AFTERIMAGE /January 1995

 

"MIX-DEFYING"

REVIEWED BY ROBERT REID-PHARR

Watch out! There's a motley assortment of queer film- and videomakers out there just itching to cajuole, seduce, and threaten their way into your local theaters and onto your favorite screens. They are not eager to prove themselves as acceptabel or ordinary. On the contrary, they are as likely to offer a good old-fashioned "fuck you," to the charge of abnormality as to devote themselves to countless hours of "dialogue" and "intervention."

It is this productive--if wildly varied--group of gay, lasbian, straight, bi, and otherwise producers who have been best served by the eight-year-old New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film and Video Festival, MIX.

(excerpted)

The festival's "AIDS: Expression and States of Mind" was perhaps the most disappointing program. After a 12-year epidemic it is disturbing that none of us have any more incisive ways to examine death, illness, or the struggle for life. YIOnda Stevens's Hallowed (1994) and Steve Grandell and John Killacky's Unforgiven Fire (1993) are emblematic of the problem. Both present the audience with unrelieved despair and remorse without advancing our understanding about what is happening. Stevens's work is self-described as a video quilt. In Unforgiven Fire Grandell and Killacky repeat the names of men who have died, finally ending with the image of a naked hairless man covered in blood. This work inspires one to feel only useless, spent, and "unforgiven."

Liza Lauber and Natasha Maidoff's Is There A Cure For My Friend (1994) was, however, a charmingly lyrical short about the struggle of two female friends, one HIV-positive, the other not, to reclaim the power of their childhood games in their quest for a "cure." One of the women speaks eloquently about loving the HIV inside of her and the strength of loving that within yourself that frightens you. DIVA TV's eight-minute video, By Any Means Necessary (1994) was, in contrast, anything but charming and lyrical. Its major elements are the face of a man, darkened beyond recognition, who speaks to the audience as images of Nazi soldiers bulldozing bodies into mass graves play in the background. The man says, "A wealthy, well-connected hetero friend recently said to me: 'I'm amazed you guys haven't turned to terrorism yet--everybody is afraid of you anyway." He then punctuates his monologue with searing indictments of not only the church, the state, and middle America, but the AIDS establishment itself, including the Gay Men's Health Crisis and AmFAR. The effect is marvelous. I finally saw my own everyday anger reflected on the screen. I question, however, the efficacy of this work. The audience may feel as if it has already done something radical and transgressive by watching the tape, but the context for AIDS remains unchanged.


 

 

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