Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 3: OH, HELL NO! (ImageOut There! Shorts)

Well, all I can say is that you have been warned! But I guess sometimes, there's just really never enough warning to soften the shock or the blow of what people might take offense to. Unfortunately, sometimes, those warnings may even be taken the wrong way and attract more (unwanted) attention. The program Oh, Hell No! includes some award-winning and controversial films that definitely push buttons and challenge boundaries. For some, they might very well be the wrong buttons or boundaries that should never be crossed. The films are definitely not meant for people looking for light-hearted entertainment. But I understand that judging from the huge turnout we had, there were probably a lot of simply curious minds in the audience or those who may have come unprepared for what they were about to see. Walkouts are expected. Remarks of disgust are not surprising. Already, the ratings and comments on the initial ballots received have been all over the place for all the films -- from excellent ("brave programming!") to fair ("why, oh why?") to poor ("bad!", "horrible!"). This program will probably generate the strongest reactions from people. Let's hear it.

NOTE: The short films included in this program are:
Bramadero
The Island
Bugchaser: Protective Measures
Vapid Lovelies
The Window
Weak Species

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just saw Oh, Hell No and I'm not sure where to begin. The first short was just plain boring. From there, the shorts got progressively more disturbing, disgusting, and downright horrifying. I can't say that I found any of them entertaining at all. I would be very interested in learning why these short films were made and what kind of message the filmmakers were trying to send. I'm curious to know if there even was a message trying to be sent or if the films were made just for the shock value. Even the shorts that were a little "lighter" weren't really that entertaining. Please ImageOut - in the future, pick some more light hearted films. I really think the audience would be happier with that kind of selection. I still appreciate all of the work that goes in to putting the festival on and will continue to see more films. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well...I have to say I didn't really like this shorts program, either. HOWEVER, I do want to challenge the previous poster's assertion that as an audience we would be "happier" with "more light hearted films." I'm not sure that's the point. I wasn't disappointed with this shorts program because it was dark or disturbing or edgy....I just didn't particularly like most of the films in it. I've been attending ImageOut for years and some of my favorite films over the years have been films that were not "light hearted" (like last year's Clapham Junction and this year's Rivers Wash Over Me). I'm definitely don't think light, fluffy, happy films are the same as quality.

While I didn't really love any of the shorts int Oh, Hell No...that comes with the territory. You love some, you hate some. In all, however, I applaud ImageOut for trying to program shows that are more challenging, experimental and outside the norm's comfort zone.

Jim said...

I think the program was just fine. ALL of the films in this program had a good viewpoint and message.

"Bramadero" and "Bugchaser" were simply too long, and this viewer was bored long before the point was made. Mindless repetition is the bugaboo of small minds.

"Vapid Lovelies" was a good idea taken over the top. We've seen this kind of thing before. I'm thinking of Tru Lee.

"Weak Species" had plenty to say about such topics as gay youth, sexual fetishes, drug use, etc. As a feature-length "horror" film it might have worked, but in all honesty it was not THAT bad.

"The Window" and "The Island" were both excellent - engaging, funny and intelligent.

Note to Michael: These films all do better in the "light of day." Most people will need some time to see the value of these films. A knee-jerk reaction right after the program might be to hate them but they all had SOME value. I wonder if after the "Image Out There" films there should be a discussion-session. Some people will always miss the point, but others might benefit from an open-minded discussion of the edgier films.

Andrew Madigan said...

A warning to the effect "these movies contain blood and death" in the program guide would have been a good idea. That way I would have known NOT to go. As it stands, it was only warned that you expected "a strong reaction". Lots of movies can cause strong reactions without going to the level of the last film. Simply saying "hey people reacted" shows that you wanted a reaction, even if it meant being a bit dishonest about the content. I won't be attending more ImageOut events after this year.

Anonymous said...

Only film of this short that was OK was "The Window" but I'd rather watch porn in my bedroom. Complete waste of my time - I should of stayed home to catch up on TV! Movies of this sort are the reason many of my friends DO NOT come out to ImageOut. Also poor image quality.

jeff said...

NO Michael, we were NOT warned.

You had prepared us for and I was expecting sexual edginess. No where in you description did you mention two brutal deaths (the bludgeoning in Bramadero and the pool of blood car crash in Weak Species) nor did you hint that we would be expected to endure graphic torture. The closest you got was saying the film's characters were "dangerously cavorting with violence". I have cavorted many times, you don't know what the word means.

You laughed and dismissed audience reaction at other showings of Weak and continue to justify your programing in the blog. We were also treated to an unexpected beating murder in Dream Boy where you presumably were trying to SELL the Film Festival.

Where is the celebration of Lgtb community? Film makers processing their angst of our lives is fine. But I want fair warning.

jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob said...

These letters are all excellent, and well written, I think. I have to say that I most agree with the second anonymous entry above...and Jim's comments. Those two comments combined, perfectly express my sentiments.

If these shorts could have been shown earlier in the day, and allow a discussion afterward to give folks a chance to vent their feelings, that would have been good. As it was, people left the theater after the last particularly disturbing film, to go to their cars and go home...with those images searing their minds.

I agree that edgier films need to be shown, and certainly a festival comprised of happy-go-lucky light fare would be boring and lifeless.
Some of the movies I have enjoyed most over the years have tackled heavy, serious topics beautifully.

"Oh, Hell No! will undoubtedly receive lots of comments on this blog, but most of the comments will be made to friends, and there will probably be some backlash.... but to make statements such as
"I am never going to attend any future ImageOut films" is just plain foolish, in my opinion. Those people will be doing themselves a disservice, and will be missing out on some amazing movies. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

The ImageOut program (book) states that the ImageOut There series "...is not for the squeamish, the weak of heart, the sensitive, or those who are not open to new cinematic experiences." I would suggest to those of you who found this program off-putting, that your take-away from it is simply to realize that you're one of these people and not attend any of the ImageOut There series in the future. To anyone who says they're not going to see any ImageOut films in the future because of this - that's a very cut off your nose to spite your face approach that won't get you very far in life.

YES, we WERE warned. When Michael said that people were fainting in the aisles in other festivals because of the Weak Species short, I immediately realized there would be SOMETHING over-the-top that was outside of my comfort zone. What did you think they were going to be doing, painting each others' nails and drinking white zinfandel? If he'd said any more there would have been no suspense or wonder about the films.

Thinking about what Jim said above, maybe a discussion session afterward isn't such a good idea with this sort of series, because of what you said earlier about people's knee-jerk reaction to the films. Discussion on them right afterward may primarily consist of knee-jerk comments, rather than productive commentary about the films. I'm not sure how they could temper that.

ImageOut is doing their best to present a balanced festival with films for everyone to enjoy and learn from, that may challenge us from time to time (read CULTURE). If they didn't, they might as well rename it Disney's Cavalcade of Gay Films for the Family. And nobody would attend. If all you want is celebration of the LGBT community then go to Pride in July and stay home the rest of the year; there are real issues out there, like the ones in some of these films, that those of us without our heads in the sand will deal with for you.

Stefan said...

Please understand that I will always continue to be a proud ImageOut supporter, blah blah blah but--

and I understand your curatorial policy, but--

For some films, like weak speacies, I really think you do need to print "explicit disclaimers". I also felt the same way re: the short film shown before the Butch Factor film.

Sorry, I don't know, maybe I am a little "conservative" but what I'm saying is ImageOut is intended for a wide audience, so...

and all you need is something simple, like "This film contains extreme graphic violence involving youth. Viewer discretion advised" Seriously, what's so bad/hard about that?

Other than that Oh hell no program though, ImageOut has been awesome.

Adam said...

Though I am a programmer for ImageOut, I hadn't had the opportunity to view any of the shorts included in this program before their screening last night. While I didn't like all the shorts, overall I very much enjoyed the "Oh Hell No!" program, with "Weak Species" being the highlight for me.

On the subject of fair warning: I feel that going in, I had an accurate idea of what to expect from these films. While a warning label spelling out exactly what was in store was not included for each short, it may, unfortunately be necessary in the future. There was, however, an entire page included at the front of the program guide (page 9) detailing exactly what the ImageOut There series is. On that page, a point is made of explaining that the films in the series noteworthy for their extreme content and include explicit violent as well as sexual content. They are "not for the squeamish". In this description "Weak Species," in particular, is singled out as it "has been compared to a snuff film" and "even causing some audience members in it [previous] screenings to faint". This, in combination with the stills for the film (which featured a young man being strangled) led me to expect a violent, graphic film.

In fact, I was shocked at how little violence was actually shown in the films themselves. In "Weak Species" nearly all of the violence (aside from the car accident, which was shocking, though not particularly graphic) was implied. Even the brief violence in "Bramadero" happened off-camera.

Though having the added benefit of seeing several of the films in the ImageOut There series at last year's festival (including "Otto; Or Up With Dead People" and "Grimm Love") may have prepared me, I do feel that I got an accurate representation of this year's films from the descriptions in the program guide.

I look forward to seeing more provocative, daring, and challenging films from this series in future festivals.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that I looked at the website and missed the Imageout There series heading (not everyone has the time to read the whole program guide) it only says "This program contains explicit sex and adult content. No one under 18 is admitted.” This text should include extreme graphic violence in this text. Also on the webpage there is no hypertext link to the Out there series page.

I'm personally tired of movies depicting gay people as sociopath deviants that: (last year) dismember feet of gay men and put them in a jar or cut high school kids to near death etc.

The final point I have to make is that the first 4 movies where really, really bad in my opinion... I want my money back!

Thomas Warfield said...

I don't mind us seeing more experimental and controversial films..in fact we should be viewing (and making) more of those. But just because a film is experimental doesn't automatically make it a well made, well crafted, and need to be shown film. We have had some pretty rotten films shown over the last few yrs which is leading me to wonder about the qualifications of the programming committee (did the committee agree to show these?)..I mean if a film had been getting bad reviews from audiences all over already what logic was there in showing it to us? Just because it may set off controversy isn't enough purpose for me to spend $8 for it. I'm not saying that the majority of films are in poor taste or inadequate. On the contrary the majority of the films I see in the festival(somewhere around 17-20 each yr) are wonderful films and some even brilliant. But I do think more consideration and care should be taken (especially in this challenging economic time for many people)to bring films that hold up to some criteria of excellence in film making.

I don't mind dark films..I close my eyes if there is something I don't want to look at.. and a good balance with light-heartedness is fine...But I felt dumbed down to you know like watching many of those reality shows that try with all their gusto (and lack of artistic craft and vision) to blow you away with any gimmick they can. I don't need to have the gimmicks to engage my thinking, get me to challenge my perspectives, or to move my heart - really just solid honest art work will do that.

I applaud ImageOut's courage (and will continue to be a staunch supporter in every way I can) but ask you to provide a bit more acumen and discernment when choosing films..Looking forward to tonight!

Andrew Madigan said...

This was my first ImageOut festival. I don't think there would have been anything wrong with explicitly stating "these shorts contain blood, violence and death". I wouldn't have gone if I had seen that. I don't know what to expect simply from "ImageOut there!" written in script at the top of the page (I didn't even see it the first 3 times I read the description). I'm also not familiar with a history of "beating around the bush" in movie descriptions.

Giving a warning that some people had bad reactions after I've already bought the ticket and sat down is too late.

It seems the general thought of the people running ImageOut is that we should have expected this. If this is what I should expect, then I see no reason to pay money for it or participate in it. ImageOut seems like a good idea, but not giving honest descriptions of your films, which is all I am asking for, makes for bad execution.

The experience has turned me from someone that was hoping to volunteer next year to improve the online ticket ordering system to someone who wants nothing to do with ImageOut at all.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I think it would be a mistake to give up on ImageOut just because of one program or even one short movie. How many movies have you seen so far this year? And how many have you enjoyed? Isn't this reaction a little too similar to how fundamentalists and the righteous folks would? I think the descriptions of the programs are fine. I don't think ImageOut is doing any kind of false advertising. I've appreciated that the descriptions have always been well written and give enough information. I would rather not be spoonfed with all the details.

jeff said...

To the programmers: STOP justify yourselves. I am not against any movie, I just want to know what I am getting into before I sit down. Repeatedly, I am missing the clues you believe you are leaving us about a film's true nature. Other comments tell me I am not alone.

One line in fine print on page 9 of a 110 page tome, and more than 50 pages from the actual movie description doesn't constitute explicit warning. How many people have to tell you before you get it?

You play up the sex in the descriptions, teasing us with naked flesh photographs but little or no mention of the violence. Why no photos of bloody scissors and sweat and blood soaked sheets? Why no sound clips of the slow grinding snipping sounds or screams of the tortured youth? You are not being forthright.

I am not a prude or unsophisticated, and I HAVE NO DESIRE TO CHANGE THE PROGRAMMING. I just want to be able to make an INFORMED choice before I sit down. Allow me the right to choose when and where I watch a filmmaker's (or his or her character's) vision of dysfunction or glory. Thank-you.

Anonymous said...

Looked Weak Species up today and it does create controversy and stir discussions wherever it has screened. But there are definitely a lot of supporters out there too. Just checked the trailer. I wonder if the filmmaker would be checking this blog for comments. Michael, can you ask Dan Faltz to read comments here?

Dan said...

Michael has forwarded the comments to me, and I'm always very interested in peoples' point of view. Do you have a question or comment for me in particular about Weak Species?

Thanks for the interest in the film,
Dan

Andrew Madigan said...

To the person who asked, that was my 4th this year. So far, I've liked two of them. I have 6 more tickets and I intend to make use of all of them. However, now I go to these knowing that despite the descriptions, they could turn out to be horror films (that's what I would classify Weak Species as). I agree with Jeff, I'm not asking for a change in programming (ref Voltaire), I'm asking to be informed before I purchase.

I simply can't grant the programmers an assumption of ignorance. I do think that they got exactly the reaction they wanted, and that they were concerned that if they were upfront and honest the turnout would have been lower. However, I don't think that manipulating and shocking people is worth supporting with my time or money.

Again, I'm not asking for a change in programming, I hate censorship. All I'm asking for is fair warning, any commercial film would have it, and I don't think a warning that "this film contains blood, violence and death" is unreasonable. I do think that simply saying it's "over-the-top and nasty" is FAR from enough.

As I said, I can only believe that this was intentional, and that the programmers knew there would be backlash and didn't care. Given that attitude, all I can do is refuse to support it. Fundamentalist christians would want it banned, so there's the difference, I'll never ask for ImageOut to be banned, I just won't support it with money or time.

Richard said...

One of the things I have come to appreciated about Image Out is the diversity of films shown in the festival. I do not attend the festival necessarily to be entertained but to see the diversity of film making. In order to experience this diversity, I have often pushed myself beyond my own comfort zone. That being said, through out the years I have thought that the printed descriptions of films could include more factual information about the content of the films so that I could make more informed decisions based on my sensibilities and values. I disagree with Image Out's curatorial policy that printing factual disclaimers is a form of censorship. Simple statements, minus any editorializing, that a film contains nudity, graphic sex, violence, etc. in my thinking only provides clear information so that individuals can make informed choices. Censorship is not an absolute but a continuum. As it stands the curatorial policy itself is a form of censorship as it sets out guidelines of what Image Out has decided is and is not appropriate to put in a film’s description.
The current curatorial policy relies on vague subjective descriptions that leave the reader to read between the lines. I have no objections that Weak Species was included in the festival, but I do object that the printed description was not more factual. I appreciated Michael's comments before the film and based on those comments I chose not to view the film. Had Michael not given this information and I viewed the film, based on what I have been told and read, I likely would have felt disrespected by Image Out, as I have at times in the past. Michael choosing to make his comments seems to underscore that the printed description of the film was wholly inadequate. I fail to see the difference between speaking such information and putting it in print. I hope that it is not thought that Michael’s comments violated the curatorial policy. I ask Image Out to rethink its curatorial policy and make changes so as to give as much respect to people's sensibilities and values as it does to freedom from censorship.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Warfield said:

"We have had some pretty rotten films shown over the last few yrs which is leading me to wonder about the qualifications of the programming committee"

You are absolutely right Thomas!

I was wondering the same thing. Are these "people" really qualified to be on the programming committee?

Obviously not!

Anonymous said...

Just because you didn't like some films didn't mean they are rotten. You can't like every film and you are not supposed to.

Anonymous said...

Dan, thanks for visiting this blog and I appreciate your movie by the way. What do you take from people's comments here? Although the last few posters seem to have a problem with the programmers here.

Bob said...

Why is the word people, in the
4:42 pm anonymous comment above in quotation marks? I have no doubt that the programmers are indeed people.

What I am enjoying greatly is the fact that many of the folks who saw the shorts last night are talking about it!!

That's what this blog is all about, and it has had way too little use in the past. If nothing else, perhaps last night's films have driven more people to this blog to share their thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Michael G., please, you need to respond:

Please let us understand. What exactly is this editorial/curatorial policy that a couple of the commentators have mentioned? Are there things that you won't say in the program blurb? And why? Thanks.

Dan said...

Audiences seem to react very strongly without a warning about the subject matter; I think in many ways, whether we consciously know it or not, many of us go to LGBT festivals to feel affirmation. And we all bring something to what we see - our experiences, our personal history, our perspective - that filters our experience of a film. To me, for all its grit, Weak Species is ultimately a hopeful film. I hope audiences can take that away.

To me, what is important is the communication between characters and
the feelings they have. The sex and violence is very meaningful to the
people involved; I wanted to find a way to show what goes on in one's
head or what someone communicates to their partner during sex. One of
the characters in the film makes a terrible choice - but he makes the
choice, he is not an innocent victim. I think that is ultimately the most upsetting part. I made a point of obscuring the sex and the
violence; I think what viewers embellish with their imaginations is
worse than anything I could explicitly show. I think that is what audiences are reacting to.

As teenagers we're often in an emotional state of emergency - no one has it easy, straight, gay, no matter how popular. And the disproportionately high suicide rate of LGBT youth makes this upsettingly clear. And many of us turn to risk as an outlet, to feel, to connect, find ourselves -whether that means sex, trying drugs, or just plain looking for danger.

I hope folks will continue to support ImageOut and support film by and about LGBT people - We have fewer LGBT shows and characters on TV and cable than we did just a few years ago - in this media climate, it's so important to make sure our diverse stories and voices are seen and heard. I'm always glad I saw that film that surprised me or changed my mind or made me see my community in a different way. We're lucky we can do
that.

Dan Larkin said...

I have to say that although I found some of the material challenging it shows the amazing diversity of GLBT films available "out there." I applaud Michael for bringing them to the hinterlands here in Rochester. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Window" but the least appealing was "Vapid Lovelies." I've always enjoyed Dennis Cooper's work and although it made me squirm, "Weak Species" had viable issues worth exploration, great production value and at the very least, a happy ending.

Rick said...

People who saw The ImageOut There short film series have gone in several directions with their reactions. There is plenty of advance description for this series and if there isn't enough then go online and Google the films. There's no excuse for not being prepared for this. Yes, maybe the graphic quality of some of them cannot be adequately prepared for but you get the idea.
Another reaction is the one I have had and that's that these films were indeed a challenge to watch and try to make sense of. I don't need everything I see to be spelled out or to always see films about puppies and flowers. Life is not pretty and I submit that if one feels cheated then one shouldn't be witness to this programming.

InvisiBill said...

I was quite satisfied (in fact, thrilled) with Oh, Hell No! as a welcome ImageOUT There! entry. I certainly didn't choose to see it because I thought it would make me happy or sad or angry or indifferent. I didn't know what to expect, and that's what I expect (and pray for) when I go to an ImageOUT There! program.
Surprise me... You did!
Bramadero was dreamlike and electrifying for me. It reminded me of Bavo Defurne's Sailor from about 8 or 9 years ago, but with the deeply-felt undercurrents brought to the surface with no apology or pretense. Magnificent!
Bugchaser: I am forced to admit that, since bugchasers eschew condoms out of choice, I really didn't understand the metaphor with all those breaking condoms until another festival-goer explained his interpretation to me. Frankly, I got the point in the first 10 seconds and would have welcomed a resolution at that point (or any point), but I liked the sound effects. Oddly, it reminded me of the 80 of us at Scientific Calculations all attempting to break the tension (and each other’s nerves) by popping bubble wrap all over the office the day before our big layoff in 1992.
Vapid Lovelies: It was a bit too vapid for me and my least favorite portion of the program.
The Window: Our illustrious, courageous and ever thoughtful curator gave us all a fun little romp to dull the pain of the previous entry and allow us that all-important breath before plunging into the meat of the program.

InvisiBill said...

InvisiBill (Bill Thompson) comment continued:
Weak Species: Oh, my... That was a treat in so many ways. Totally blew my socks off, even after Michael G's very stern and savvy warning before the screening. The acting was among the best I have seen in a short, and if it weren’t it would not have been so effective: neither in pissing off some of the audience, sickening others, nor impressing the rest with its exquisite selection of predators and prey. The scariest character was, for me, Brendan Bradley's Steve, who mistook his own yearning for appreciation (if not love) for a yen for narcissistic exploitation of other gay youth a-blooming. He was only a step or two from being me or almost anyone else I know, but for circumstance and experience. That’s far more disturbing than a little blood between predatory adults and a f*ed-up kid who turns out OK in the end. The surprise (it was so well acted) was that he could stand when told to do so, after (presumably) so much action hidden by Novocain and camera angles. The characteristically petulant reprieve was totally believable for me perhaps because I had seen that wild and wonderful movie about the German cannibal a couple of years back, who was willing to give his collaborator the same option (with nearly identical petulance, as I recall).
I appreciated the program very much - I was entertained by some, revolted by a very short bit, and driven to reflection, introspection, and very stimulating conversation by all of it.
Many have expressed "regret" that the program (or at least a part of it) was aired. They forget that censorship of ideas, thoughts, and expression of these are the hallmarks of the agents of suppression of gays, lesbians, blacks, Jews, intellectuals, and other oppressed peoples. Why join those ranks?
Did one of these stories "unfairly represent" S&M? What a crock of horse-hockey... These films represented their own stories, not yours, and not anyone else's. If you want your story "fairly" represented, make your own damn film.
ImageOUT stands as a living example of a venue that allows itself to present the best of our modern filmmakers. And that's no accident, since we have been running the industry since its inception (I crave a little unearned personal aggrandizement from time to time, don't you?). Just because you don't like it or otherwise appreciate it, doesn't mean it isn't art, and I think art should be appreciated for its own sake, whether it fits your (or my) personal agenda or not. I love a good argument over whether a film or painting or photograph or opinion was "good" or not.

chuckl said...

I always feel sorry for people who will only go to live theatre if someone else has declared the piece to be a guaranteed hit. They miss all the adventure of live theatre.

The same is true for a film festival. Among 40+ programs there are bound to be some that you won't enjoy. That's what going to a festival is all about---there's something for everyone! If you're self-centered enough to think that every film should cater to your taste, then a festival is not for you. Stick to the critical winners you can read about in any movie rag.

For those of you who chose not to take the time to read the extensive explanations about what to expect with each group of programs, how can you blame the ImageOut programmers? It's all there for you in a program that has been regularly praised across the country as one of the very best created for LGBT festivals. How sad for a festival goer to expect to be spoon fed every detail about what s/he is going to see.

Let's keep it al in perspective...these are MOVIES. the cameraman and crew are all right there!

Anonymous said...

@ Rick: I barely have time to read what I do get to in the program. Google the films? Still don't have the time. Why don't you do that for us and report back? Oh, then you'd be doing the job of a curator.

Part of being a connoisseur, a cosmopolitan one anyway, and a good curator is knowing that not everyone knows as much as you and meeting them in a conversation that both of you understand. Part of the work is also editing all the info available into something manageable for those of us who don't live a life entirely devoted to films and their study. It is the essence of education. Know your audience, so you can communicate with them.

I and others in the audience are asking for more pithy and accurate film descriptions and ultimately for more consideration of us as patrons. That is not too much to ask.

Josh said...

The comments that I have read so far do not surprise me. I know some people enjoyed this shorts program and I am not surprised to see many who did not. For me, bugchaser was by far the worst film I have ever seen. I think that is because, to me, it seemed more like a mental illness was being portrayed than anything else, and I couldn't find a deeper meaning.
Bramadero was way too drawn out and much too predictable.
The Island and The Window were both cute and enjoyable, though I really enjoyed The Window.
Finally, Weak Species was far too graphic for my pallet. I also think it was one of the most graphic films I have seen at Image Out (that includes the part where I closed my eyes). That being said, I think it is a well done and good film.

Christopher R said...

The purpose of the program is to give the festival-goer an overview, not a play-by-play. Why would one go to a film if they know EVERYTHING that happens? I often read a review only after I have seen a film, as I don't want any "spoilers," and I think ImageOut does a good job of avoiding those. As a previous poster said, "Weak Species" was mentioned in the program as having been compared to a snuff film (and in truth, it didn't even approach that). And if one missed that, the third word of the main description was "intense" and warned of the characters "dangerously cavorting with sex and violence." I have no problem with someone saying they didn't care for a film, or it made them uncomfortable, but to say there was no warning isn't fair or honest.

Woody said...

I've been an avid attendee and supporter of ImageOut since year one, which coincidentally was my first year in Rochester. I've seen well over 200 films via ImageOut, and have held a season pass for 5 of the past 6 years.

I personally enjoyed most of the shorts in this segment. Most sparked discussion among my group of friends, and the ones that didn't were still enjoyable.

I love that we get to see edgy films and shorts as part of ImageOut, and encourage the programmers to continue with the ImageOut There series. There's a huge need for this in the community, and ImageOut is the only venue I've found that has the courage and strength to bring controversial (even if at times gory or "horror") gay films to Rochester.

While some of the films did not have clear or immediately obvious points, I would like to remind folks that not all things are, nor need they be, clear and obvious. Just as one may need to think or discuss interpretive dance to understand it's meaning, so some of these films needed thought and reflection to understand. none of the films made me question the curative process, or the qualifications of those involved in selection. This was a short series designed to push the edge, and each one did it, in it's own way.

I can't agree that the programming staff didn't clearly spell out that there was violent content in the shorts. The fact that it was mentioned in the program and on stage before hand that people had literally fainted at other showings had me geared up for worse than what was shown, to be honest. While I found Weaker Species to be challenging, I found if far less disturbing or graphic than Rivers Wash Over Me (also in the series).


The ImageOut There indication is very explicit, and is clearly documented in the program booklet and on the website. Blaming anyone else for your lack of reading is like blaming McDonalds for selling hot coffee after you burn yourself. Especially after the person giving it to you says "Be careful, it's hot!"

That said, given the sheer number of non-reading sheep, maybe ImageOut can find a new way to spell things out a little more clearly. The inverted text calling out 18+ on the page apparently got people's attention, so maybe the ImageOut There indicator should be of a similar nature, with a page reference to the description of the program series? And maybe the films and shorts in the series could be a little more literal on the content.

While I understand the frustration some have with labeling films (both those for and against), I think ImageOut has been trying to find a proper balance, and is almost there. I think the only major thing they need to do is make the ImageOut There qualifier leap out at new comers in a way that lets them understand what they're getting into. Anyone who's been to previous shows really has little excuse for being upset by having a challenging show in what is by it's definition a series setup to contain such films.

Thomas Warfield said...

Well... after reading through many of the comments here some going beyond constructive criticism (including my own) I have to say that at last for myself I owe the ImageOut volunteers and especially Michael and the programming committee an apology... I believe my comments were too harsh and apparently offended some who took them as a personal attack. I in no way intended my words to be a personal attack on Michael or anyone at ImageOut. But After careful re-reading I see that is exactly the way it comes across. What I was saying was not that I felt offended by the violence or edginess of any of the films in the shorts program. I only felt many of those films were not well made in terms of their artistic merit.

My question referring to the qualifications of the curators was to elicit info and inquire about how democratic the selection process has been.

I do think having healthy honest dialogue is a positive force in continuing to build on the success of ImageOut. Having worke in the earl years as a volunteer I am keenly aware of the hours and dedicated work required and I appluad and appreciate the fuits of that labor. To engage in personal attacks is hurtful and disadvantageous. And so though I stand by my thoughts and feelings that it was by far not one of the best evenings of cinema I am sorry that I used words that were insensitive.... However I am glad to report that tonight's "Watercolors" film was a gem!

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous @ October 13, 2009 1:28 AM

In your first sentence you tell us that you don't really read the program, and in the rest of that paragraph you want someone else to do the legwork for something you won't read? Anyone who simply asks their friends or the ImageOut programmers what films are "good" or "must sees", or goes to what's popular is doing themselves and the festival a disservice. You're not having your own festival experience and you should feel cheated for that. Having conversations with friends about what films they're going to see or asking for the programmers' recommendations should be the beginning of your decision making process, not the end of it. But if you're not going to read the program anyway, you might as well send ImageOut a $100 check for tickets with a note that says "surprise me"; you're effectively doing that now.

Andrew Madigan said...

I read the entire description of the films that I bought tickets for. No, I didn't go out searching for them on the web, For the 10 or so programs I bought tickets to it would have taken a while.

I assumed the program would accurately portray the program. Read the description of this program on the website. Blood is not mentioned, the word violence is preceded with "cavorting with", which doesn't really accurately describe Weak Species. The rest of the language on the page could have been describing sex just as easily as violence, which I believe was the author's intent. As far as I'm concerned, the standard warning of "blood, violence and depictions of death" gives away about as much as the title and running time. I don't think it's inappropriate to ask for warning *before* I buy the ticket if it's going to go the level that Weak Species did.

This was my first festival, so don't say that I should have known from previous festivals what to expect.

It comes down to an element of trust, I trusted that the program was accurate, it wasn't. Since the program isn't accurate, I don't know what I'm buying tickets for. Thus I won't buy tickets.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew - So "including blood and depictions of death" in the description would make it better for you? You seriously cannot handle death in movies? Wow. You must miss out on a lot of movies including mainstream ones. Or do you complain when you go to the multiplex and unexpectedly encounter blood or death on screen? I am not being disrespectful of you. It is your choice. But bear in mind that you not buying tickets for future ImageOut movies is not a loss for the festival but a loss for you.

Andrew Madigan said...

(In response to comment from anonymous)

Commercial movies that have those elements have warnings about them in the rating. Based on the description given, I was expecting an entirely different type of movie. If I had seen the warning, in this case, I probably wouldn't have gone, since added to the rest of the description I would have had a clearer idea of what "over-the-top" meant.

I go to action films, they have blood and death all the time, but the context is different, and I'm expecting it. I didn't expect it at all in this case.

All I'm asking for is a warning, a clearer description would be even better. It does seem clear that neither of those things will happen.

Jessica said...

The idea of censorship and gauging of subjectivity of viewers is something we (the Programming Committee) take very seriously and discuss many times each season. We stand behind our current policies and our description of this and all of our movies. In all we do, we strive to both celebrate and challenge ideas within and about our LGBT communities. We cannot control individual perceptions of any piece of art nor do we hope to try and do so. We appreciate everyone’s feedback and are glad this blog is seeing a great deal of traffic during this year’s festival. It would be wonderful to see equally high traffic at our next volunteer interest meeting!!! Want to see change in ImageOut? Become a programmer, we’d love to get to know you!

Adam said...

An earlier comment has been removed at the request of it's author.

Richard said...

Jessica – I have supported Image Out through significant attendance I believe 14 out of 17 years. I am very appreciative of the effort put forth by you and all who volunteer their time to make the festival happen. I appreciate you taking a moment to respond to the lively discussion that has been taking place on this blog. I find your comment that those involved in Image Out do not hope or try to control individual’s perception of art to be disingenuous, particularly in regard to the written descriptions of films. There exists a tension between needing to sell tickets and providing objective descriptions of the films. As the descriptions are infused with the writer’s opinions, the descriptions are both that and a review of the film. Anytime the writer chooses to use an adjective in the description he or she is consciously or unconsciously creating a perception of the film. I do not fault you for this, but ask that you not disown the impact the descriptions may have. While I am not suggesting this, more objective description/reviews of films would be written by a person who has no vested interested in whether tickets are sold nor an interest in the success of the festival. How many tickets would sell to films if descriptions included negative criticism such as shallow plot, boring undeveloped characters, attempts at humor fall flat. Another way perceptions are created is through the inclusions of the awards a film has received. No such information is included about how many negative reviews a film has received. Everyone involved in Image Out has an interest in creating the perception that the included films have value that make it worth the attendees investing time and money. Again, no fault for doing this, but don’t discount your motives. While you stand behind your policies and film descriptions, as you should, are you open to suggestions and ideas that are generated by festival supporters who took time to write comments? While you state that you appreciate the feedback, there is no indication that the feedback has given you any food-for-thought that could lead to positive developments in the light of writers’ concerns and ideas.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous October 13, 10:08 am.

First let me say that I think that the program is well written, so well written that I have come to rely on it. Perhaps too much.

No, I don't read ALL the program. No one I know does. It's a over a 100 pages long and I don't make the time. I skip the letters from the politicians, for example, and I can't tell you about a single advertiser.

Frankly, I lightly read the first two paragraphs of the infamous page 9, thought I had the gist of this teaser for the ImageOut There series, and moved on. MY MISTAKE, but I had no idea that the information that was there would NOT be repeated with the film description. That there is in fact a policy not to put that kind of information in the film blurb. Although why explicit warning it is all right on page 9 and in a verbal intro before the showing but not in the place where the most people would see it, page 60, still hasn't been rationally explained to me. But, that policy, is also an editorial/curatorial decision that someone made.

I do read, THOROUGHLY, the actual film descriptions. They generally do a good or very good job, preparing me for the genre of the movie, a hint of the plot, and usually anything special about the film that I should look for when viewing. I appreciate that they don't spoil the plot. (although I don't stop going to see or read a classic just because I know how it ends) I have to pick and choose which shows to go to, I'm not a full festival pass person. So when the descriptions aren't up to the level I have come to expect, I miss something I might have found better, because I spent my limited time and money at something else. This is why I feel cheated.

Yes, I expect someone to do legwork for me. The program is a magnificent, time consuming, monument to other people using their time, talent, education, taste and discernment to separate the sheep from the goats, so that the audience and I don't have to. The MAIN point of my letter is just that; that is what good curators/programmers do.

As to your final point, well yes, that kind of my point too! Without adequate, or worse WITH inaccurate or incomplete descriptions or descriptions buried miles apart in the program, why bother reading it at all or go about any movie selection process whatsoever?

Jessica said...

Thank you Richard. I understand your point. We will take every comment that we receive on this blog and otherwise into consideration for future programming and publications. And I really do mean that.
Decisions will have to be made and not everyone's ideas/thoughts/suggestions can be incorporated as there are direct conflicts between many of them that we receive in a variety of forms. For example just on this blog, we have been asked to explain ourselves, not explain ourselves, justify our actions, and stop justifying our actions.
Both here and in person during the festival, suggestions have been made to change the way we do descriptions, others have asked us not to change them. Some say they should be only factual, others say they rely on opinions within descriptions to make their selections.
It would, as you said, be a very tricky balance to create truly objective film description. In fact, is including negative and positive in balance even objective? Both negative and positive comments on a film are subjective. If we stick to purely factual information I am afraid we would only be able to include the title, running time, director, year of release, language, format, and maybe a listing of character names. I know this will raise some eyebrows, but I do believe that even a "graphic violence" or "extreme sex" warning is not factual, but subjective. Who is to say where the line into graphic or extreme is drawn? Should we include a list of every possibly taboo topic a film includes? Who would decide what is taboo enough to list? During my time with ImageOut, programming has been asked by patrons to warn of unhappy endings, death of any kind (whether of natural causes or otherwise), nudity of any kind, trauma of any kind (emotional or physical), drug use (including alcohol or tobacco), child abuse (actual or implied), heterosexual sexual content. I could go on for quite a while with the list, and each of these requests have been repeated. Even with a list including all of these and more, the way it is taken by those who read it may vary. And how can we ensure a list would be read?
Maybe there are real answers to these questions. We just haven’t found them yet.
I do not offer this as a justification, but as some insight into all of the things that need to be considered in programming. Will things change with regard to programming for next year? Yes, they always do. Can I say at this point what those changes will be? No.
I may have been predictable when I urged volunteer participation, but I wasn’t being glib. We really do want more people to participate in conversations like this year-round. For now, by all means, keep watching, keep critiquing, and keep commenting.

InvisiBill said...

Anonymous, you blather-head...
"No, I don't read ALL the program. No one I know does."
I do! Except for those same letters you like to avoid. The program is good reading, for one thing, and there's no substitute for it, since "Coming Attractions" at our venues don't exist prior to ticket sales, and upon which I generally am reliant when making decidions about what movies I might like to come to next week at commercial theaters. You admit that are a lazy program reader and yet you you have now decided that it is your place to start telling the programming staff where to insert certain types of warnings so that you don't have to do any more reading than absolutely necessary. Oh, my, but you are a pain in the rump. No wonder you post as "Anonymous".
"Without adequate, or worse WITH inaccurate or incomplete descriptions or descriptions buried miles apart in the program, why bother reading it at all or go about any movie selection process whatsoever?"
The last thing most people want is a complete description of a book or movie not yet enjoyed or hated. That takes all the joy (or much of the hate) out of it, because it is no longer a surprise.
But, by all means, please keep up your tirade. it's mildly amusing, at least.

Michael G said...

First of all, thanks to WEAK SPECIES filmmaker Dan Faltz for taking time to read comments in this blog and for sharing his thoughts. Hopefully it has helped some folks to process the film.

It's great to see the healthy discussion that is going on here for the last few days. Running the daily festival chores while keeping a day job does not exactly give me much time to participate here lately. But I appreciate the feedback and the comments. I may not agree with all of them but I'm taking notes to see where improvements can be made.

It seems an area of concern is with program descriptions. We stand behind everything we write in the program guide. Yes we are selling films that we have chosen. Yes we are sharing our opinions of films we have selected to a certain extent. But these are simply program descriptions of what the films are about and why we find them worthy enough to be included in the lineup, hoping that they would guide patrons in making their choices. We never intend to run film reviews as that is not our place. We are not film critics. We send out screeners to different media outlets in the hopes that their critics would print their reviews. We leave it to our savvy patrons to seek out film reviews if they want to know more about the films we are offering. We even provide links to websites and trailers to help them further in their decision-making process.

In the end, everything is still very subjective. We cannot totally predict how audiences would react to the films and what jokes would fall flat. But us selecting rotten films? Never. There might be films that you may not like. Or even hate. That doesn’t mean no one else in the audience would appreciate them. Keep in mind that we are programming for a community of very diverse individuals. Not everything will appeal to you. But we truly appreciate when patrons try to expand their horizons and make adventurous film choices. It’s the only way to know if some films would or would not work for you.

But what we never set out to do is to mislead or “tantalize” patrons. Our audiences are too smart and too outspoken for us to be able to pull a trick like that. If that were our intention, we would have used an image of two hot boys in ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION instead of a bloody face.

For the person wondering about ImageOut's curatorial policy, you can read it online in the Programmers' Message page and it is also printed in our program guide. We use this as a guide in our writeups but we've obviously made exceptions as we've labeled some of our films in the past with warnings, when necessary. Going forward, we just need to make sure that warnings and labels are highlighted and emphasized, and provide links to relevant pages where additional warnings can be found.

Putting together the guide is an intense and time-consuming process as we try to be as informative the best we can. Patrons who choose not to read or claim not having time to read are performing themselves a disservice.

Anonymous said...

Dear InvisiBill (aka Bill Thompson),

Although anonymous I have kept it civil and non-insulting. And I take the time to read all of your words.

I HAVE accepted responsibility for my misunderstanding/misreading/non- reading of the program. I clearly have owned it. Yes, I don't think I did anything that was terribly out of the ordinary. Other people, at least a few, made the same mistakes in reading the program that I did.

Even you admit (after saying that you read all of the program) passing over the politicians. We all make choices about where to put our time and effort. All the time. And, we all rely on others to help us decide how to do that. All the time. I do anyway. I give even more weight to the opinions of people I have grown to trust and respect, like the ImageOut programmers/curators.

I SPECIFICALLY said I appreciate that the blurbs are not plot spoilers. Kindly, get that right.

I simply reported my thought process and why/how I found myself in a movie that wasn't what I was expecting. I thought that the people in charge might learn something from my experience.

Must have touch a nerve. Good. You begin to understand the feelings I have at being unprepared for Weak species. I hope you still find me funny, but I don't think I'm up to a tirade just now. Peace?

Michael G said...

This is with regards to the question on why some comments in the main ImageOut There! Series page were left out of the actual program description page. The main page is really my editorial page where it's appropriate to tell you my thoughts and maybe even share some experience I've had in viewing some of these films. I tried to share more information than can be shared in the program descriptions. This page also explains briefly why each film was chosen to be part of the series. If people read this page, they would not be so strongly accusing me of trying to "hide" details and merely "tantalizing" patrons. It was meant to bring attention to the films as a warning more than a promotion. Maybe even try to look these films up which we made easier with links to websites and trailers. The tools are all there. In the future, we'll have to make sure that this page is clearly linked to each program in the series to provide additional information and warning to our patrons.

Writing the program description, curators walk the fine line of trying to be informative and descriptive without giving away too much out of respect for the filmmakers. If you look up festival descriptions for WEAK SPECIES, you will not find any information that some of the disgruntled posters here are demanding that we include, unless you end up in a discussion page about the film. I felt I have already used strong words to raise some flags among patrons. When the guide was released, I remember a few people telling me they are not going to that program because the picture of the kid being strangled is already too disturbing for them. Clearly we wanted people to stay away if they are uncomfortable with that imagery.

Apparently, some people need more explicit warnings. But determining what is explicit enough is the question. I don't think adding the words "blood" or "death" would have kept people away. Short of describing the scenes and listing the props used, there is no way to prepare anyone for what is implied on the screen. As Dan Faltz said, all the sex and violence in his film are obscured. What gets perceived by each individual viewer makes the scene as graphic as it could be.

I guess much has been said about what people were not expecting to see. But what exactly were people expecting after reading the description and seeing the pictures used and knowing that this is part of the ImageOut There! Series?

The reality is there is nothing I can say that would make it better for those who were horrified and disturbed by what they experienced. But I'm glad that this blog can provide an outlet for discussion.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see some kind of indication of the KIND of movie I'll be seeing. comedy, drama, horror, or whatever brief not giving away the plot combinations of words is necessary. Extreme violence should be warned about just the same as sex. If there is a question, give the benefit of the doubt to the movie goer, not to some abstraction about encouraging people to attend. Thank-you.

Bob said...

I have read all 50 postings with interest. Quite the lively discussion. I think, when all is said and done, it appears to be no different than anything else in life. You just can't please all of the people all of the time.

Those who seem to want more descriptive information about each movie almost give the impression they want every detail included in the book that the programmers could possibly print. With that, why bother to go see the film! Just stay home and fix some microwave popcorn and read the program book!

I will often read commercial film reviews AFTER I have seen a movie I want to see, simply to preserve the joy of the viewing experience. And who among us hasn't gone to see a movie after reading lukewarm reviews...and actually liked the film! Years ago there were no reviews of every darn movie that came out...you used to just GO TO THE MOVIES!

I understand that many are upset that there wasn't more detail in the book about Weak Species, and I imagine that the programming committee gets that by now.

Can we move on?

Anonymous said...

After reading comment upon comment about how people weren't warned about this that and another, I have to say that "PEOPLE DON'T READ" you can warn them all you want, tell them to their faces that a movie is graphic and sexually violent, but in the end they are going to do what they want to do. It's as simple as that. It's only after it's all over that they will complain that no one told them. They want someone else to take the fall, typical crap that every movie theater goes through.

Richard said...

Jessica & Michael,
From your comments, it sounds like you are both taking away from this an understanding of the concerns of some festival goers and these understandings will help you with the decisions you make in the future. It’s a tough job to try and make all the people happy all the time! Since we all play a part in making the festival a success, it is good to have a forum to express concerns and know that are being heard. That’s all I except from the process. Thanks again for all you do!

Herb Simpson said...

The extent of the response to this controversial shorts program indicates its value. Of course, we should have such "Image Out There" material in the festival. But I would prefer to avoid nightmares from, and persistent uncomfortable mental returns to, such material as the torture of innocent children by avoiding the films myself in the future. I would never sanction censorship, and I understand the value of edgy [read "ugly"] pictures of gay life [in many senses of "pictures"]. But I personally cannot help but be disturbed by the thought of what image of gay life such explorations would provide a mainstream, straight viewer. We complain loudly about homophobic politicians' comparing gay life to incest, bestiality, and pedophilia. But many of these films include all those comparisons and a lot more horrifying ones. I'd fight against any effort to suppress such explorations, but I'm still disturbed by their damaging connections to topics like gay rights, gay equality, and gay lifestyles.

Michael G said...

Just got through tabulating the ballots for this program. I must say that for those who turned in their ballots, WEAK SPECIES, surprisingly rated higher than I imagined. It ranked third in this program just behind THE WINDOW and THE ISLAND. Anyway, I know this is old news but I still wanted to post some of the more colorful comments from the ballots. Some of them were people who never posted their positive comments on here. I skipped the ones that were either similar or those that sound like from people who appear to have posted their thoughts here in the blog already.

So here goes ...

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BRAMADERO - bad pornography!

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
WEAK SPECIES - had to leave, too graphic for me.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Too warped for me.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Horrible!

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Worst ever!!!

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Why God, why?

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
THE WINDOW - the BEST of all -- cute, clever, charming. REPEAT this one next year! Very worthwhile.

BUGCHASER - double asterisk bad

WEAK SPECIES - why even offer such a movie!!! TERRIBLE

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
WEAK SPECIES was not a good representation of 99% of the population - gay or straight - not my kind of art film.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BRAMADERO - boring
THE ISLAND - funny
BUGCHASER - WTF!
VAPID LOVELIES - wicked!
THE WINDOW - very clever
WEAK SPECIES - uh-uh-no. not my kind of film. oh well.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Get some help!!!

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Interesting mix. Liked WEAK SPECIES the best.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment from L.L.:
WEAK SPECIES - Good. But WTF! re: mutilation

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BRAMADERO - predictable; if i want soundless bad porn, I can hit the mute button.

WEAK SPECIES - disturbing but good

BUGCHASER - mildly disturbing

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BRAMADERO - high concept porn

WEAK SPECIES - too much

BUGCHASER - far too long, no content

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
HA! {patron rated both THE WINDOW and WEAK SPECIES as excellent}

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
WEAK SPECIES - excellent but horrible

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BUGCHASER - esoteric

WEAK SPECIES - excellent film weird

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BUGCHASER - bad. what was the point?

BRAMADERO - good. was he killing what he hated in himself?

THE WINDOW, WEAK SPECIES are both excellent. But THE ISLAND was the best.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
WTF with the condoms?

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
BUGCHASER was very thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Excellent, challenging material. Exactly what I expect from ImageOut There!

Anonymous said...

Ballot comment:
Keep showing films of this caliber and theme.

Michael's comment:
We will definitely continue to do so and will make sure to provide all the warnings necessary.