Archive for December, 2008

“Silent Light”- Review by Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey with tags , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Silent Light’ (Stellet Licht) is a film that takes it time, carefully and with extreme poise.  Set in a Mennonite community in Northern Mexico that established its roots after WWI, ‘Silent Light’ employs the extraordinary beauty of wide rural landscapes and the rigid and quiet gestures of the Mennonites to tell a story about yearning, love and hurt.

Johan (played by Cornelio Wall Fehr) is a soft-hearted man who grapples with betraying his wife Esther (Miriam Toews) and family in his love affair with Marianne (Maria Pankratz), the woman he knows to be his heart’s true match.  The films opens with a stunning time-lapse shot that magically feels merely like an ever so gradual tilt from a black star-filled sky to a flattened horizon filling with orange light and the wild sounds of morning.  We are drawn slowly to a house where an old clock ticks loudly on the wall.  In total silence and stillness, a thin, pale and blonde family prays before their morning meal.  Johan opens his eyes to look at his wife Esther.  A moment passes.  Esther opens her eyes to look at Johan who has now closed his eyes.

The finesse of ‘Silent Light’ lies in the balance between muted emotions and erratic bursts of deep, piercing expressions handled gracefully by the largely non-actor cast.  There is a tension that lies sharp under an thick layer of peaceful-looking stoicism among the three main characters.  When each of the three bursts open, however, their pain is all too real.

Alexis Zabé’s cinematography is decadent.  Shallow focus often puts the viewer uncomfortably close to the characters, their low whispery voices resonating loudly, their odd and awkward features magnified. Characters walk out of frame or only take up only part of the frame and Zabé leaves us lingering in this negative space, among gorgeous detail whose silence speaks loudly.  The perfectly timed camera movement is extraordinarily graceful and is a pleasure to watch.  There are dozens of unbearably beautiful moments in this film thanks to Zabé’s daring style.  Zabé and Reygadas together pull the viewer into a totally self-contained world where supernatural rural beauty mirrors complex emotional landscapes; where pain lies in honesty, honesty cannot divorce itself from love, and love necessarily trembles from fear of loss.

In the end, a magical realist finale subverts tragedy as a gesture of pure love on Marianne’s part brings Johan and Esther back to one another.  The camera turns back to the sky in a last time-lapse shot almost rendering this stark Mennonite microcosm a dream-like vision from a planet far away.

It is no wonder ‘Silent Light’ won the Jury Prize at Cannes among two dozen other awards.  It takes some patience–or at least a deep breath and commitment to getting comfortable–to absorb ‘Silent Light’.  And that commitment is the beauty of great cinéma.  ‘Silent Light’ is well worth it.  See it at the Film Forum from January 7th to the 20th.

Survived Christmas-just barely

Posted in day off, film, Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Forever the Grinch, this particular season of holidays naturally gets me down in a massive way, yet this time I managed to survive my negativity and bad past associations, (barring a few teary outbreaks) with a modicum of composure and some good old fashioned cheer. I spent the eve with French ex-pats, just my style, failing miserably at veganism, I had an excellent foie gras, oyster, salmon, cheese etc meal avec plenty of wine.  As I spent the Christmas eve in an airport in Paris last year on zero sleep and loads of impatience after my flight was delayed for 24 hours, this year served as an entirely more comfortable trip down memory lane. Speaking French in a “cheer” infused manner, is much more fun than violently arguing with apathetic airport employees in that language.

I spent Christmas rather contentedly in bed. Then I went to another orphan dinner at a gorgeous duplex inside an unsuspecting apt building on Jane st. Cinderella for a few hours, soon the clock struck midnight and it was time to return to the hood. Next day, I regrettably scheduled some family time in and saw Benjamin Button and ate at 10 Downing st with my mother. The highlight of the evening was clearly 10 Downing st…will talk more about this later. The new Brad Pitt movie on the other hand just goes to show that after a while talented actors, who are paid too much money, just morph into big fat losers.

The next day, i woke up sick. Just when I thought I had survived cheer week with a sufficient amount of “Spirit” I remembered that the fates were not done mocking me. Now it seems that in addition to being sick, I have put my back out again! All I want for Christmas is a free massage and a private jacuzzi. I hope your holidays were better than mine!

“Family” Planning- Irene Tung on Queer life in China

Posted in People of Color, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

This Article was written by Irene about her very interesting recent trip to China.

Dou Dou and Feng, a Chinese lesbian couple from the city of Shenyang in Northeast China, plan to have a baby together.  However, they have no intention of ever coming out to their parents.

I met them this October at a lesbian, bi and trans organizing training in Anshan in the Liaoning province of China where I was helping to conduct workshops on global LGBT history and organizational development.  Feng and Dou Dou (pronounced DOUGH-dough), both 23, created and maintain a popular web-based bulletin board that provides information and on-line counseling to Chinese lesbians. They were among activists from throughout Northeast China who attended the training.

Over breakfast one day, I asked Dou Dou and Feng, who requested to be identified only by their nicknames, about their plans for the future. They have been together for several years and have decided not to come out to their families. Instead, Feng plans to arrange a fake marriage with a gay male friend.  They will hold an elaborate wedding with friends and extended family, buy property together and live together. Dou Dou will stay “single”.  Feng and her gay friend will stay in their queer relationships, but maintain the facade of a heterosexual married lifestyle to their families. Dou Dou and Feng are both only children, as per China’s one child policy. They are part of a generation of children, born after the policy was enacted in 1979, who are facing severe pressure from their families to marry as they enter their mid-to-late twenties. Many are considering fake marriages, a practice which has created tremendous controversy in the Chinese queer community. Some see it as selling out, while others counter that the pressure from their family is too strong for them to bear.

When I asked Feng and Dou Dou about having children, they said that they definitely plan to have a child within the fake marriage arrangement.  The child would bear the gay man’s surname. It would call Feng, “mom”, the gay friend, “dad”, and Dou Dou, “godmother”.  But Dou Dou says she would still consider it her child. They say they wouldn’t tell the child the truth about the fake marriage until he or she becomes a teenager. Both of them see it as the only viable way for them to raise a child together.

One evening during dinner with other conference participants, someone asked if my partner and I plan to have kids.  I had traveled to China with my partner, who is Irish-Italian from South Jersey.  We answered that we were unsure, but that it was a possibility.  At that point, the three young gay men at the table literally jumped out of their chairs in their enthusiasm to volunteer themselves as sperm donors. We were a little taken aback, not quite sure what to make of it. It became clear very quickly however that they were only interested in providing sperm to inseminate my white partner, and not me. In response to their offers, we poured another round of drinks and told them we would think about it.

It turns out that Chinese people are obsessed with biracial, hapa babies. I spoke with several people in China who believe that hapa children are not only more beautiful, but also more intelligent. In Beijing, I met one couple that is actively seeking a white sperm donor.

Some lesbian couples in China who–unlike Feng and Dou Dou–are out to their families, hope to raise children together as openly queer parents.  Couples seeking to do so face significant legal and cultural obstacles. The Chinese government has actively opposed LGBT couples raising children. In 2006, it banned adoption of Chinese children by foreign gay couples, citing a stipulation that adoptive couples must be “healthy”. Also, unmarried women are not officially allowed to buy sperm from authorized sperm banks in China.

While the act of homosexuality is decriminalized in China, activists have recently reported an increase in surveillance, raids and arrests of people involved in queer organizing activities, especially in the period leading up to the Olympic Games this past summer.  Despite these challenges, the movement is growing in strength.  This November, following the training in Anshan and similar events in other cities, the first national alliance of lesbian, bi and trans organizations, representing thousands of members, was formalized in Shanghai. (Support their efforts!)

An amazing break dancing performance by two teenage trans boys at the closing ceremony of the conference in Anshan.

An amazing break dancing performance by two teenage trans boys at the closing ceremony of the conference in Anshan.

photo from one of the panel discussions. The banner reads, “2008 Lesbian Camp, Lesbian Networking, Anshan”

photo from one of the panel discussions. The banner reads, “2008 Lesbian Camp, Lesbian Networking, Anshan”

Ming Ming, from Beijing, wearing a t-shirt that says, “We demand to watch homosexual movies.”  The t-shirts were created as part of an anti-censorship campaign to respond to the Chinese government’s ban of all films that refer to LGBT themes.

Ming Ming, from Beijing, wearing a t-shirt that says, “We demand to watch homosexual movies.” The t-shirts were created as part of an anti-censorship campaign to respond to the Chinese government’s ban of all films that refer to LGBT themes.

VU Photos Continued

Posted in art, day off with tags , , , , , , , on December 24, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

dsc_00031

dsc_0001

Hey loves, more VU pictures. I promise you words tomorrow, had a bit of a busy day today. It seems that when every one else is sleeping I’m awake, and when everyone else is on vaycay, I’m working! Ah, such is life, rent day comes as often as the full moon. Speak soon!

Soltace, Hanuka, Christmas…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

As fun as pictures are, for those of you who may be missing my voice, I’m back. Just want to offer up some holiday well-wishes in the season of giving and forgiving and receiving and new leafs and resolutions, dark days and ETC. Yesterday, I celebrated soltace with a couple of good friends, and the darkest day of the year, although at first quite tragic, ended up feeling pretty revelatory. On the advice of our Soltace expert friend, we conducted a little ceremony to cleanse the old and bring in the new. Like ashes scattered to sea, we grabbed the tray from the toaster oven, ripped some scraps out of my sketch pad and made a very mini-bonfire out of bad memories past, and the things that were holding us down and back, from last year. Duly cleansed, we were able to then imagine the growth and the joy that we are definitely going to let in during this new year. I hope your simple ceremonies are as blessed. If your celebrating the holidays with family, please don’t break down, have fun, laugh it off, and if you are chilling with city orphans/chosen family, eat another latke for me, enjoy your vegan turkey, and watch that Christmas pudding catch on fire, with a little soltace glow left  in your eye!

VU Photos

Posted in art, day off with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Hello World,

Since I’m so much enjoying silence these days and loving pictures too…here are some shots of Voluntary Ugliness as promised. They are vintage if you will, culled from my  mis-guided summer jaunt over to the Oregon County Fair!

dsc_0014

dsc_0013

This kid was really cute though…

dsc_0015

I promise to start talking again soon!

Christmas Photos

Posted in art, day off with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I want to start share some photos.

What’s this?

img_0194

oh, it’s a cop car covered in snow. But wait, look closer, what does it say?

img_0191

That’s right kids, it says, Fuck You! Finally someone is appropriately getting into the holiday cheer. Now I know I’m not alone.