First Published: Before August 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
The pick of the year's Gay and Lesbian films have been screened for three weeks at the NFT on London's South Bank and at some selected cinemas in the West End.
The 15th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival featured over 180 films and events, and included the best of Sundance 2001, a showcase of European Films, a tribute to the late Kenneth Williams and the first showing in the UK of the American version of Queer as Folk. OutUK reserved front row seats for our pick of the best movies which we've reviewed here. Many of the films will be on tour in the UK during the next couple of months.


SPEEDWAY JUNKY - Friday 30th March NFT1

Speedway Junky stars Jesse Bradford as Johnny a naive young lad on his way to Charlotte, North Carolina and his dream of becoming a race car driver. On his way through Las Vegas he's picked up by a john twice his age, ripped off by a female gambler and finally befriended by a gay hustler who promptly falls in love with him.
Eric (Jordan Brower) introduces him to other hustlers, drink, drugs, sex, prostitution and his out of it sister Veronica played by Darryl Hannah. Johnny's determination to achieve his goal and his ultimate success is only marred by the eventual loss of his friend, the victim of a gun battle with another member of the street hustling gang.

Speedway Junky was shot in just 24 days on location in Las Vegas and Los Angeles with a first rate cast all of whom apparently worked for the same low fee. This obvious labour of love also features Patsy Kensit and Warren G and includes many touching moments of new found romance between the two lead characters. It's the first film made by director Nikolas Perry.
Guy Hornsby


GIFTS - Saturday 31st March NFT1

Gifts is a showcase of 4 European based short feature films. In Doors Cut Down 16 year old Guillermo swaps masturbation for sex with men at the local shopping centre. That's until the security catch him with a local stud and he's arrested by the Police.
His parents are told, and they no longer let him out of their site, and worse still the toilet doors in the shopping centre are cut down (top and bottom). Guillermo defiantly strikes back remaking his local stud acquaintance and the two of them once again go shopping.

Behind Walls is a 16mm black and white short about Josie, a teen homegirl who spies on her younger brother and cousin when they get it on. She's trying to break the two up a bit so they'll regain the threesome status of their childhood years. The guys find her bedroom wall spy hole and use it to watch Josie with her new boyfriend. When he gets rough they run in and save her, and the friendship of the three is secured.

Rory is a chicken who serves chicken. He works for a local chicken restaurant and during a local delivery meets Pete, a man having a mid-life crisis. Rory is drawn in to a platonic friendship with him, and his sexuality is challenged as he tries to come to terms with and understand the depth of his feelings. It's an innocent film made with charm, that highlights the experiences and fascinations for older men felt by many young gays.

In Gifts, also the name of this shorts showcase, Antoine has to come to terms with his desire to get back together with the young man he loves and his family duties on New Year's Eve. He never quite makes it, and leaves the family to their squabbling just before the traditional exchange of gifts at midnight. Gifts is an excellent selection of short films, the first two of which are particularly memorable additions to this film festival.
Guy Hornsby


BROKEN HEARTS CLUB - Saturday 31st March NFT1

The programmers of every London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival like to include at least one comedy which will almost assuredly make it to widespread circulation. Last year the film was Trick - the Christian Campbell and Tori Spelling movie about a struggling songwriter who's songs and love-life seem to have got well stuck in the first act.
This year one of the front runners for future widespread release must be The Broken Hearts Club. It's a fresh and funny real story about a group of gay men in Hollywood, their lovers and their friends. Just arrived on the scene is Kevin a newly outed gay man and the film's main character Dennis gets to show him the ropes. When they are all faced with an unexpected tragedy they find huge comfort in each other.

There are some memorable lines in this film "I can't remember when I first realised I was gay, only the first time I knew it was okay. It was when I met these guys - my friends". And during a scrabble to get away from sisters who're after artificial insemination "They must be the only prompt Lesbians in the world!".

If you are a Dawson's Creek boy you'll love this movie. It's directed by DC's co-executive producer and has the same high standards of photography and production. The people are as good looking and like Dawson's Creek the film concentrates on portraying gay life as mainstream and regular. It's a film about gay romance rather than gay sex, and it's one of the highlights of the festival so far.
Guy Hornsby


QUEER AS FOLK Episodes 1-3(US Version) - Thursday 5th April NFT1

I can't believe it. I really expected that the US version of Queer As Folk would be completely sanitised and have nothing like the impact of C4's ground-breaker. But as a former Manchester lad, it pains me to report that as a piece of cinema the American version is so much more accomplished than our original. It's just as sexy, and director Russell Mulcahy has imbued the whole thing with the gloss of Highlander/MTV together with the style of vintage Ally McBeal.
It's surprising it works as well since the three leads don't quite have the charisma of their UK originals. The character of Stuart, called Brian in this version, doesn't have the brooding sexuality of his UK cousin, whilst Vince, Michael in the US, played by\ Hal Sparks is a stronger performance. Justin (Nathan) is older, 17 in this version, which takes away some of jailbait edge that the character has for a UK audience. The fact that it's all happening in Pittsburgh rather than Canal Street and Salford also gives the film a distance which also lessens its impact. Stuart's loft apartment was way beyond most gay boy's means in the UK, but it's pretty standard stuff in the movies.

There's a great performance from Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey) and the rest of the cast are strong. Well worth seeing, even if you think the original could never be improved on.
Mike Gray


SEX BECOMES HER - Thursday 5th April NFT1

"Spread those cheeks, slap that dick, suck that cock", the rallying cry of Chi Chi La Rue America's infamous gay porn director and drag queen.
Those of us who've seen her on stage already know the outrageously bitchy style of her act, she's known for telling it as it is, whilst surrounding herself with beautiful men like Cole Tucker, Steve Rambo and (I've actually held it, and he really does lives up to his name) Spike.

Sex Becomes Her is a Euro Trash style documentary, made last year by Rapido TV, that tells the all American success story of an overweight effeminate boy, Larry Paciotti, who grows up in the small town community of Hibbing Minnesota, leaves home and makes it big, very big, in the porn industry of L.A. Chi Chi La Rue is nowadays a gay icon, having directed over 100 movies, appeared in the music videos of Prince and Madonna and taken her drag act across the world from Cleveland to Cannes and on to Paris.

This film promises "An access all areas tour of a sexual underworld full of beautiful boys, hard bodies and big hair". We get exactly that, delivered with clips from some of Chi Chi La Rue's groundbreaking safe sex movies and a realistic insight into a world that's undoubtedly funny and sexy but is also laborious, unglamorous and at times down right tedious. Sex Becomes Her has tongues placed firmly in many cheeks, there are lots of laughs, but it also reminds us just how hard you have to be to produce the sort of films that we have all cum to love.
Guy Hornsby


KRAMPACK - Friday 6th April NFT1

Krampack is about friendship, sexual confusion, initiation, virginity, experimentation, first love and coming out. It's the story of two boys at a holiday home on the Mediterranean coast who have 10 days of freedom, whilst parents are away, in which they make stumbling moves towards manhood.
Dani and Nico are best friends and schoolmates. The two are intent on losing their virginity during the vacation, but in the meantime they are just as happy to perform Krampack, a made up word for mutual masturbation. It's not long before they get bored and Dani wants to take things further with Nico.

Dani becomes more and more frustrated when Nico dates one of the local girls, and so he meets up with Julian, an older gay man staying in the area. Julian helps Dani to explore his homosexual feelings and admit that however much he's in love with Nico they will only ever be best friends.

This is a touching story that's been sensitively made with a young cast that's believable and strong. Krampack benefits from a sense of innocence, well maintained throughout, that prevents the film from becoming voyeuristic or sleazy. The intimate scenes are carefully crafted, and the relationship that can develop between two friends is fully explored, making Krampack one of the more absorbing films of the European section of this year's film festival. Subtitled from Spanish the film is directed by Cesc Gay and stars Fernando Ramallo (Dani) and Jordi Vilches (Nico).
Guy Hornsby


KINGDOM CUM - Friday 6th April NFT1

In the 1990's a lad from Leeds crossed the Atlantic to make some gay porn that he wanted to really rock. Pitching up in New Orleans, he married a lesbian to get his Green Card and persuaded a host of adult performers and porn stars to perform in his first movie for free. The result was a porn art film called Squishy which opened the Kingdom Cum programme at the NFT, when Wash West described how he makes gay porn his way.
An engaging character, who could be Richard Branson's double, he's now worrying that Hollywood is beckoning following the completion of his first semi-mainstream feature The Fluffer, about the porn industry naturally, which closes the Festival. A self-taught director, Wash's brand of porno pokes fun at the conventions of gay adult movie making, its cliches and its characters, while at the same time being highly erotic.

Wash is fascinated by the crass storylines and creaky dialogue. He correctly observes though that the set-up lines (Blonde twink pizza delivery boy arrives at the apartment of horny guy in underwear and skin tight t-shirt "Do you need any extra topping?") are vital to connect the porn fantasy with the viewer's reality. But it's not just pastiche. His sequence of boys swimming underwater in an LA pool is straight out of David Hockney.

Unlike fellow porn directors like Chi Chi "Slap that dick!" La Rue who barks instructions from behind the set, Wash believes that the truly erotic can only be achieved when his actors really fancy each other, and the best pornography can only be attained when there is real intimacy on the set. Perhaps Wash's most telling comment is that he considers himself a documentary film-maker, and what he wants to chronicle is the excitement, sensuality and animal passion of gay sex.
Mike Gray


JOURNEY OF JARED PRICE - Saturday 7th April NFT1

Jared is a young southern boy just arrived in Hollywood, who goes to stay a youth hostel, where he shares a room with a hustler, and is befriended by Robert an optimistic and kind guy who gives him his first gay kiss.
Jared takes a job as a care assistant to an elderly blind woman who's son Matthew pays his wages. It's not long before Matthew hits on Jared, who resists at first but then falls for his powerful charm. Weeks later Jared meets Andrew, Matthew's long term partner, and Matthew tries to organise a threeway. It's the end of both relationships, and for Jared he sees it as the end of his time in Hollywood and a sign that he should return home.

Wise Mrs Haines who's always known much more than she has let on reveals the truth about some of her past loves and encourages Jared to give his heart to the man who'll love him and look after him. Jared then goes in search of Robert.

The film was obviously made on a tight budget (this version was video only). The camera work is at times very shakey, and at others it almost makes you dizzy, but the film is well acted and written. Corey Spears stars as Jared Price, alongside the gorgeous Josh Jacobson (Robert) in a film that's been made by the American gay retailer and producer 10% Productions.
Guy Hornsby


HARD TO IMAGINE - Saturday 7th April NFT1

A popular part of all London Lesbian and Gay Film Festivals are its broad range of lectures and illustrated talks. One of the highlights this year was Hard to Imagine which traced the history of explicit gay male photography and film from the 1870's to the 1950's.
Professor Tom Waugh took us through some early Victorian erotic photography, Weimer artistic film and photographs, rare 20's French pornography and some American's 50's films films and pictures. All of his pictures were banned in their day and with them he proved that gay erotica has been an important part of our culture for considerably more than a century.
Guy Hornsby


THE FLUFFER - Wednesday 11th April ODEON WEST END2

The Fluffer is the first feature from Leeds born gay porn film-maker Wash West who shares the director credits with Richard Glatzer who made Grief. The Fluffer promises an inside view of the LA Sex Industry through the eyes of Michael Cunio (Sean McGinnis) who becomes obsessed with porn hunk Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney) after his local video store mistakenly gives him Citizen Cum instead of Citizen Kane.

Infatuated with Rebel, Michael gets a job as a cameraman making Johnny's porno films, and ends up fluffing him to get him hard on set. The problem is Johnny's straight, his girlfriend's pregnant and couldn't care less about her or Michael.

A hugely entertaining insight into the sex industry, it's also a journey of self-discovery for Michael. It's a shame though it's a journey so many Hollywood mainstream gay features have taken before. There are flashbacks showing Michael abused as a child by a male neighbour, the LA gay lifestyle seems entirely devoted to sex and drugs and every character is dysfunctional someway or other.

There is however a great cameo by Deborah Harry, who plays the madam with a heart of gold, and appearances by Chi Chi La Rue and real-life gay porn stars like Cole Tucker. You get the feeling too that Wash West is getting his own back at quite a few of the people he's had to deal with in the porn industry himself. "Our customers our farmers in the midwest. They don't want art just penetration" young Michael is told after his first gig as a cameraman. Certainly it's great for gay film-making that a talent like Wash has been able to make the move from simple penetration films, to making this very promising first feature.
Mike Gray


Before the festival began OutUK previewed the best films this year in Film Festival Preview.


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