The best film festival I ever ate

The recent Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival offered a tasty menu of international cinema. But those festival-sponsored dinners at South Beach restaurants were delicious too. Another festival diary by the Advocate’s arts and entertainment editor.

BY Alonso Duralde

May 18 2006 11:00 PM ET

Thursday, April 27 

Why is a woman flying from Los Angeles to Miami in April
wearing fur?
This is just one of the questions
going through my mind as I board a cross-country
flight that will take me to the eighth annual Miami
Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which I’m attending as
both a correspondent for The Advocate and as a
participant. Last year I wrote a goofy little tome for
Advocate Books called 101 Must-See Movies for Gay
Men,
and with the encouragement of Miami filmfest
codirectors Carol Coombes and Jaie LaPlante—and the
technical expertise of my friend Dave Kittredge, a
supremely talented editor and filmmaker—I now
have a discussion and clip show that I’ll be
premiering in Miami.

But all that lies
ahead of me. Right now I’m boarding a plane behind a
fur-clad woman. Other questions going through my mind
include, Is it some kind of awful travel karma that
ensures that a crying baby is guaranteed to be
sitting within three seats of me?
and Is it
George W. Bush’s fault that the back-punishing
seats in American Airlines’ coach class now
violate the Geneva Convention?
 

By the time I
reach Miami—where L.A.–based
publicist-around-town Jim Dobson, who handles P.R. for
the Miami fest, is waiting to take me to my
hotel—I want nothing more than to take a hot bath and
collapse. Lucky for me, the festival is putting me up
in South Beach’s historic Park Central Hotel,
and my room comes complete with a bathtub spacious enough
for my bodacious ampleness. I take a hot soak, I put
on a bathrobe, and I’m ready for bed. Until I
look through my toiletry kit and realize I forgot to
pack Tylenol PM, earplugs, and other sleepy-time
necessities. Cursing myself, I get dressed, trudge
downstairs, and ask the front desk guy where the
closest 24-hour drugstore is. “Two blocks over, and
five blocks down,” he tells me, in a voice that
suggests that I’m just spitting distance away.

Not quite. For
one thing, even though it’s round midnight on a
Thursday, it’s very popular around here to rev
one’s apparently muffler-free motorcycle while
zipping around Ocean Drive. (Did I mention that my
cross-country flight left me with a pounding headache on top
of my back-and-shoulder misery?) Also, even though
it’s late, it’s hot in Miami.
Like damp, sticky, moist, muggy hot. Mind you, I grew up in
Georgia, went to college in Tennessee, and spent most of the
’90s in Texas, so I’m no stranger to
humidity. Living in California for seven years,
however, has stripped me of my capacity to deal with it, so
I feel like Shelley Winters in The Poseidon
Adventure,
slogging through a solid wall of water
in a baggy ball gown. And then there’s the homeless
guy who decided to let me pass him so he could walk behind
me for several blocks, but I just look at that as an
incentive to practice some power walking. I get to the
store and buy what I need. I take a cab back to the
hotel, but any convenience is outweighed by the
driver’s insistence on blasting reggaeton at
full volume. A broken man, I make my way upstairs and
finally get to sleep.

Friday, April 28 

I wake up
refreshed, all homicidal thoughts towards motorcyclists and
dancing cabbies banished from my mind. After a quick visit
to the press check-in, Dobson and I grab lunch at News
Café, one of South Beach’s many sidewalk
cafés. We’re very near Eighth and Ocean, an
address that I later discover resonates with viewers
of an MTV reality show I’ve never seen. Fashion
Week has just ended in Miami, and among the people who walk
past as we eat is Nick “Heck, yeah, I’m
gonna win this thing” Verreos from Project
Runway.
(In case you didn’t watch the
show—he didn’t.) Also walking past are
the beautiful people of South Beach, and I realize an
odd paradigm about Miami: All the men look gay here. At
first I think it’s just because I’m in
town for the gay film festival or because I work for
The Advocate or whatever, but no, the men
here—at least some of whom are actually
straight—have all adopted the West Hollywood/Palm
Springs universal gay resort look. Tank tops, long shorts,
sandals, overinflated chests and arms (with skinny
legs), and orangey tans are all the norm here. Do the
straight dudes who have adopted this look realize how
queer they look? Or is it just that the standards of Miami
Beach read as faggy to out-of-towners?

It’s a
mystery. And one I don’t plan on solving today
because it’s still crazy humid. I should be
sightseeing or swimming or something, but I am
humidity’s bitch, and I spend the afternoon in my
air-conditioned hotel room.

That night, after
a festival-sponsored cocktail party—just a quick walk
from the Versace mansion—I head to the fest’s
host theater to check out François Ozon’s
powerful new film, Time to Leave, about a gay
photographer who finds out he has very little time left to
live. Part of my work this weekend will be to
interview the film’s star, Melvil Poupaud, so I
need to check out the goods. I’ll be writing more
about it later for the magazine, but suffice it to say
that the film continues Ozon’s tradition of
being one of the most powerful and unpredictable
filmmakers, queer or otherwise, working today.

I run into my
favorite festival fun folks—critic B. Ruby Rich and
Strand Releasing copresident Marcus Hu—and we
all decide to grab dinner afterwards. Melvil joins us,
as Strand is the U.S. distributor for the Ozon film,
as well as Kennedy (a fest volunteer who’s driving
the Frenchman around during his Miami visit) and
Dobson. Dobson—as always, a man with
connections—has snagged us a table at Wish, the
restaurant in The Hotel, which boasts design by Todd
Oldham.

You know those
dinners that stretch on for hours? Not that you’re
eating the whole time, but you’re having a
conversation that never dies down, so you wind up
being at the table much longer than usual? The Spanish call
this sobremesa, and it’s one of my favorite
things about getting together with my family. This is
one of those dinners. We talk a lot about movies,
obviously—Melvil, who seems indifferent to a lot of
contemporary filmmakers, shocks us all by telling us that he
and many people in France think that one of
today’s most important and thought-provoking
filmmakers is Mr. Twist Ending himself, M. Night
Shyamalan—but also about a variety of other topics.
The food is all extraordinary, but the talk even more
so. Finally, at around 1 a.m. or so, we realize that
we’re one of the last groups in the restaurant and
hesitantly call it a night.

Tags: film

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