LAFF 2007: Cool Cats and Bad Kitties

What can I say about LIBERTY KID? To be honest, not a lot, except that I liked it. Produced by Larry Fessenden, who’s best known for independent artsy horror, it’s a streets-of-New-York movie about how it’s rough out there, and opportunities slim — but as far as I know, none of the actors is a famous rapper, and there’s no gratuitous tragedy at the end of the second act. People just keep on keepin’ on, and end up more or less where they started.

Our lead is “Derrick,” actual name Odalis, a Dominican black Spanish-speaker, dubbed “Peace Pipe” because he can get along with blacks and Latinos, played by Al Thompson, a young actor who apparently has 33 credits to his name, though he doesn’t look familiar. Derrick and his best friend Tico (Kareem Savinon, a newcomer who’s just as good as Thompson) work at the Statue of Liberty in September of 2001. Needless to say, shit happens, and they lose their jobs. Derrick struggles to get his GED while being aggressively pursued by army recruiters (in the scene that gets the movie’s biggest laugh, a recruiter insists that war with Iraq is “Not gonna happen”).

Tico, meanwhile, deals drugs, and urges Derrick to do likewise, just for a little while, to make some money. But thankfully this isn’t your typical “drug movie” — at one point Derrick gets mugged for some money that isn’t his…and nothing happens as a result! No-one tries to kill him, or his family; life just goes on.


Granted, that doesn’t make for heightened melodrama, but don’t the people who live like this deserve a movie that doesn’t portray their existence as a Greek tragedy waiting to happen? It’s not boring, I promise. Just real.

In a completely different category is CAT DANCERS, a documentary that looks on the surface like “the Siegfried and Roy story,” but no: while similar, it’s way more tragic.

Director/producer Harris Fishman gives us Ron Holiday, a 70-year-old former bodybuilder and dancer in a cheesy Jheri-Khurl-style toupee (which, while goofy, admittedly does make him look younger — funny old world, innit?), who has quite a story to tell, and tell it he does.

Along with his wife Joy — and yes, we take a moment and go “Wife? This guy seems about as likely to be married as Richard Simmons,” though it turns out that even though he does love men, he likes ladies too — he was part of a ballet act, which, in their 30s (past prime for the formal stuff) they turned into a wildcat act, with jaguars, tigers, leopards…dare we add “Oh my”?

And then they added a newcomer to their act, a handsome young man named Chuck. There were jokes about threesomes, and the jokes became a reality.

Upfront, you are told that things ended in tragedy. No need to spoil the reason here, if you don’t know it, but there’s a reason Ron is the only one interviewed on camera. And yes, think Siegfried and Roy.

Frankly, I had no desire to see this movie, except to please my pal, the ever-hard-working publicist Mickey Cottrell, who’s the closest thing the LA film community has to an old-time carnival barker. I had intended to go see the new movie about The Germs, especially since a slightly reconstituted version of the band had played live on Broxton earlier in the day.

But that theater looked too crowded, so I went for the trisexual tiger movie. And it’s damned moving. Holiday even showed up at the end to say how much he appreciated the movie, though at various points during the making of it, he had kicked Fishman out several times.

The Germs movie is playing at other times anyway.

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