Provincetown Film Festival 2012 Preview

Austin Dale

The festival's line-up is a smattering of this year's most notable queer films, Sundance films, and some classics. Here are some films you should be looking forward to.

I'll have to take a train, a bus, and a ferry, but I'm very excited to be attending at the Provincetown International Film Festival this year beginning tomorrow.

Secluded at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is home to perhaps the easternmost film festival in America. It's also a major event for the small resort town, which has been a major hub of American gay culture since the Provincetown Players set up there at the beginning of the 20th century. It's the home of one of America's oldest gay bars. Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill wrote some of their best work in P-Town. And John Waters has a home in there. All the queerness begs the question: Why haven't I ever been to this film festival?

The festival's line-up is a smattering of this year's most notable queer films, Sundance films, and some classics. Here are some films you should be looking forward to.

1) Bachelorette

The festival will open with writer-director Leslye Headland's raucous adaptation of her play Bachelorette, the best film I saw at Sundance (picked up for distribution in September by Radius-TWC). In general, critics there gave the female-led, punchy comedy an unfair mixed reception, perhaps due to that lethal combo of festival fatigue and altitude sickness, but discerning gay male audiences straight-up adore the movie for it's combination of viciousness, soul and wit. Headland is a fresh new voice in film, armed with a scalpel of a script and terrific, deeply (refreshingly) unsympathetic central characters. Make no mistake that Headland's lean and mean film will go over well with the Provincetown crowd in this more agreeable seaside setting.

2) Gayby

A Brooklyn-born comedy, Gayby premiered at SXSW this year and will play as a gala screening at Provincetown. Filmmaker Jonathan Lisecki based the film on a short which played at over 100 film festivals over the last few years. It's not, however, about a gay baby or the baby of gay parents. Rather, it's a conception comedy about a gay man and his straight female friend. They decide to bring a new life into the world. Punny chaos ensues.

3) The Queen of Versailles

When Lauren Greenfield won a directing award at Sundance this year, she thanked her producers, who she said "saw a social-issue film where others saw a reality show". Her documentary The Queen of Versailles is, in many ways, a delicious fusion of the two. It follows a family, beyond wealthy, who decide to build the biggest house in America just before the economic crisis hits full force. From Magnolia Pictures, the film was one of Sundance's biggest crowd-pleasers.

4) Keep the Lights On

Ira Sachs' Keep The Lights On is the crowning achievement of his great career in independent film. It's a memoir of a ten-year romance in post-AIDS New York. Against the changing city's landscape, a filmmaker must fight an uphill battle against his boyfriend's drug addiction.

5) Wanda

John Waters' association with the Provincetown Film Festival extends beyond a scheduled conversation with Vanguard Award winner Roger Corman. He'll present a favorite film of his, Barbara Loden's Wanda, the little-seen but essential 1970 film written, directed and produced by Loden, the actress best known for her marriage to Elia Kazan. One of the earliest American independent films directed by a woman, Wanda as an inventive, funny, and free-wheeling road movie unlike any other.

6) Vito and How to Survive a Plague

Education about the legacy of those lost to AIDS should be an essential part in any queer film festival. Unfortunately, such films are few and far between, but few are wiser and more inspiring than Vito, the biography of the influential film scholar and activist Vito Schnabel, best known for his groundbreaking book The Celluloid Closet, which examined the infinite depths of queer representation and misrepresentation in the cinema. What was forgotten about his all-too-brief life? As Vito will tell you, a great deal.

Schnabel was part of ACT UP, the activist collective chronicled by How to Survive a Plague, one of the best films I saw at Sundance. It's a moving, triumphant tribute to those who fought so others might live. The almost-forgotten story of ACT UP should figure greatly in the narrative of American history. These two films should help make that happen.

7) Me @ The Zoo

There has never been a documentary quite like Me @ The Zoo. It's truly a new kind of film. Culled from YouTube clips, home video footage, and paparazzi photos, it's a chronicle of the wild, weird life of Chris Crocker, the Youtube celebrity who told us to leave Britney alone. Not content to simply give Crocker a well-told biography, Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch use his story to touch on the complicated new world Youtube has designed for us.

I'll be providing PopMatters coverage from the Festival, and also be Tweeting news and updates at @adale08. See you at the beach!

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