For Franco Stevens, success didn’t come easy.
In the late 1980s as a young bride of 20 she realized she was gay. She left her marriage, and her family disowned her. She headed for California where, despite working three jobs, she had to live in her car.
Then in 1990 she had an inspiration. Realizing that there was no publication for lesbian audiences she decided to start one. To raise money she applied for a dozen credit cards and maxxed them out for cash. She headed to the racetrack, picked a horse, put all her money on it, and won. She repeated this three times.
With this seed money, she started a magazine called Deneuve, hired a brilliant young staff, engaged in tireless promotion (she made for a stylish and provocative guest on the talk show circuit), and the project took off. Unfortunately, the magazine’s namesake, the actress Catherine Deneuve, took notice and sued. Lesbian celebrities turned out for a fund-raiser to pay Stevens’s legal fees, a settlement was reached, and Deneuve was renamed Curve.
Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Medow’s “Ahead of the Curve” picks up the story in 2019 when Curve seems to be taking a turn for the worse. After an accident that left her unable to walk, Stevens had relinquished control of the publication and has just heard from the new publisher that the magazine won’t survive another year. Like other print publications, its advertising and subscriptions have dropped because of the Internet and a changing audience. Stevens realizes that Curve needs to be reinvented. To do so she seeks out young, influential voices in the lesbian community to learn how to appeal to a new, intersectional generation of readers.
A vivid portrait of a resilient and inspiring figure as well as a microcosm of three decades of social and cultural change, “Ahead of the Curve” is a provocative and illuminating way to usher in LBGTQ+ Pride Month.
“Ahead of the Curve” is available via the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Virtual Screening Room. Go to virtualcoolidge.org/main/ahead-of-the-curve.
Hard to find
Normally I would try to avoid documentaries that include words like “journey” or “Bigfoot” in the title but sometimes it’s nice to take a break from grimmer subjects. Seth Breedlove expresses the same sentiments in his “On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey.” “Suddenly viruses, politics, elections, and social unrest were replaced by something I hadn’t experienced in a long time: peace,” he says, while hunting the title creature. “Here in the Adirondacks, while searching for what most people consider a myth, I found a break from the chaos.”
Sounds like as good a reason as any for traipsing around the backwoods for several days with a film crew. Breedlove focuses on the Northeast instead of the Pacific Northwest, where Sasquatch seems most often to hang out. But the filmmaker insists that upstate New York, Vermont, and even Western Massachusetts also offer plenty of unspoiled hunting grounds for believers to comb.
Breedlove begins his journey by visiting Whitehall, N.Y., where in 1976 terrified teenagers reported a dramatic sighting (the incident is the subject of Breedlove’s 2015 film, “The Beast of Whitehall”). He travels to other hot spots in the Bigfoot stomping grounds and joins local Squatchers in inconclusive nocturnal expeditions. He also asks them why they are so obsessed with hunting for the creature. “It’s the camaraderie,” says a Massachusetts enthusiast. “It changes people’s lives.”
As Bigfoot experts point out, the elusive creature is not a recent phenomenon. Native Americans passed down legends about giant wild men in the woods called Wendigo, 18th-century colonists encountered them, even Theodore Roosevelt had a friend who gave a “veracious” account of a 7-foot-tall hairy giant.
David Floyd, a professor of English at Charleston Southern University, puts Bigfoot in a mythic context. He points out that in many cultures throughout history such monsters have been rumored to dwell in the forests, swamps, and mountains outside human habitations representing “a dynamic between the civilized space and the wild and the monsters it contains and the necessary separation between the two.”
Bigfoot himself suggested something similar when he appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” last month, chiding QAnon people for abandoning him for deadlier conspiracy theories, taking the terror out of the woods and putting it on the streets, the Internet, and inside the US Capitol.
“On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey” is available on June 8 on DVD ($22.99) and on platforms including Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Vudu. Go to www.smalltownmonsters.com/shop/onthetrailofbigfoot.
Three talented high school student athletes train hard at their sport and hope to excel. But they are transgender, and as seen in Michael Barnett’s “Changing the Game” their goals are obstructed by laws, prejudices, and ignorance.
In New Hampshire female transgender athletes are allowed to compete in female sports but only after their gender reassignment surgery was completed. Sarah Huckman, an outstanding skier, felt this was discriminatory and lobbied to have the law changed.
In Connecticut the laws allow track champion Andraya Yearwood to compete but the parents of some of the other athletes oppose her participation because they believe she has an unfair advantage. But as her coach and her mother point out, to deny her this opportunity might prove deadly in a culture where 40 percent of transgender youths are driven to attempt suicide every year.
Most ironic is the situation in Texas, where Mack Beggs wants to wrestle on the boys team but must instead compete with female wrestlers because the law insists that he identify with the gender he was born with. It is an arrangement that satisfies no one, and when Mack goes undefeated and wins the state championship parents, fans, and the media berate him.
Incisive about the complex issues involved and emotionally compelling, this documentary might help clarify the rules so the game can be changed.
“Changing the Game” is available on Hulu. Go to bit.ly/3yOiZDr.
Peter Keough can be reached at email@example.com.