Film isn’t a forever medium. We’re lucky that we can see some things at all, and we often have preservationists to thank for that. This is especially true for non-mainstreamworks such as home movies, student films, experimental endeavors. Overburdened, underfunded young filmmakers often lose, misplace, or neglect their early prints, leaving them improperly stored in rusty cans in basements. That’s what was happening to films that chronicled the gay/lesbian experience until the Outfest Legacy Project came along.
Already established as the world’s largest publicly accessible collection of LGBT films, Outfest — which had expanded from a film festival to a leading advocate for LGBT history— in 2005 partnered with UCLA to create the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation. The only program of its kind in the world, the Legacy Project is dedicated to finding, restoring, and preserving GLBT films that face extinction. The first two feature films restored as part of this landmark collaboration were Bill Sherwood’s “Parting Glances” (1986) and the groundbreaking documentary “Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives” (1978).
This Sunday at 3 p.m., as part of its ongoing series celebrating the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Museum of Fine Arts will screen three rare films about early LGBT life. All three are part of the Outfest Legacy Project.
Two of the films, by unknown directors, are shorts that document gay life pre-Stonewall. “Queens at Heart” (1967) presents four transsexuals in candid discussions about their lives and identities. The film was digitally restored to its vivid, original hues from two faded 16mm projection prints. Another discovery is “Mona’s Candle Light” (1950), also among a relatively small number of films depicting gay people before “gay liberation.” This short was discovered at a flea market and depicts patrons singing and performing inside a now defunct lesbian bar called Mona’s 440 Club in the North Beach section of San Francisco. According to the UCLA website, decor, makeup, and hairstyles “contributed to the dating of the otherwise unidentified material which, though slight (and almost lost to history) presents rare visible evidence of a subculture rarely seen or acknowledged.”
San Francisco filmmaker Debra Chasnoff, who in 1991 won an Academy Award for her documentary “Deadly Deception — General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment,” codirected the 1984 groundbreaking documentary “Choosing Children,” considered the first feature film to explore the subject of gay parenting. Chasnoff and her directing partner Kim Klausner conducted a nationwide search for lesbian-headed families that were navigating what was then very new legal, political, and social terrain. Ultimately, they found six families who had “chosen children” in different ways. The restored film remains the definitive portrait of this pioneering generation who paved the way for the current gay parenting movement, raising issues that are still relevant.
Screenings are in the MFA’s Remis Auditorium. Tickets may be purchased at www.mfa.org/film or by calling the MFA Ticketing Line at 800-440-6975.
Out of South Africa
Directors Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza will be on hand for a post-screening discussion about their 2011 documentary, “Dear Mandela,” on Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Brooklyn Film Festival and best South African documentary, Durban International Film Festival, “Dear Mandela” documents the largest movement of the poor in post-apartheid South Africa. It’s also about those who take a stand. When the South African government begins evicting shack dwellers from their homes in a state-sanctioned effort to “clean up the slums,” three friends who live in Durban’s vast shantytowns refuse to be moved. All DocYard screenings begin at 8 p.m., followed by a Q&A moderated by journalist and producer Erin Trahan, and an after-party at Casablanca restaurant.
For tickets and information, go to www.brattletheatre.org or www.thedocyard.com.
Science on screen
The Coolidge Corner Theatre’s “Science on Screen” program is headed to 20 other independent, nonprofit art-house cinemas, thanks to a two-year grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Grant recipients include the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Provincetown Film Society, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, and the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Each will receive a $7,000 award to develop Science on Screen programs based on the Coolidge’s model, which since 2005 has paired screenings with science and technology speakers. The Coolidge will launch its own new season on Sept. 10 with a screening of David Fincher’s “Se7en.” Psychiatry professor Thomas Gutheil will speak on serial killers, psychopathology, and the law.
For more information, go to www.coolidge.org.
Stop the drips
Science and the environment is also the focus of the Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition. Based in California, this conservation organization is seeking films of up to 10 minutes in length that stress efficient and responsible water use. The Aug. 15 deadline for entries is fast approaching, so amateur or professional filmmakers should submit their narrative, documentary, animated, experimental, and/or student shorts via the IUOW website. Finalists will win a trip to Los Angeles, where they will be guests at a screening event hosted by wildlife expert Jack Hanna. Two winners will be chosen to receive prizes of $10,000 for the Jury Award and $5,000 for the Audience Choice Award.
For more information and entry requirements, go to www.iuowfilm.com.