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What To See at TWIST 2017 - Seattle's LGBTQ Film Festival

Tuesday Oct 10, 2017

TWIST began 21 years ago this month as the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. It has grown to become the largest event of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, gaining industry and audience recognition for showcasing the latest and greatest in queer film, from major motion picture premieres to emerging talent.

An important venue in the Seattle film scene -- and the social event of the season -- the festival provides unique opportunities for visiting and local filmmakers to engage and entertain over 10,000 attendees.

But what to see at this year's festival, which opens on Thursday, October 12 and runs through Sunday, October 22? There will be more than 50 narrative films, documentaries and short films to be seen over that time. Here are some of the highlights from the ten-day festival. (Descriptions from the Twisted festival guide).

"The Untold Tales Of Armistead Maupin"
Thursday, October 12, 2017, 7:15 p.m.

Co-directors Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber (previous collaborators on "To Be Takei") open our festival with this delightful documentary about Armistead Maupin, one of the world's most beloved storytellers and creator of "Tales of the City." Both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, this disarmingly frank look at Maupin's life and work follows his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels have inspired millions to claim their own truth. His first TV writing gig working for archconservative Jesse Helms was a challenging task, especially given his father's disapproval of his choice to embrace life as a proud and loud gay man.

From the jungles of Vietnam to the bathhouses of '70s San Francisco to the front line of the American culture wars, animator Grant Nelleson's funky and florid graphics punctuate the gorgeous archival footage and photographs. Endearing interviews with Armistead Maupin, Neil Gaiman, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Sir Ian McKellen, Amy Tan, and Margaret Cho add to the narrative.This story of stories is a true gift, reminding us that community is to be cherished, and that each and every one of us has a significant role to play in its creation.

"Queer Ghost Hunters"
Friday, October 13, 2017, 9:45 p.m.

It's Friday the 13th: do you know where your queer ghosts are? This docuseries by Stu Maddux ("Gen Silent"; "Reel In The Closet") is the first of its kind, following a team of queer ghost hunters contacting LGBTQ spooks in paranormal investigations across the country. It's a mix of satire on traditional reality TV and truly bone-chilling discoveries, as records of imprisonment for "deviant" behavior surface in the hands of the crew. Share a unique collective experience by transporting yourself on a journey through the series and a sneak peek at the latest unreleased episode.

The screening includes a world premiere of the latest episode with guests in attendance. Content warning: implied violence, non-explicit sexual situations.

"A Very Sordid Wedding"
Saturday, October 14, 2017, 9:45 p.m.

It's 2015 in Winters, Texas, seventeen years after Peggy tripped over G.W.'s wooden legs and died in "Sordid Lives." In the latest film in the series directed by Del Shores, Sissy Hickey is reading the Bible, trying to make some kind of sense out of what it really says about gay people. As the saga continues, an anniversary memorial service is prepared in Peggy's honor, while the Southside Baptist Church plans an "Anti-Equality Rally" to protest the advancement of same-sex marriage. Both events are to take place on the same night, so these colorful characters are on a collision course for shenanigans and fireworks -- with Whoopi Goldberg making a guest appearance to add to the fun!

Saturday Church
Sunday, October 15, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

In this "Glee"-ful coming-of-age musical (directed by Damon Cardasis), Ulysses (dynamic newcomer Luka Kain) struggles to come to terms with the reality of a dismal home life with his bigoted aunt Rose (Regina Taylor), brought in to supervise him and his brother while mom spends lengthy hours at work after the unexpected death of his father. The limits placed on him by a religious upbringing only serve to heighten the vibrant, joyful queerness of his internal world, glimpses of which slowly expand as Ulysses comes to know himself and reframe his relationship with his family.

Kicked out for trying on his mother's clothes, Ulysses finds refuge in Saturday Church, a weekly community space run by a street-smart volunteer (Kate Bornstein), which provides warm meals to homeless queer youth. Newfound friends from Saturday Church and queens of the New York City piers give Ulysses a platform and a welcoming environment to try on new clothes and new identities -- not to mention flirt with Raymond, a handsome and sensitive churchgoer who validates and encourages Ulysses. Voguing competitions with gender-bending outfits, bursts of rose petals, and kaleidoscopic visuals show us that the heart of the performer is what makes a powerful performance.

"The Lavender Scare"
Monday, October 16, 2017, 5:00 p.m.

This tragic and surprising documentary (directed by Josh Howard) sheds light on how Eisenhower's "Let's clean house" campaign slogan wasn't just about "commies." His1953 declaration of homosexuals as a threat to national security sparked a government witch hunt that lasted 40 years. The FBI investigated, employees turned on each other, and many quietly resigned; some even committed suicide. Astronomer Frank Kameny was the first to fight back, recasting the struggle as one of civil rights. Archival footage, interviews with FBI agents, and tales of thousands of lives ruined contribute to this award-winning historical document of an almost-forgotten time that helped ignite the modern gay rights movement.

"Rebels On Pointe"
Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 9:15 p.m.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-gay male ballet company founded over forty years ago. This cinéma vérité feature (directed by Bobbi Jo Hart) combines archival footage and conversations with the artistic director, critics, and family members for an affectionate look at "The Trocks." Get to know them as we travel around the world and gain an inside look at their joyfully inspired performances, familial bonds, and intimate relationships. Throughout the years, from the difficulty of acquiring funding to the devastation of AIDS, their playful and humorous yet very serious dance techniques have propelled them into the spotlight as the rebel ambassadors of ballet.

"Apricot Groves"
Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

This intentional and beautifully crafted feature (directed by Pouria Heidary Oureh) makes a triumphant return after screening at the 2017 Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival. Aram, an Iranian-Armenian transmasculine youth who immigrated to the United States in childhood, travels to Armenia for the first time -- to propose to a girlfriend Aram met and lived with in America. He's greeted at the airport by his older brother, Vartan. The handsome pair takes on responsibility for all the traditional ritual details of the marriage proposal -- suits, flowers, scents, sweets -- since their father isn't alive to guide them. Despite his brother's love and support, Aram encounters many cultural, religious, and national differences on the 24-hour trip, but even harder obstacles lie ahead: finding acceptance by getting the blessing and approval of those who must transcend their culture.

Queer cinema so infrequently originates in Middle Eastern countries, which makes this rare feature a fortunate blessing for audiences here in the United States. Written and directed by Tehran-based Pouria Heidary Oureh, "Apricot Groves" reflects a story of family, faith, brotherhood, and love. It is a moving reflection on the themes of secrecy and identity, as well as an intricate example of the endurance and complications that permeate conservative religious expectations.

"Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall"
Thursday, October 19, 2017, 5:00 p.m.

Go behind the scenes to witness the impressive creative process that YouTube sensation Todrick Hall used to produce 16 videos for his mesmerizing visual album "Straight Outta Oz," a semiautobiographical account featuring a mix of musical genres and famous co-stars. The up-close-and-personal moments continue when Hall takes the live version of his musical extravaganza on a national tour. "Behind The Curtain: Todrick Hall" (directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright) is a colorful, jubilant, and poignant documentary that highlights the irresistible magic behind Hall's musical prowess, visual wizardry, and important social message, all of which come to life in his most ambitious project to date.

Friday, October 20, 2017, 6:45 p.m.

A blaring air horn signals an immediate sense of urgency at the start of writer-director Robin Campillo's epic, heart-wrenching love story of courageous, resilient people who fought for our very existence.

Based on his life as an ACT UP activist in the early '90s, Campillo draws on his personal relationships and experiences fighting pharmaceutical companies for the release of new life-saving protease inhibitor drugs against the backdrop of fear and indifference from the general public and government.

The camera whirls from intense and shocking scenes of demonstrations to moments of pure dance-floor elation and unabashed gay sex, fading nicely to quieter moments focusing on two activists at the heart of the film: alluring Nathan and young, brash Sean (Argentine actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart in a fearless, star-making performance), who quickly fall for each other. Full of authentic dialogue and details -- as witnessed in the meetings where they finger-snap instead of clap to save precious moments -- "BPM" pulsates with every frame.

Its exquisitely crafted finale left journalists in stunned silence at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix, Queer Palm, and Film Critics' Awards. It was recently chosen as France's entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

"Like Foam"
Saturday, October 21, 2017, 9:15 p.m.

A single text message is all it takes to arrange an orgy... But it helps if your invitation alludes to a pool party at a giant mansion. Thank goodness there's a place to cool off, because things are quick to get sweaty. Never has an orgy been so full of love and passion. It's not exactly what Milo wished for after a frustrating outing to a gay bar in his wheelchair, but perhaps a celebration of love immersed in foam will cheer him up after all. There are few driving forces more powerful for humans than desire. "Like Foam" (directed by Roberto Perez Toledo) poses the question: Does there need to be an emotional element in the pursuit of sexual contact, or is sex just sex?

"Freak Show"
Sunday, October 22, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

"Transvisionary gender obliviator" Billy Bloom (a pitch-perfect Alex Lawther, "The Imitation Game") decides to run for homecoming queen, despite hordes of conservative classmates at his high school devoted to football and Jesus. Nothing will stop his wardrobe and sense of style from being utterly fabulous, as much as everyone might try. Squeaky-clean cheerleader Lynette (Abigail Breslin, Scream Queens), in particular won't let up on her religious tirades. Billy's inspirational mom (Bette Midler) used to encourage his quirks and eccentricities, but unfortunately she's at rehab, leaving Billy with an emotionally distant dad. Billy's no stranger to bullying, but just when he feels the most deserted, star football player Flip (Ian Nelson) befriends him in an effort to ease the harassment, resulting in the most unlikely pair the school has seen. A reluctant alliance with Blah Blah Blah (AnnaSophia Robb, "The Carrie Diaries") further dispels his isolation.

Legendary club kid James St. James's young adult novel, an ode to all things Gaga, Mercury, and Wilde, gives life to this delightfully amusing coming-of-age feature, the first from director Trudie Styler, with cameos by Laverne Cox ("Orange Is the New Black") as an anchorwoman and John McEnroe as a screaming coach (of course).

For a full list of films in the festival and more information, visit the festival's website.


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