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Calendar through Feb. 28

Invisible War, gay news, Washington Blade

A still from ‘The Invisible War,’ one of the documentaries nominated for an Oscar that will be screened today at the McGowan Theater in the National Archives Building. It’s from the makers of the LGBT documentary ‘Outrage.’ (photo courtesy Docurama Films)

Friday, Feb. 22

National Archives Experience hosts free screenings of Academy Award nominees in four categories: documentary feature, documentary short subject, live action short film and animated short film at William G. McGowan Theater in the National Archives Building (700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW). Tonight’s lineup, which starts at 7 p.m., includes screenings of “How to Survive a Plague,” “The Invisible War” and “5 Broken Cameras.” Tomorrow the screenings continue at noon with the showing of Live Action Short Film nominees. Screenings of Animated Short Film nominees follow at 3:30 and 5 p.m. The screenings concluded on Sunday at 11 a.m. with showing of Documentary Short Subject nominees. Seating is first come first serve. Free tickets will be handed out at the entrance on Constitution Ave. an hour prior to the event. For more information, visit archives.gov.

Special Agent Galactica returns with her happy hour show this evening at 6 p.m. at Black Fox Lounge (1732 Connecticut Ave., NW). This week she welcomes singer and actress Nora Palka as her special guest. The show includes live jazz, blue cabaret, standards and comedy. There is no cover charge. For more information, visit pinkhairedone.com.

Saturday, Feb. 23

Rooting D.C., a free all-day gardening forum, takes place today at Wilson High School (3950 Chesapeake St., NW) from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This forum aims to educate about urban food production and consumption while cultivating health. Pre-registration is closed but walk ins will be permitted if attendees arrive early. Coffee and lunch will be provided. This event is free. For more information, visit rootingdc.org.

Burgundy Crescent volunteers this morning at Food and Friends (219 Riggs Rd., NE) at 8 a.m. and again at 9:45 a.m. Volunteers will help with food preparation and packing groceries. The shifts are limited to 10 per shift. For more information, visit burgundycrescent.org.

Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC) seeks five volunteers to assist in the celebration of the recordings and stories of LGBT military families that are to be archived in the Library of Congress today at 5:30 p.m. at the Human Rights Campaign building (1640 Rhode Island Ave., NW). Volunteers will set-up before the event, staff the check-in table and greet attendees, hand out information and clean-up afterwards. For more information, visit burgundycrescent.org.

GLOE’s Masquerade & Mischief Purim Party, described as the queerest annual Purim Party, takes place tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the DC Jewish Community Center (1529 16th St., NW). Attendees are asked to come in costume and enjoy an open bar, food and performances all night. Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door. For more information, visit washingtondcjcc.org.

Sunday, Feb. 24

Metropolitan Community Church (747 Ridge St., NW) welcomes LGBT Latinos and their friends for a potluck today at 12:30 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to share. For more information, email churchoffice@mccdc.com.

Monday, Feb. 25

Matchbox 20 brings its “2013 Changed Tour” to the Lyric Opera House (140 West Mount Royal Ave.) tonight at 7 p.m. with all new material from its fourth album “North.” Tickets are $75. For more information, visit 930.com.

The D.C. Lambda Squares holds its dance series tonight at 7:30 p.m. at National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Circle, NW). The only square dance club located in Washington, the group invites everybody to learn square dancing in just 16 Mondays. No special outfits, partner or prior dance experience is needed. The cost is $100. For more information or to register, visit dclambdasquares.org.

Whitman-Walker Health (1701 14th St., NW) holds its HIV+ Newly Diagnosed Support Group tonight at 7. It is a confidential support group for anyone recently diagnosed with HIV and the group welcomes all genders and sexual orientations. Registration is required and attendees must call 202-797-3580 or email peersupport@whitman-walker.org. For details, visit whitman-walker.org.

Tuesday, Feb. 26

Whitman-Walker Health (1701 14th St., NW) holds its group Starting Over for Women group tonight at 7. The group is for women whose long-term relationship with another woman. Registration is required and attendees must call 202 797 3580 or email peersupport@whitman-walker.org. For more information, visit whitman-walker.org.

Green Lantern (1335 Green Court, N.W.) hosts its Safer Sex Kit-packing program tonight from 7-10:30 p.m. The packing program is looking for more volunteers to help produce the kits because they say they are barely keeping up with demand. Admission is free and volunteers can just show up. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.

Wednesday, Feb. 27

Whitman-Walker Health (1701 14th St., NW) holds its HIV+ Newly Diagnosed Support Group tonight at 7. It is a confidential support group for anyone recently diagnosed with HIV and the group welcomes all genders and sexual orientations. Registration is required and attendees must call 202-797-3580 or email peersupport@whitman-walker.org. For details, visit whitman-walker.org.

The Tom Davoren Social Bridge Club meets tonight at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., SE) at 7:30 p.m. for social bridge. Newcomers are welcome and no reservations are needed. For more information or if you need a partner, visit lambdabridge.com.

Thursday, Feb. 28

Lambda Sci-Fi book group meets to discuss “Black Blade Blues,” by J.A. Pitts this evening at 7 p.m. at 1425 S St, NW. Please bring a snack or non-alcoholic drink to share. For more information, visit lambdascifi.org.

Whitman-Walker Health (1701 14th St., NW) holds its gay men over 50 support group this evening at 6:30 p.m.. The group is for gay men entering a new phase of life. Registration is required to attend. Registration is required and attendees must call 202-797-3580 or email peersupport@whitman-walker.org. For more information, visit whitman-walker.org.

21
Feb
2013

Gay films, actors among Oscar nominees

ACT UP, gay news, Washington Blade, AIDS, HIV

ACT UP protest (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

LOS ANGELES — Among the films nominated for an Academy Award this year is a critically acclaimed documentary about activism in the early days of AIDS.

“How to Survive a Plague,” directed by documentarian David France — using primarily archival footage from 31 videographers, according to Gay City News — revisits the efforts of ACT UP in the 1980s and 1990s that paved the way for making HIV drug treatments widely available.

Also nominated in the documentary category was Kirby Dick, straight director of “The Invisible War.” Dick directed the 2009 film “Outrage,” which examined outing public figures. Gay screenwriter Tony Kushner, who penned “Angels in America” was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for “Lincoln,” and gay writer/director Chris Butler’s ParaNorman, which features Mitch — considered the first young openly gay character in a children’s animated film — was nominated for Best Animated Feature.

17
Jan
2013

‘How to Survive a Plague’ at Hopkins

Peter Staley, How to Survive a Plague

Peter Staley in a scene from ‘How to Survive a Plague.’ (photo by William Lucas Walker courtesy Sundance Selects)

The Johns Hopkins’ Center for AIDS Research and the Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition will present the critically acclaimed documentary “How to Survive a Plague” with a Q&A session with the film’s Oscar-nominated director, David France, to follow on Jan. 29.

The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place at 5 p.m. at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Becton-Dickinson Auditorium, 615 N. Wolfe St. in Baltimore. A light reception will take place at 7:45 p.m.

“How to Survive a Plague” is a 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature. The film, using never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and ’90s, focuses on the coalition of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) consisting of young people, many of them HIV-positive young men, who took on Washington and the medical establishment.

For more information about the film, visit surviveaplague.com.

23
Jan
2013

Surviving Oscar

How to Survive a Plague, AIDS, HIV, gay news, ACT UP, Washington Blade

A scene from David France’s harrowing documentary ‘How to Survive a Plague.’ The film has its Oscar rendezvous Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood where its up for Best Documentary. (Photo courtesy Sundance Selects)

It sounds so straightforward — the New York Public Library had a collection of videotapes AIDS activists made decades ago with vintage camcorders back when they were heavy behemoths you had to rest on your shoulder with full-size VHS or Beta tapes inside. Filmmaker/journalist David France combed painstakingly through the clips to compose his powerful 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”

But how this was achieved — what format was the footage stored in? What condition was it in? Could anyone go in and check these out with a library card? How did France pull this off?

In some ways, it’s the least interesting part of the film’s story, which is told via a sobering chronology of video footage shot by angry protesters — the kind the Religious Right calls “militant homosexual activists.”

The film has been almost universally praised. The New York Times called it “inspiring” and crackling with “currents of rage, fear, fiery determination and finally triumph.” It has a 100 percent freshness rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes (a film quality-ranking site), several awards including “best documentary” from the Boston Society of Film Critics. This weekend it’s up for both an Independent Spirit Award and an Oscar. Gold Derby, a site that predicts entertainment industry awards, gives it a 4/1 chance at winning the Oscar (behind “Searching for Sugar Man” which it gives 13/8 odds). “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers” and “The Invisible War” (made by the “Outrage” team of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering) are also nominated.

For “Plauge,” France took footage — some of which was housed at the New York Public Library — shot by 31 videographers and paces it chronologically to the story of the formation of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a group that formed in March 1987 in a spirit of extreme frustration during a speech activist (and “Normal Heart” playwright) Larry Kramer gave at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York.

France, during a lengthy phone interview last weekend before he was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday, gladly shares the logistics behind “Plague’s” formation.

A veteran investigative journalist, author and GLAAD Media Award winner (for a GQ piece on gays in Iraq) who’s had his work published in everything from the New Yorker to Ladies’ Home Journal, France says he was a graduate student during the time AIDS hit in the early 1980s and having written about it extensively over the years, he knew activists had brought cameras to their protests. And yes, the process of crafting “Plague” was a lot more involved than simply checking tapes out of the library.

“The tapes from the library are actually just a small portion of the footage you see in the film,” France, who’s gay, says. “That’s really the first door I went through, this archive of AIDS activism video that’s housed in the Manuscript Division of the New York Library, where you go if you want to read Lincoln’s letters. It’s an exclusive corner of the library that’s not accessible to the general public and everybody’s going around wearing white gloves and handling antiquities. In one corner, they have a television and a VCR and you watch the AIDS footage recorded in those early days. It’s just raw footage, not really ever intended for public view. Some of it you’ll be watching and all of a sudden it will go to a gay porn video, which just happened to be on the same tape they recorded on.”

France says the library kept all the tapes — recorded in every home video format on the market in those years as one might imagine — but had transferred them all to the Betacam SP format, a higher resolution tape on larger cassettes that for years was the broadcast standard and is still in use today. France convinced the library to let him take select footage to a nearby production lab and have it digitized. He ended up with about 100 hours and says the process became difficult as the project moved along.

“They’re really not accustomed to working on a film production schedule, so trying to get them to hurry got more and more difficult as we went along,” he says.

And that was just the starting point — in the library footage, France saw other people holding video cameras. He started tracking them down one by one and eventually found a group of people, many long-time AIDS survivors themselves, who had videotape footage they had never revisited. Again, formats remained a challenge.

“We had all this stuff in so many different formats from private collections,” he says. “We were constantly scouring Craigslist and eBay for decks that would play these old tapes. We ended up with about 800 hours and that really became the building blocks of the film.”

And yes, France says it did take some persuasion to get these individuals to hand over their footage.

France says, “A lot of these people had moved on but I think now have started to see the real value in this footage. I think they gradually started to realize, that yes, enough time has passed and now is the time to really use it and this is the project.”

France said his project is timely and important because many of the other landmark AIDS pieces, from Kramer’s play to Randy Shilts’ “And the Band Played On” were written before the era of anti-retroviral therapy when HIV morphed into a more manageable condition.

He says the film is important for anyone interested in the AIDS fight to see.

“There were even people in ACT UP who didn’t know the outcomes of many of these things,” he says. “If you think you know the story of AIDS, this film will surprise you and that goes for just about everybody.”

WASHINGTON BLADE: Will this be your first time at the Academy Awards?

DAVID FRANCE: Yes. I’ve never gotten any closer before than my television screen.

BLADE: Have you watched very often over the years?

FRANCE: Oh yeah. My boyfriend and I always have an Oscar party. With ballots and everything. I’ve never won.

BLADE: What’s your favorite Oscar memory?

FRANCE: Tom Hanks’ acceptance speech when he won for “Philadelphia.” That’s really seared in my memory.

BLADE: What did you think of Michael Moore’s controversial speech when he won the category you’re up for? Ballsy or inappropriate for the occasion?

FRANCE: I think if you’ve got an audience of a billion people and you’ve got something to say, you need to say it. That’s not to say I’m intending any surprises should I have that opportunity.

BLADE: Have you seen the competition?

FRANCE: Of course. They’re all brilliant films.

BLADE: If you win, where will you put Oscar?

FRANCE? I’m not sure. I keep the other awards we’ve won in the production office so everyone on the crew can enjoy them and hopefully see their own contribution but if we get this little gold thing, I’m not sure. I have no idea.

BLADE: Do you feel AIDS, as horrible as it was and is, put gay issues on the national radar and that ended up being a silver lining to the cloud or is that an absurd oversimplification?

FRANCE? No, it’s absolutely true. Before that, gay people were entirely disenfranchised and we were not seen as being contributing members to the culture at all. We had no role whatsoever in civic life … From those ashes (of AIDS), now we have a president who acknowledges us as human beings and Stonewall is mentioned in the same breath as Seneca Falls.

BLADE: How did you feel when Dustin Lance Black won for “Milk”?

FRANCE: I felt it was incredible. He gave a great speech and I thought it was a very, very good movie.

BLADE: Did you plan all along to submit it for a nomination? What’s the process like?

FRANCE: There are all kinds of rules about it playing in New York and L.A. and being reviewed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and that’s just the first threshold. I was lucky I had a distributor who saw the potential for the film early on and made sure we did everything we needed to do for both the Oscars and the Independent Spirit Awards. … Anytime you make a film, sure, you fantasize about getting an Oscar nomination and it’s really just because you want more people to see it. An Oscar bump is a tremendous thing.

21
Feb
2013

AIDS activist Spencer Cox dies

AIDS, HIV, How to Survive a Plague, gay news, Washington Blade

Spencer Cox (YouTube)

NEW YORK — Last appearing in the documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” and best known for his work with ACT UP, outspoken AIDS activist Spencer Cox died Tuesday of complications from AIDS. He was 44.

At just 20 years old, Cox became one of the spokespeople for ACT UP in 1989, according to “How to Survive a Plague” producer/director David France, first as a member of the Treatment and Data Committee, and later as the founder of the Treatment Action Group. Cox’s research was sought out by scientists and his proposed drug trial protocol was adopted by the pharmaceutical industry in 1995 during early testing of protease inhibitors.

“Spencer single-handedly sped up the development and marketing of the protease inhibitors, which currently are saving 8 million lives,” said TAG executive director Mark Harrington. “He was absolutely brilliant, just off the charts brilliant.”

21
Dec
2012

Year in review: Best of the big screen

Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, the Paperboy, Washington Blade, gay news

Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron in new film ‘The Paperboy.’ The sordid tale opens today in the D.C. area. (Photo courtesy of the Karpel Group)

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the year in LGBT film was the release of David France’s amazing documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”

France, a first-time director but an experienced journalist who has written extensively on the AIDS crisis, worked with a dedicated team to collect and review about 500 hours of video footage shot by AIDS activists during the early days of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (the Treatment Action Group).

The result is an incredible film that combines the raw emotional energy of archival footage with the more detached analysis of contemporary interviews with survivors of the movement. The movie tells their story with great emotional and intellectual clarity and insight. It chronicles their successes and defeats, their miscalculations and their personal and professional struggles, but mainly the aching sense of lives lost to a vicious disease, an entrenched bureaucracy and an indifferent public.

The most memorable performance in an LGBT movie came from a very different film: Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy,” helmed by openly gay director Lee Daniels. Following up on the success of “Precious,” Daniels turned to a steamy Southern tale of sex, murder and corruption in the Florida swamps of 1969. The bizarre film, which never quite jelled, featured a wild performance by Kidman as the vampy death row groupie Charlotte Bless.

Other highlights of the movie include, which may well be on the way to becoming a camp classic, include numerous scenes of  Zac Efron in various states of undress and Matthew McConaughey as a muck-racking journalist with a secret of his own — he likes rough sex with black men.

Other highlights in LGBT film in 2012 include:

“Albert Nobbs,” which took star/producer Glenn Close several years to get to the screen. Close plays an Irish woman who lives as a man to support herself financially and protect herself from sexual violence. Her hermetic existence as the hotel clerk Albert Nobbs is burst open when she meets fellow cross-dresser Hubert Page (played with great gusto by Janet McTeer).

“Coriolanus” with Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler (“300”) in this excellent adaptation of Shakespeare’s queer look at militarism and misogyny. With remarkable fidelity to the Bard’s powerful language and themes, first-time director Fiennes moves the action to modern-day Kosovo and boldly highlights the homoerotic relationship between the Roman general Coriolanus and his Volscian foe Aufidius.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” — India once again serves as a source of renewal for a group of stiff-upper-lipped English expatriates who retire there. The all-star cast includes Tom Wilkinson as Graham Dashwood who finally finds love and the courage to come out at the exotic hotel.

“Skyfall” brings a much-needed reboot to the Bond franchise, restoring several Bond motifs and a missing sense of humor and style. With the help of Judi Dench (who continues her excellent work as M) and Ben Whishaw (a new recruit as Q), Daniel Craig’s Bond battles Javier Bardem as Silva, a British spy gone bad. For gay audiences there’s a special thrill when Bond responds to Silva’s sexual advances with the dry retort, “What makes you think this is my first time?”

“Lincoln” is Steven Spielberg’s biopic of the 16th president and features a powerful script by award-winning gay author (and Golden Globe nominee) Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”). Kushner has the amazing ability to turn political rhetoric into compelling drama as he chronicles how Abraham Lincoln fights for the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery in the United States. The film includes stellar performances from Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader, as well as a delightful cameo by S. Epatha Merkerson. The film also includes tantalizing hints at Lincoln’s intimate relationships with other men, including an invitation to share an aide’s bed.

Local LGBT audiences also enjoyed the continued success of two excellent regional film festivals: D.C. Shorts and Reel Affirmations.

Under the leadership of openly gay local filmmaker Jon Gann (“Cyberslut”), the ninth D.C. Shorts festival included a variety of exciting films all under 20 minutes. A number of fascinating gay and lesbian shorts were sprinkled throughout the 16 cinematic showcases, including “The Maiden and the Princess,” a queer update on traditional fairy tales that was part of a family showcase; “Hatch,” a dark movie by Austrian director Christopher Kuschnig that looks at the lives of two couples on a wintry night in Vienna when a baby’s fate is decided; and “The Queen of My Dreams,” a delightful Bollywood take on a lesbian’s coming-out story.

To extend their outreach, Reel Affirmations began a series of monthly film showcases in addition to the 21st annual film festival in November. The festival opened with the double bill of “Kiss Me,” a deeply romantic Swedish lesbian coming out story, and “I Do,” an American film about a gay couple in New York grappling with international immigration issues. The festival closed with “Bear City 2: The Proposal,” a celebration of the bear community and romantic Provincetown weddings.

A highlight of the festival was “Yossi,” the sequel to the Israeli indie gay hit “Yossi and Jagger.” The film reunites director Eytan Fox with star Ohad Knoller who turns in a deeply emotional performance as a man finally breaking out of his emotional paralysis.

27
Dec
2012