, he'll be saddled with a pledge that the Liberals will easily use against him.

I can see it now: "Hudak's going to wipe out your human rights protections in this province. It will be easier to kick people out of their homes, or discriminate or harass people in the workplace if Tim Hudak comes to power. If you believe in equality, you gotta stop Tim Hudak."

I had assumed that Hudak would be smarter than this. Evidently not.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival begins today...

Who would've thought promoting a short film would take up so much of my free time? I've had almost no time to blog lately, although the political scene has been fairly depressing of late (B.C. referendum bust, Mulroney-Schreiber, etc.)

Today marks the opening day of Toronto's Inside Out LGBT FIlm & Video Festival, with the opening gala tonight. The festival lasts until May 24th and will screen around 200 films.

'The Golden Pin,' directed by Cuong Ngo, is one of them. I co-wrote it and served as associate producer. It's screening at the Hogtown Homos showcase on Wed May 20th at 7:15 pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, along with a dozen other shorts by local filmmakers. We're thrilled to have been programmed.

I encourage everyone who is free to go see anything at Inside Out. It's a great festival and there looks to be several good films in the program worth checking out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

First-Past-The-Post is like a bad waiter who brings food you didn't order...

British Columbians go to the polls on Tuesday to elect both a new government (using our archaic, vote-distorting Winner-Take-All/First-Past-The-Post system) and to vote in a crucial referendum on electoral reform.

A recent poll shows the NDP trailing the Liberals by 2 per cent (42% to 44% respectively). Under a sane voting system, that would translate into a narrow Liberal minority government. But under our crazy, existing system, that could very well translate into a NDP majority government, like it did in 1996 when a three-point gap in the vote handed the second-place party all the power for five more years!

B.C. Liberals should remember how they felt the morning after the 1996 election, when they had been shut out of power by our voting system despite winning the vote. That scenario could repeat itself on Tuesday and the only way to ensure it never happens again after this election is to vote for BC-STV. Enough of our crazy, vote-distorting First-Past-The-Post system! The time to fix it is now and hopefully as many Liberal voters in B.C. as possible will agree.

To those who are fighting to keep our archaic system because it lines their pockets and hands their parties all the power with only a minority of votes, I say 'Shame on You!' You're the same types of people who would've opposed extending the franchise to Aboriginals, to women, to non-land owners, etc. in the past because such a change would've undermined your hold on power. And today, you're still up to your nasty little tricks. I hope voters ignore your distortions and vote for change.

To those voters still making up your minds, let me repeat this scenario I wrote a couple weeks ago:

Can you imagine if you placed an order at a drive thru for two hamburgers, two fries and two bottles of water - and instead when you got to the window, they handed you four fish pies and some asparagus? Or if you sat down at a restaurant and ordered some sushi and green tea, and instead they brought you a piece of pork loin, potatoes and coffee and forced you to pay for it? Would you be annoyed? Of course you would.

Yet this is how our current voting system works. The voters head to the polls and vote one way - and the First-Past-The-Post system spits out something they didn't ask for. If BC-STV passes, this will never happen again at the provincial level in British Columbia.

If you like getting what you didn't order, vote to keep our archaic, vote-distorting system. If you actually want to get what you ask for in elections, vote for the Single Transferable Vote.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine, NH legislators vote for gay marriage

I'm sorry I've been quite delinquent in posting on this blog lately. I'm quite busy preparing for the upcoming screening of 'The Golden Pin' at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival, doing press kits, getting word out, writing new synopses for the feature adaptation, that kind of thing.

But I do want to comment on the great news out of Maine and New Hampshire today, where legislators have passed equal marriage bills. Maine's governor says he won't stand in the way of the bill, paving the way for its passage. New Hampshire's governor hasn't said how he'll respond to the bill passed in his state's legislature.

Regardless, Maine now becomes the fifth state in the U.S. to approve equal marriage (with California still pending.) New Hampshire may indeed become the sixth very shortly. The tide has clearly turned in our favour.