White Bird Dance Paul Taylor Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Gay Tidings: Portland Queer Film Festival and QDoc Festival return for a week of LGBT cinema

The festivals at the Hollywood Theatre and Cinema 21 provide a rainbow of stories about LGBTQ+ life.


The subject of “Uýra: The Rising Forest.”

The latest cinematic carnivals to return from pandemic-based hibernation hit Portland theater screens this week. In a fortuitous bit of timing, the Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival (a/k/a/ QDoc) takes over the Hollywood Theatre from Friday, November 11, through Sunday, November 13, and the Portland Queer Film Festival picks up the baton at Cinema 21 from Tuesday, November 15, through Sunday, November 20.

In other words, it’s a great week to soak up some diverse and often gripping stories about a wide array of queer folks and cultures from around the world. The programs of both festivals amply demonstrate that the almost total erasure of these types of tales until so recently has not diminished their compelling variety or their power to move us.

Each event offers an opportunity to preview a highly anticipated title scheduled for release later this year. Writer-director Elegance Bratton’s autobiographical feature debut, The Inspection, tells the story of a young, gay Black man who joins the Marines. It won’t open in Portland until December, but screens on November 19 at the Portland Queer Film Festival. QDoc’s closing night film is the latest from Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed follows photographer Nan Goldin’s efforts to expose the Sackler family’s complicity in America’s opioid epidemic, and recently won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. It’s scheduled to open at Cinema 21 on December 9.

For many of the remaining films, these festival screenings may be the only chance locally to catch them on the big screen. Here are a few highlights from each.

QDOC FESTIVAL at the Hollywood Theatre

Uýra: The Rising Forest: In a nation that is notoriously hostile to its indigenous population, environmentalists, and transgender people, Uýra is a triple threat. Yet, undeterred, they travel throughout Amazonia, leading workshops that involve dance, the creation of splendidly colorful costumes from found materials, and lessons on the delicate ecology of the forest. Weaving traditional approaches to self-realization, performative identity, and relationships with nature with modern perspectives on habitat destruction, climate change, and gender fluidity, Uýra presents the possibility of a way forward that reconciles those supposed oppositions. (Saturday, Nov. 12, noon)

All Man: The International Male Story: This entertaining doc, which screened at PAM CUT back in September, follows the rise and fall of a mail-order clothing catalogue that played a similar role for gay men (and some heterosexual women) to what the “Victoria’s Secret” catalog played for straight dudes. Interview with the founder and former employees of “International Male” offer a cornucopia of amusing anecdotes as well as insight into the challenges of running a business geared toward a gay clientele in the 1970s and ’80s. (Saturday, Nov. 12, 5:15 p.m.)

Tramps: Another bite into a slice of pop-cultural history comes in the form of this (mostly) affectionate look back at the British post-punk movement known as the New Romantics. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, this loose community of artists, designers, and musicians went from squatting in vacant apartments to (in some cases) worldwide stardom. Although the big names, such as Boy George and Siouxsie Sioux, aren’t interviewed here, that just leaves more room for the less boldfaced names to tell their stories. These include filmmaker John Maybury (Love is the Devil), fashion designer Judy Blame, club personality Princess Julia, and artist (and Neo-Naturist) Christine Binnie. There’s plenty of drugs and plenty of sex, but ultimately plenty of loss, as the AIDS epidemic takes a tragic toll, including director Derek Jarman. (Saturday, Nov. 12, 9:30 p.m.)

Esther Newton Made Me Gay: I’d never heard of Esther Newton but making her acquaintance through this admiring portrait was a pleasure. Among many other accomplishments, she was the first cultural anthropologist to turn that discipline’s lens on the American subculture of drag queens. Newton, now in her 80s, recounts her experiences in the gay and lesbian community from the 1950s onward, her struggles to overcome the biases of academia, and her love of canine agility training. Candid and fascinating discussions of the butch-femme paradigm lead into a heartfelt appreciation of the Fire Island-adjacent LGBT sanctuary of Cherry Grove. A fascinating exploration of an eventful, productive life. (Sunday, Nov. 13, 2:30 p.m.)


Unidentified Objects: It sounds at first like an indie film plot out of Mad Libs: a bitter, gay, little person (Matthew August Jeffers) and a whimsical, carefree sex worker (Sarah Hay) embark on a road trip to Canada to rendezvous with an extraterrestrial visitor. But director Juan Felipe Zuleta takes these somewhat random ingredients and cooks up a tasty little casserole. Winona (Hay) imposes on her neighbor Joseph (Jeffers), an unemployed, lonely actor, to use the car formerly owned by his recently deceased friend, to travel across the border. There, she tells him, the aliens who abducted her years ago will return and retrieve her to live among the stars. What begins as a rough-edged road trip with mismatched souls turns into something more philosophical, as Zuleta inventively stages fantasies and dream scenes in which his leads (especially Jeffers) deliver committed, even unsettling performances. All three are worth keeping an eye on in the future. (Tuesday, Nov. 15, 6:45 p.m.)

My Emptiness and I: The feature debut of Spanish filmmaker Adrián Silvestre follows up his similarly themed documentary Sediments to tell the story of a French trans woman named Raphi (Raphaëlle Perez) working a humdrum job in a Barcelona call center. After being properly diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Raphi proceeds to hormone therapy and other efforts to pursue a more content, perhaps even romantic, life. Supported by a group of trans friends, she serves as an audience corollary for the demystification of various aspects of trans existence. Perez has real screen presence, and while this fictional story feels as concerned with educating as it is with storytelling, it still provides the emotional hook necessary to help those lessons sink in. (Wednesday, Nov. 16, 6:45 p.m.)

Mama Bears: It’s been said that part of the reason for the greater acceptance of the LGBT community in recent decades has been the simple fact that more people know a family member who identifies as a member. The principal gets a good workout in this heart-tugging look at three mothers working, with varying degrees of success, to balance their conservative religious beliefs with their love for their non-heterosexual children. At the risk of being shunned or expelled by their Christian churches and fellow believers, they coordinate with one another on ways to protect their kids. They also wrestle with guilt over their previous closed-mindedness, a genuinely wrenching reaction that helps compensate for their previous inability to be tolerant when it wasn’t their offspring being threatened with conversion therapy. (Friday, Nov. 18, 4:30 p.m.)

Marc Mohan moved to Portland from Wisconsin in 1991, and has been exploring and contributing to the city’s film culture almost ever since. As the former manager of the landmark independent video store Trilogy, and later the owner of Portland’s first DVD-only rental spot, Video Vérité, he immersed himself in the cinematic education that led to his position as a freelance film critic for The Oregonian for nearly twenty years. Once it became apparent that “newspaper film critic” was no longer a sustainable career option, Mohan pursued a new path, enrolling in the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in the fall of 2017. He can’t quite seem to break the habit, though, of loving and writing about movies.

Northwest Dance Project Stravinsky Portand Oregon
White Bird Dance Paul Taylor Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
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Northwest Dance Theatre Snow White Portland Community College Sylvania Campus Portland Oregon
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