LGBT spotlight: Documenting life stories

Documentary features at the 6th Annual LGBT Film Festival focus on full life experiences

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Gen Silent, one of the documentaries showing at the LGBT Film Festival.

Gen Silent, one of the documentaries showing at the LGBT Film Festival.

The final full weekend in September marks the 6th annual running of the Downtown Dayton LGBT Film Festival (September 23-25) and again the event, hosted through a partnership between the Downtown Priority Board and the Neon, mixes genres and formats to provide “a space for voices to be heard that aren’t often represented in mainstream media” with “subjects ranging from comical to serious, but the stories all stem from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

The festival will open with The Green, a narrative feature starring Cheyenne Jackson, Jason Butler Harner and Julia Ormond about a gay couple seeking to escape New York City for the quiet of the Connecticut coast once one of the men is accused of engaging in “inappropriate behavior” by a male high school student. SXSW Film Festival award-winner (Audience Award for Emerging Visions) Weekend, which was picked up by Sundance Selects, romantically spies on the first stages of love. And the ever-popular Top Drawer Shorts program will continue to offer some of the best short films from around the world.

The iconic musical comedienne Carol Channing is the subject of Carol Channing: Larger Than Live, a lovely documentary tribute to the 90-year old (and still gloriously active) performer who has managed to marry an outsized comic personality with a thoroughly human heart. With huge saucer eyes, those large scarlet lips and that sharp blond pageboy, Channing cut quite an original figure, first onstage (as the signature Dolly in Hello, Dolly) before crossing over into television and along the way, she became one of those models, a mold that simply couldn’t be broken or remade. Carol Channing was always Carol Channing and her fans wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

But the documentary, co-written (with Adam Zucker) and directed by Dori Berinstein, also spotlights the enduring love affair between Channing and Harry Kullijian, the childhood sweetheart she would end up reconnecting with later in life after both had come out of 35+ year relationships with other partners. The moments shared between these two, far more than the heartfelt appreciation of her peers (everyone from Tyne Daly, Phyllis Diller, Rich Little and composer Jerry Herman), complete the frame by offering that intimate glimpse of what lurks behind her passionate performances.

Gen Silent, another documentary feature (sponsored by the Greater Dayton LGBT Center), examines the plight of seniors in the LGBT community; specifically, what awaits them as they transition into dependent living and long-term care facilities. The stories, many from seniors who fought for LGBT rights, capture yet another battlefront that must be engaged, but illustrate how difficult this one truly is because the seniors are at their most vulnerable state. The film is a rallying cry for younger members of the community to step up as caregivers and supporters for the current seniors, but also to prepare for their own futures as well.

Thanks to the support of local businesses and individual donors, filmmakers and stars have been able to attend the festival and this year, Matthew Ludiwinski, who stars in Going Down in La-La Land, has confirmed that he will be in attendance. For more information about tickets and passes, screenings or other events, visit the festival website at www.daytonlgbt.com.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com.

T.T. Stern-Enzi
Reach DCP Film Critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at TerrenceTodd.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ttsternenzi.

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