Memorial Film Pedro Kicks off Fusion Festival

By Kyle Buchanan

Originally published on Advocate.com March 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

Outfest moved its
Fusion Film Festival from December to March this year, and the
Los Angeles-based festival (which shines a spotlight on queer
people of color) couldn't have lucked out with better
timing.

For its closing night
gala the festival will be premiering Pedro, written by Dustin
Lance Black, whose moving acceptance speech after winning the
Original Screenplay Oscar for
Milk

has suddenly made him white-hot. Much like Black's previous
film, Pedro tells the story of a crusading gay activist who
died too young: HIV-positive Pedro Zamora, whose stint on
Season 3 of
The Real World

lent him a national platform to educate about AIDS-related
issues. Zamora died almost fifteen years ago at age 22, just
one day after his final appearance on
The Real World

aired.

Since so much footage
is available of Zamora, one might walk into Pedro expecting a
documentary --it's not, though it too often feels like it
should be. Fully the first third of the movie is devoted to
Zamora's Real World experience, but too much of it simply
reenacts scenes that were already broadcast to millions by MTV.
It's a dissonant hurdle the film can't quite recover from:
though we should be getting to know and love Pedro (Alex
Loynaz) in the early going, we're too distracted by the near-
SNL

spectacle of actors recreating Real World alums like Judd,
Puck, and Rachel.

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Later, the film begins
to sketch in Zamora's pre-MTV life, and it's here that the
film is strongest -- aided immeasurably by
Six Feet Under

's Justina Machado, who plays Zamora's sister, Mily. Still,
even in these sections, Black and director Nick Oceano break up
the narrative with documentary-style interviews to the camera.
Machado's winning presence helps, but when we constantly
see her talking to an off-screen interviewer as Mily, one
can't help but think the real Mily would have been more
effective (and affecting). Unfortunately, Pedro never surmounts
the nagging suspicion that this story would have been better
served as a straight-up documentary.

Other high-profile
screenings at Fusion include the self-explanatory
Still Black: A Portrait Of Black Transmen

and the lesbian comedy
I Can't Think Straight,

a fest favorite. As ever, some of Fusion's strongest works come
in their shorts programming.
The Young and Evil

was a provocative dramatic hit at Sundance, and it's balanced
at Fusion by Brian Harris Krinsky's fun
Dish

, which finally lets gay teens participate in that uniquely
male rite of passage: wildly exaggerating your sexual conquests
so your high school classmates will think you're cooler.
Progress, indeed.

Outfest's Fusion Festival runs from March 6-8.