Young Brit Steve McLean’s acclaimed ﬁrst feature, Postcards From America — an odyssey through sexuality, anguish and transcendence — is the centrepiece of this year’s touring Lesbian And Gay Film Festival. Trevor Johnston
met a director going places.
Unlikely as it might seem, we have Jimmy Somerville. no less. to thank for one ofthe most
striking British independent ﬁlms to have turned up I 1 ﬂ '
for some time. Former art director and pop video- maker Steve McLean's début ﬁlm Postcards front America — a searing portrait of one man’s troubled experiences. drawn from the autobiographical writings ofthe late US AIDS activist David Wojinarowiez — began life purely because the Scottish singing sensation gave the young writer- director enough money to go off and shoot a third of his script. edit together the scenes they had the cash to do. then use the subsequent extended trailer as a means of raising the money to complete the rest of
Having been turned down by all the usual sources of funding in Britain. McLean found himselflinking up with New York‘s low-budget gurus, producer Christine Vachon (who brought Todd Haynes’s Poison. Tom Kalin’s Swoon and Rose Troche‘s Go Fish to the screen) and ﬁnancier Jon Pierson (giver of sound advice at the 1993 Edinburgh Film Festival and the American indie mover and shaker from Spike
Lee onwards). and the result is both a remarkable instance of Anglo-American co-operation and a brave. stylish. powerful movie in its own right.
‘The attitude that we got from a lot of people over here was like. “It‘s an American movie, so why should we put any money into it‘?“.' recalls McLean. whose production outﬁt Normal Films marks ajoint venture between himself. Somerville and fellow directors lsaac Julien and Mark Nash. ‘In a way. I can understand that. but it‘s an American ﬁlm in its subject matter. so it seemed appropriate to go for an American production. David‘s writing was fuelled by an intensity he felt towards America but at the same time the exclusion he felt from it. In his book Close To The K ni res. he veers between these very polemical essays about the AIDS crisis and very personal stories from his own life — that’s what struck a chord with me and that‘s what makes him so
Although multimedia artist Wojinarowicz (pronounced ‘Won-are-o-vitch‘) died in I992. his faith in letting then unknown video-maker McLean adapt his work is certainly vindicated by this mightin impressive feature. The ﬁlm moves nimny between three distinct periods in the life of an American outsider — cutting between an abusive New Jersey childhood. an adolescence spent hustling on the sidewalks of the Big Apple. and an anguished maturity in which the adult David discovers the thrill of anonymous sex on the open road before he has to face the dark shadow of the AIDS virus. With its feel for the American landscape pitched somewhere between the worlds of Kerouac and Gus Van Sant,
‘With its feel for the American landscape pitched somewhere between the worlds of Kerouac and Gus Van Sant, and its immersion in the milieu of low-lite Americana, it’s an extraordinary project to have come from a British moviemaker.’
and its immersion in the milieu of low-life Americana, it’s an extraordinary project to have come from a British moviemaker, not least because the visual assurance of the piece belies a budget that was a mere fraction ofeven the likes of Shallow
He might be a softly-spoken individual. but McLean’s achievement surely stands as an inspiration to anyone still struggling within the sometimes apparently constricting conﬁnes of our home industry. ‘The key thing for us,‘ he underlines with some emphasis, ‘was not to let the lack of money cramp the visual aspects of what we were doing. We always knew what we wanted. the next thing was to ﬁgure out how we could do it for the resources we had available. You really have to stick
Postcards front America plays the Edinburgh
F ilmhouse from 10-12 June and the OFT from 16-18 June. The 2pm Edinburgh screening on 1] June and the 5.30pm screening in Glasgow on 18 June will be followed by discussions organised by Scottish AIDS
amm- lt’s queer, it’s here!
Trevor Johnston previews the Lesbian And Gay Film Festival.
Although the success of ﬁlm and video distribution outﬁt Dangerous To Know has increased the spread of speciﬁcally gay and lesbian material throughout the year. the success of the annual London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival at the capital's National Film Theatre has also provided a major showcase for new movies from across the world. a window whose value is increased by the touring ‘greatest hits' package which now visits ﬁlm theatres across
the land to make sure that nobody feels
This month both Edinburgh Filmhouse and Glasgow Film Theatre play host to a typically eclectic
selection that ranges from Midnight Dancers (GFT l7—l8; Filmhouse, 9—10 June). a portrait of Manila‘s seamy gay bar culture. through to 100 Days Before Command (GFT 11—12; Filmhouse 16). which takes the lid off barrack-room life in Russia‘s Red Army. and even Queen of Outer Space (GFT 18—19; Filmhouse l6). a trash Classic from 1958. with the indefatigable Zsa Zsa Gabor leading a scientiﬁc expedition to Venus and ﬁnding only women on the planet of love! Well, we did say eclectic.
Certainly. the variety of approaches is as marked as the geographical spread of the material. Ana Kokkinos’s Antipodean offering Only the Brave (OFT IO—I l; Filmhouse 2 l—22) is a gritty realist drama about two Greek- Australian girls railing against the conformity of their working-class Melbourne background, while Mini Onodera‘s Canadian picture Skin Deep (GFT l5—l6; Filmhouse I9-20)
concentrates on issues of dress and gender amidst a ﬁlm-making milieu. Amongst the glossier American independent products are World And Time Enough (GFT 20—2 1; Filmhouse 12—13). a twentysomething comedy- drama voted Best Gay Feature at the San Francisco Film Festival. and Fresh Kill (GFT 19—20; Filmhouse 9—10). which has Sarita Choudry as an avenging lesbian tnum in an ‘eco- techno‘ thriller. Aﬁcionados of camp too are well served. with the trashy Canadian road odyssey Highway 0i Heartache (OFT l l-IZ; Filmhouse l6—l8)just losing out to Bruce La Bruce‘s no-budget post-Warhol hardcore epic Super 81/2 (Filmhouse 21—22) as the most outrageous title on display. Be wamed. it's not for the faint-hearted! Highlights from the London Lesbian And Gay Film Festival play the Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh F ilmhouse between 9-22 June.
The List 2-15 Jun 199517