"The 23rd Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival" continues this weekend with more than 30 feature and short films being shown in three venues: the Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.; the Starline Lounge, 831 E. Fern; and The Voice Shop, 1296 N. Wishon Ave.
The festival showcases movies with gay, lesbian and transgender stories. Along with the movie screenings, there are receptions, parties and appearances by filmmakers and stars. It's the sixth-oldest gay and lesbian film festival in America.
Here are reviews of two of the major films being screened this weekend.
"TRANS: The Movie," 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Tower Theatre.
There is happiness and heartbreak in this compelling, well-crafted documentary from Chris Arnold about the challenges faced by individuals in the transgender community. There's also a big local angle, which is where much of the sadness comes in. Featured prominently in the film is the story of Chloe Anne Lacey, a 2009 Buchanan High School graduate who ended her life in 2010. (Yes, Clovis gets a few obligatory dings as a conservative rodeo town.)
Lacey lived most of her life as Justin Brian Lacey, and the account of her struggles and suicide -- which were documented in a front-page story in The Fresno Bee -- come to life in the film through interviews with her parents, family and friends. As director, Arnold conveys the tragic story with well-tempered compassion, giving us a straightforward account of the events but also unafraid to acknowledge and embrace the emotional trauma.
There's a lot of other emotional heft in "TRANS" as well, as we follow a thread of story lines ranging from a 7-year-old boy who feels he was born in a girl's body -- and the impact on the boy's family -- to a 51-year-old who makes the decision to undergo the extensive surgery to change gender, thus alienating her grown children. Featured prominently are such "stars" of the transgender community as Dr. Christine McGinn, a retired Navy officer who underwent a male-to-female transition and now performs such operations at her own specialty clinic.
It's a nice blend of characters and stories -- young, older, white, people of color -- and circumstances. "TRANS" is both sobering and uplifting, a reminder of how throughout history people have faced adversity by forming tight-knit communities and fighting for change. (DM)
"Cloudburst" 8 p.m. Sunday, Tower Theatre.
Olympia Dukakis turns in a magnificent performance as the tough-talking Stella in this film adaptation of Thom Fitzgerald's stage production. It's the moving and funny story of two mature women, partners for 31 years, who head to Canada to get married.
Dukakis gets the standout role as the strong -- but never silent -- protector of the pair. In less experienced hands, the role might have become a cartoon character. But Dukakis knows exactly when to put on the hard-nosed persona and when to back off to show emotional cracks.
Brenda Fricker's low-key performance might have been overshadowed had not the veteran actor brought such strength and dignity to the role. Her performance is a snug fit with the work done by Dukakis.
Fitzgerald brings his script to life against breathtaking scenery. Road trip films often can get tedious because of all the shots inside the vehicle. Fitzgerald's smart enough to stop the action long enough for the viewer to appreciate the marvelous landscapes along the way.
"Cloudburst" is a wonderful story about love, devotion and life that should be seen with your own special someone. (RB)
"Cloudburst," unrated. Stars Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Kristin Booth, Ryan Doucette. Directed by Thom Fitzgerald. Running time: 93 minutes. Grade: B+
"TRANS: The Movie," unrated. Directed by Chris Arnold. Running time: 93 minutes. Grade: B+
Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Donald Munro can be reached at (559) 441-6373, ORDER REPRINTS