From Los Angeles’ Outfest and the annual San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival to far beyond, and almost every corner of the globe, film festivals have been a notoriously friendly and receptive place for gay and lesbian cinema, generally speaking. It makes perfect sense, of course, given that most festivals’ charters include attempts at expanding social and cultural horizons. For those in large metropolitan areas, or who have the good fortune to travel to some of the major international festivals, there exists a panoply of screening options that extends beyond the normal “coming out” stories that casual mainstream heterosexual viewers might most associate with gay cinema.
Unfortunately, a lot of these movies — more interesting fare, but stuff that exists on the fringes — don’t receive theatrical releases beyond a handful of theaters, and must make their impression in the rough-and-tumble DVD marketplace. So what of the personalities behind some of these films? If their makers were better known, would they be storming the studio gates and cranking out transformative, socially inspired genre fare? Well… probably not (unless said fare involved a comic book figure), but the documentary Lavender Limelight attempts to throw a little publicity their way regardless.
Directed by Marc Mauceri and co-produced by Becky Neiman and Carol A. Ross, this candid, breezy, hour-long title goes behind-the-scenes in an effort to shine a spotlight on seven successful lesbian directors. The subjects: Rose Troche (Go Fish, The L Word), Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman), Su Friedrich (Sink or Swim, Hide and Seek), Jennie Livingston (Paris is Burning), Monika Treut (Virgin Machine, Female Misbehavior), Maria Maggenti (The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, Puccini for Beginners) and Heather MacDonald (Ballot Measure 9, Kiev Blue).
While the running time understandably doesn’t allow for in-depth explorations of their work, Mauceri folds in a bit of edifying biography, but mainly just steps out of the way and lets the filmmakers entertain with anecdotes about their blossoming adolescent awareness of their respective sexualities, growing up gay, and how in their view that shaped their outside inspirations, areas of interest and future techniques. Clips from the women’s work helps underscore their points, and obviously makes all the difference in the world with an educational/biographical offering like this. For those land-locked in the continental United States, and unable to dive headfirst into the arthouse theatrical offerings of New York City or Los Angeles, this title offers a valuable look at some of the personalities shaping the next wave of lesbian filmmaking.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Lavender Limelight: Lesbians in Film comes to DVD via First Run Features in 1.33:1 full screen. There are trailers for other First Run releases, but no further bonus features. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B (Movie) C- (Disc)