Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) are beacons of light in Rafiki. Image courtesy Film Movement

Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) are beacons of light in Rafiki. Image courtesy Film Movement

Getting It Twisted

What to watch for at this year’s edition of Twist: A Queer Film Festival.

No organization does more for LGBTQ big-screen voices in Seattle than Three Dollar Bill Cinema, and the nonprofit’s annual Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival serves as its crown jewel. This year’s edition (October 11–21) features 143 narrative and documentary features and shorts, over half of which are directed by women. Some intriguing entries include Rupert Everett’s festival-opening Oscar Wilde biopic The Happy Prince, the U.S. premiere of the musical doc George Michael Freedom: Director’s Cut, and a centerpiece documentary on trans folks in the military, Transmilitary. Here are a handful of the films we screened in advance that might be worth your Twist time.

Rafiki

Sun., Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. | SIFF Cinema Egyptian

Opposites attract in Twist’s closing-night film, Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki. The story follows the unlikely romance between the teenage daughters of rivals of two local politicians in Kenya: Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) is a studious, straight-laced tomboy while Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) is a wild, free spirit sporting eye-catching colored braids. But in a country with harsh anti-LGBTQ laws, the pair must try to keep their taboo relationship a secret to protect their fathers’ political careers, not be cast out by their families, and avoid the very real threat of vigilante violence. (Real-life case in point: While the film premiered to raves at the Cannes Film Festival, it was originally banned in Kenya for promoting lesbianism.)

Under Kahui’s eye, Rafiki is gorgeous in almost every way. There’s a distinct sense of place and the production design’s vivid colors pop off the screen. You can’t help but root for Kena and Ziki, as the couple’s chemistry feels so blissfully natural and delicately sensual. If Kenyan officials bite the bullet and put it up for consideration, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Rafiki getting nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It’s that good. SETH SOMMERFELD

Making Montgomery Clift

Sun., Oct. 14 at noon | SIFF Cinema Egyptian

“This isn’t really a story about a man,” says director Robert A. Clift at the beginning of his documentary. “It’s about what his life was allowed to mean.” The man under examination is Robert’s uncle Montgomery, who ended up, after his 1966 death, as America’s most (in)famous closeted gay actor. But even posthumously, his story wasn’t his own—it was remade as myth, a cliched, maudlin object lesson of a genius cruelly driven to self-destruct by Hollywood homophobia.

Robert set out to reclaim his family history, aided by his father (Montgomery’s brother) Brooks, who preserved a museum’s worth of memorabilia and recorded seemingly every conversation he ever had. Monty was of course private—by both necessity and inclination—but, Robert demonstrates, not particularly agonized over his sexuality. He was, though, adamant, even quixotic, about running his own career, disdaining ever to sign on with any studio. (The list of films he turned down is as legendary as the ones he made: he was offered the male leads in Sunset Boulevard, East of Eden, and On the Waterfront.) It was his obsessive perfectionism as much as anything else, Robert suggests, that led to his decline and death at 45—nor was his family the problem. Freudian biographers had a field day blaming Montgomery’s mom, but she seems to have been accepting in her way; in the film’s funniest scene, she argues fervently that Monty was homosexual, not not NOT bisexual! GAVIN BORCHERT

Tucked

Sat., Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. | Northwest Film Forum || Thurs., Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. | AMC Pacific Place

Odd couples don’t get much odder than Tucked’s pairing of a terminal septuagenarian drag-queen comedian and a homeless 21-year-old drag singer. After the pair make a connection after a back-alley brawl, the elder Jackie (Derren Nesbitt) takes in Faith (Jordan Stephens), and they begin tackling Jackie’s bucket list before cancer runs out his clock. The UK film has a sweet heart and appropriately warm and sorta grimy cinematography, and behind solid performances from its leads it champions staying true to what you love until your dying day. SS

Every Act of Life

Sat., Oct. 13 at 2:15 p.m. | Northwest Film Forum

Though his Texas-in-the-’50s childhood was just as uncongenial to a gay boy as you’d expect, Terrence McNally did have one advantage: His parents took annual trips to see Broadway shows, infecting him with the bug that turned him into one of our busiest and most important and honored playwrights and librettists (Love! Valour! Compassion!, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime). Jeff Kaufman’s documentary explores McNally’s awakening gay identity in parallel with America’s, and he persuaded a theater queen’s dream lineup of talking heads—Rita Moreno, Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane—to discuss McNally’s career and his status as one of the country’s most passionate and committed queer artists. GB

L’Animale

Sat., Oct. 13 at 4:30 p.m. | Northwest Film Forum || Wed., Oct. 17 at 5 p.m. | Northwest Film Forum

Mati is the tomboy in her pack of high-school motocross delinquents in this Austrian drama. They’re quite the unlikable lot, harassing girls at dance clubs and causing other stupid teenage problems. But as her best friend says he wants to turn their relationship romantic, Mati becomes entranced by one of the pack’s targets, a girl named Carla. Things get tense as their love blossoms, her motocross chums feel scorned, and her dad engages in gay affairs (not so secretly) behind her mom’s back. Director Katharina Mückstein takes some big stylistic swings (and misses), and it’s often one of those films that’s annoyingly on-the-nose with its symbolism, but the Austrian motocross setting at least differentiates it from most coming-of-age stories. SS

Latter-Day Glory

Sat., Oct. 13 at noon | SIFF Cinema Egyptian

The topic of how the Mormon Church discards its gay youth is one that deserves national attention. Suicide is the leading killer of Utah youths, and the numbers have spiked in recent years (with some willfully ignorant skeptics even explaining the problem away via the state’s altitude—no, seriously). If you’re looking for a basic explainer, the documentary Latter-Day Glory can serve as a starting point and has some strong emotional stories from ex-Mormon LGBTQ folks; however, its disorganized and shoddy directing (the narrative line is nonexistent and there’s no attempt to talk to someone on the Church’s side to force them to explain the hateful policies) keeps the film from being more than an earnest but jumbled crash course. SS

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