Outrageous! - The Tribeca Film Festival Wrap-up 2009

Lower Manhattan's famed film festival welcomed campy, innovative, and thoughtful films alike.



What started out as an event to help revitalize a downtown Manhattan neighborhood -- one financially and geographically decimated by 9/11 -- the Tribeca Film Festival has become very much its own woman. Sprawling well into the Village and Chelsea, the eight-years-young festival, which ran April 22 to May 3, continued to evolve in terms of its programming (admittedly slimmed down due to the economy) and a handful of initiatives and developments to benefit and assist filmmakers (the year-round Tribeca All Access Program and Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund) -- yet reached into the past while doing so.

Case in point: Screened as a work-in-progress, and developed through the Tribeca All Access Program, director Crayton Robey's documentary Making the Boys explored the stories behind writer Mart Crowley's seminal gay classic play and film The Boys in the Band and the unique hinge in the modern LGBT rights movement it represented.

On one side of the hinge was pre-Stonewall America, where gay-identified characters and individuals were fleetingly (if at all) represented in popular media. Along came Boys , with its unabashedly gay (and one possibly closeted) set of characters, none of whom perish by curtain call. It was a smash hit, a watershed, but by the time the runaway success was adapted into a film, the post-Stonewall door to gay rights had been mounted on the other side of the hinge and Boys was suddenly lambasted as destructive and negative -- an enemy. Then AIDS struck, and every gay member of the cast succumbed to the disease.

Utilizing an impressive treasure trove of rare archival material (including Super-8 footage of a gay icon-studded party -- Judy! Rock Hudson! Sal Mineo! -- at Roddy McDowall's beach house, and scenes from a beyond-campy Bette Davis TV show pilot), interviews with Crowley and two of the three surviving cast members, and a Trivial Pursuit game's worth of details (like the fact that the Japanese stage version of Boys featured a Korean character in place of the black Bernard), Making the Boys is as much a sprawling chronicle of a turning point in gay rights and pop culture as it is a making-of and testament to Boys ' enduring legacy.

Following the April 27th screening, Making the Boys was followed by a panel discussion -- part of the "Tribeca Talks" series -- with Robey, Crowley, Dominick Dunne, Michael Musto, Dori Berinstein, Carson Kressley, and original Boys cast member Laurence Luckinbill. Much additional trivia was shared. Crowley revealed that Carol Channing had wanted to mount an all-female version; the play represented a catharsis for torment Crowley was enduring at the time; actor Keith Prentice, who played Larry, was originally cast as Michael in the workshop version of the play and was quite good in the role; and Robert Downey once starred in a high school production of the play.

Tags: film