The seventh annual Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

Were Here, Were Queer, Were Cinematic

After six years at the homey Art Theatre on Fourth Street, the Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is moving up to the plush confines of the 1,000-capacity Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts on the Cal State Long Beach campus. The schedule has been streamlined as well—just nine films (down from last year's 21)—though, according to fest director Matt Merritt, long-range plans include making the event a twice-yearly affair. "We hope people don't see the move and trimmed program as a downscaling," Merritt says. "This is an upscaling."

Proceeds from fest ticket sales go to fund programs of the Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center. All events take place at the Carpenter Center. Descriptions of films listed below are lifted from the film-fest program. (Rich Kane)

FRIDAY Bedrooms & Hallways

"Bedrooms & Hallways is a romantic comedy that takes on the complexities of gay male relationships among a group of fashionable young Londoners, following the love entanglements of 30ish blond Leo and his flatmate Darren. While Darren is content with casual flings and wild sex in the nooks and crannies of homes that his real-estate-agent boyfriend sells, Leo pines for something more meaningful and joins a New Age men's group, where touchy-feely expressions of manhood and emotional confessions reign."

The fest's annual Opening Night Gala follows the screening, with lots of food, drink and chitchatting. 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

Panel discussion: Violence in Queer Films

Journalist Denise Penn, associate producer and co-host of Long Beach public-access cable show The Gay & Lesbian News Magazine,moderates a discussion on how violence in gay films relates to ethics, hate crimes and internalized homophobia. Guests include Relax . . . It's Just Sex producer Steven Wolfe, Party of Five's Mitchell Anderson and LA Times film critic Kevin Thomas, among others. 11 a.m. Free.

Le Jupon Rouge

"Le Jupon Rouge charts the intense, emotional menage a trois between three beautiful French women. When hitherto straight fashion designer Manuela falls for the enchanting Claude, their blossoming love incites the fierce jealousy of the older Bacha." In French, with English subtitles. 1 p.m.

Dakan

"Dakan is the first ever West African feature exploring homosexuality. Sori and Manga are two teenage boys who fall for each other. Problem is, they refuse to hide it. As their love begins to flourish, and the romance becomes apparent, the pair fend off ridicule from classmates, violence from their well-to-do parents, and even a healer sent to 'cure' Manga." 4 p.m.

Show Me Love

No one at school likes mousy Agnes. After more than two years of living in the small Swedish town of Åmål, the 16-year-old is still friendless. To make matters worse, she has a supersecret crush on Elin, one of the most popular girls at school, who is rumored to have gotten together with 70,000 guys (a mere estimate). Despite her seemingly privileged position, Elin is also fed up with "fucking Åmål" (the original title of this film; it was deemed too vulgar for overseas showing). Utterly bored one evening, Elin convinces her sister to go to Agnes' birthday party, which, as expected, turns out to be a total dud. Elin's sister dares her to kiss Agnes, who everyone suspects is a lesbian. She takes the bet but soon regrets having humiliated poor Agnes. She returns to Agnes' house to beg for forgiveness. Elin soon discovers that she shares much in common with the outcast and finds that she's starting to feel something more powerful than feelings of friendship.

In his first feature-length film, 29-year-old writer/director Lukas Moodysson succeeds in sensitively conveying the girls' predicament without simplifying it or the people around them. Show Me Love is foremost about being a confused teenager, experiencing the mixed emotions associated with falling in love and finding the strength to be different. Rebecca Liljeberg plays Agnes with understated confidence. Even at Agnes' most desperate moments, Liljeberg makes you feel sorry for her without thinking she's pathetic. Though she plays the pretty, popular girl, Alexandra Dahlström infuses Elin with enough sweetness to help you understand her appeal. Though the first half of the film deals mainly with Agnes' loneliness and her painful crush, the second half concentrates mainly on Elin grappling with her feelings about Agnes. It is here that Dahlström impresses in her ability to convey Elin's anxiety over her mixed emotions.

When the film came out on video a month ago in Sweden, my 18-year-old cousin, Fredrik, had to buy it. Growing up in a small town like Åmål, he identified with the characters' teenage angst. The way he raved about it didn't even clue me in that it is not only a coming-of-age but also a coming-out film. He wasn't alone in his admiration; Show Me Lovewas a megahit in Sweden—rivaling Titanicin the box office last year. While it didn't earn an Academy Award Best Foreign Film nomination, it swept the Swedish equivalent of the Oscars and won Best Feature Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Thus far, the film has received only limited release, showing mainly at such film festivals as this weekend's Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, where it's featured at the annual Girls' Night Out Party. After the subtitled screening (how many people know Swedish?), the festival organizers promise a "sumptuous spread" with gourmet desserts and beverages. It's a chance to see a great film and meet some like-minded girls. (Anna Barr)

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