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Gay And Lesbian Film Festivals Are Better Than Ever



“Howl” with James Franco, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

“I don’t think we’re in Cannes anymore, Toto.” I said to my little black terrier who is actually named Molly. Indeed, I don’t think we will ever go back to just a handful of world renowned film festivals attended only by elite film people, dictating what the rest of the people all over the world might get a chance to watch.

While Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and others remain very influential, they are not the only shows in town anymore. Mainstream film festivals have burgeoned into the hundreds worldwide, with thousands of films submitted for acceptance. The development of GLBTQ Film Festivals have kept pace, expanding to over 100 festivals in 2010. And, in the US and Canada, many were held to coincide with Pride celebrations in June.

One of the oldest and largest GLBTQ Film Festivals is the San Francisco “Frameline 34″ which listed over 260 film titles for this year’s event held June 17-27. Their 2009 attendance was over 60,000 people. The 2010 Nashville GLBTQ Festival (started as The Sinking Creek Film Festival in 1969) was held for 8 days in April this year and had 2000 submissions from 86 countries.

The Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival, held in Toronto in May, and one of the most prestigious and best attended in the world, listed screenings for 177 GLBTQ films. They counted attendance this year at over 35,000. The growth has been huge, with attendees both elite and ordinary and not only from the gay community but also many from the straight world who are interested and supportive. I will not be tapping my feet together in red shiny shoes with any desire to go backwards.

In looking through the lists of award winners, two in particular caught my attention. The first, “Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride” directed by Robert Christie, has won awards in Montreal, in Toronto, at the Q Cinema in Fort Worth, and also at Fairy Tales in Calgary. While it is not the top winner, those who watch it will not forget it and may even be motivated to take further action. Human Rights issues are at stake, there are links to resources on the film’s website.

The trailer (below) alone is powerful in reminding us that Pride is to be celebrated not only between participants and spectators, but for those people who cannot stand up for themselves. Director of the Vancouver Pride Festival , Ken Coolen, made the film because he had an emotional response to another human rights film which made him want to take action.

The film begins in Vancouver, Canada and goes to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Moscow, Russia; Zurich, Switzerland; NY City, United States, and Colombo, Sri Lanka. There is a clear message presented through images of beauty, joy, humor and also a terrifying sense of danger in the different political atmospheres. There is also a Facebook page: Beyond Gay The Politics of Pride.

The second film is one that I hope will become an American favorite. “The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls.” Directed by Leanne Pooley, it has won awards at over 16 festivals including Best Documentary in Toronto. It is about two talented and funny women who think of themselves as performers, but unwittingly become crusaders and political activists leading the GLBTQ movement in New Zealand.

Part of the way they accomplish this, is that everyone falls in love with them, and they manage to completely love themselves and everyone back. During an interview, one of them says that their parents are in the film talking about how it was difficult, but afterall OK to have lesbian daughters.

These two show that being lesbian is part of what makes them more than OK, both lovable and amazing. There are also several videos of the pair performing on Youtube.

Other notable films on my list so far include: “Howl” (above) directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (with James Franco); “Eyes Wide Open” directed by Haim Tabakman; “The Secret Diary of Miss Anne Lister” directed by James Kent; and finally the Peruvian film: “Undertow” (below) written and directed by Javier Fuentes-Leon. Some are being shown at both GLBTQ and mainstream International Festivals.


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Texas AG Ken Paxton’s office “dysfunctional” with child porn and shady political dealings



Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is running for a third term in office while facing civil and criminal fraud charges for allegedly handly sketchy trade deals, giving office positions to donors, and trying to overturn the 2020 election.

However, a new Associated Press (AP) story paints Paxton’s office as highly political and dysfunctional.

Paxton’s office botched “Operation Fallen Angel,” an investigation that indicted six men on allegations of forcing teen girls to “exchange sexual contact for crystal methamphetamine.” Paxton’s office largely dropped the charges because they lost track of their key witness.

Another prosecutor said he quit Paxton’s office in January after supervisors pressured him to withhold evidence in a murder case, the AP wrote.

Eight of Paxton’s top deputies quit or were fired in autumn 2020 after they went to the FBI to accuse Paxton of using his office to help a donor who had employed a woman that Paxton admitted to having an extramarital affair with. The FBI’s investigation is ongoing.

The AP story notes that Paxton gave a senior role to a California attorney who gave him $10,000 to fight his 2015 securities fraud indictment. Paxton also hired Tom Gleason, a former police officer whose father donated $50,000 to Paxton’s legal defense. Gleason was given a job advising Paxton on child exploitation as well as Medicaid and voter fraud.

Gleason was fired less than two months into his new job. Paxton’s office didn’t explain why, but “three people with knowledge of the matter” told the AP that, during a work presentation at the agency’s Austin headquarters, Gleason played a video of “a man raping a small child” to highlight the difficult work facing child abuse investigators.

“It was met with outrage and caused the meeting to quickly dissolve,” the AP wrote. “Afterward, Paxton’s top deputy, Brent Webster, told staff not to talk about what happened.”

The AP also wrote that before Texas’ March primary elections, Amber Platt, a deputy over criminal justice cases, held a meeting asking lawyers in Paxton’s offices about which upcoming cases that would best help his reelection chances.

Despite all this, Paxton has a five-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Rochelle Garza.

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Russia is torturing civilians in camps around eastern Ukraine



The Russian military has established 10 torture sites in the eastern city of Izium, Ukraine, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Torture is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.

Eight men died killed under torture in Russian custody, the AP wrote. All but one were civilians.

Russian forces captured Andriy Kotsar, tied him up, and threw him for several days in a trench covered with wooden boards. They beat his legs and arms and smashed his knees with a hammer. They then took his ID and passport so that he would find it hard to prove his identity, get help, or escape.

Russian forces captured him two more times after that. The torture was worse both times, Kotsar said.

“Russian torture in Izium was arbitrary, widespread, and absolutely routine for both civilians and soldiers throughout the city,” the Associated Press investigation found. The torture included waterboarding and electrocution, among other pain-inducing methods.

Mykola Mosyaky, a 38-year-old Ukrainian soldier, was handcuffed, thrown in a pit of dirty water, and hung by the wrists until his skin went numb.

“They beat me with sticks. They hit me with their hands, they kicked me, they put out cigarettes on me, they pressed matches on me,” he stated. “They said, ‘Dance,’ but I did not dance. So they shot my feet.”

Dr. Yuriy Kuznetsov, an emergency room physician in Izium, said that Ukrainians are showing up to his hospital with torture-related injuries, including “gunshots to their hands and feet, broken bones and severe bruising, and burns.” The victims never say how they got their injuries, worried about retaliation if they do.

A father and son who were both tortured said they could hear women’s screams every night as Russian soldiers raped them in a nearby garage.

Russians showed one local woman the body of her battered, unconscious soldier husband, pressuring her to provide information that she knew nothing about.

At least 30 bodies taken from a mass grave in the city showed “visible marks of torture,” including “bound hands, close gunshot wounds, knife wounds, and broken limbs.”

“[Torture] serves three purposes,” said Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch. “Torture came with questions to coerce information, but it is also to punish and to sow fear. It is to send a chilling message to everyone else.”

On September 30,  Russia held sham referendums in the eastern Ukrainian territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. While the referendums sought to cede the territories to Russia, their outcomes were pre-determined by Russia as a way to basically lay claim to the territories.

The U.S. called the referendums illegal and also authorized an additional $12 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of the referendums, “Recently, someone somewhere held pseudo-referendums, and when the Ukrainian flag is returned, no one remembers the Russian farce with some pieces of paper and some annexations. Except, of course, law enforcement agencies of Ukraine. Because everyone who is involved in any elements of aggression against our state will be accountable for it. And I thank everyone who brings these moments of victory closer, who returns the Ukrainian flag to its rightful place on Ukrainian land.”

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Supreme Court refuses to protect Mike Lindell from a billion dollar defamation lawsuit



The Supreme Court just started its new term, and among its first act, it refused to hear an appeal from Mike Lindell — the conspiracy theorist, supporter of former President Donald Trump, and MyPillow CEO — who wanted the court to throw out a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against him.

The lawsuit was filed by Dominion Voting Systems, a manufacturer of voting machines, to litigate against Lindell for his repeated claims that their machinery played a role in “stealing” the 2020 election from Trump. He made his claims on Fox News and various media and social media outlets.

In response to Dominion’s lawsuit, Lindell filed a countersuit accusing the voting machine company of using the court system to “silence Lindell’s and others’ political speech about election fraud and the role of electronic voting machines in it.”

His countersuit also accused the company of “waging lawsuit warfare on private citizens…under the auspices of ‘defending election integrity’…[rather than] fixing their notoriously and demonstrably insecure voting machines.” The lawsuit said the company had “embarked on a concerted, collective enterprise to extort silence from their dissenters or bring financial ruin on any and all who persist in speaking their minds.”

In August 2021, Lindell held a public “cyber symposium” which, he said, would show undeniable proof about how voting machines helped steal the 2020 election.

Rob Graham, a cyber expert who attended the symposium, said, “[Lindell] gave us experts NOTHING today, except random garbage that wastes our time.” Graham said the Lindell had promised to give cyber experts who attended the symposium “packet captures from the November 2020 election could be unencrypted to reveal evidence of voter fraud.” Graham said those packets were never provided.

Fox News refused to run advertisements about the symposium. Lindell was accused of using the symposium as nothing more than to try and maintain relevance and continue the narrative about the “stolen election.”

Several months after the 2020 election, Lindell claimed that Trump would return as president by August. 2021 Lindell said this would occur either through Supreme Court rulings or “two other bonus pathways” involving vote audits in states that Trump lost in 2020.

Lindell said that once the Supreme Court considers his evidence of voter fraud, the justices will unanimously rule 9-0 in favor of allowing Trump to become president once again.

Lindell was wrong.


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