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Young gay
director premieres film at Tribeca fest

Young gay
director premieres film at Tribeca fest

The youngest film director at this year's Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, 21-year-old Ash Christian, is living proof that being a chubby gay kid from Paris, Texas, doesn't mean you can't direct and star in a movie. Fat Girls is a semiautobiographical comedy about awkward Texas teenager Rodney and his friend Sabrina, who is so fat that in a moment of passion with her boyfriend in a car, her rear end gets stuck in the steering wheel.

"I wanted to make a movie, and I wanted to star in it because I'm not getting the roles I want," Christian said in an interview in New York City. "I was getting these quirky best-friend roles. But who says this chubby kid can't star in a movie?"

Christian has had several television roles as an actor, including episodes of Over There and Cold Case. He wrote the script for Fat Girls when he was 19, raised the money from rich friends and private investors, and shot the movie in 2 1/2 weeks in January 2005.

The film shows the trials and tribulations Rodney and Sabrina go through in finding dates for the graduation dance at their high school. Mocked by the cool kids and in Rodney's case dealing with a conservative religious mother, and two lesbian mothers in Sabrina's, the pair eventually triumph, or at least survive and learn to be happy with themselves.

"I've had a lot of young people or overweight people come up to me after screenings and say, 'You're such an inspiration,'" Christian said. "To be, like, 21 and have people say that--it's pressure, but it's amazing. I'm shocked and honored."

Christian says he can identify with both characters. As a teenager he kept his sexual orientation a secret because of intolerance in his community. "I always felt like I was a fat girl on the inside. I felt like how I feel a fat girl would be," he said. "I never fit in, I was always an outsider. As a kid in Texas I never saw a movie that let me know everything was going to be OK," he said.

The film is reminiscent of the sleeper hit Napoleon Dynamite, which grossed more than $44 million at the U.S. box office after being made on a budget of just $400,000. Fat Girls is shot with digital cameras and has an intimate feel that Christian said was achieved by getting the actors to improvise much of the dialogue based on a script that just told them the gist of what to say.

It almost looks as if Christian rounded up a group of his high school friends and made a home movie, but in fact he went to Los Angeles for casting and hired a professional film crew, albeit a small one. "We had a lot of controversy," he said. "We got kicked out of town in Canton, Texas, because the lead character was gay."

"They revoked everything the day before we started shooting. It's the Bible Belt," he said. "Fat Girls isn't ever going to play in a Paris, Texas, theater," he added.

Christian said his youth also presented obstacles, particularly in raising the budget, which he declined to put a figure on. "It works for you and against you being so young, mainly against you, but some people think it's really neat."

He is already working on his next film, another comedy about a boy in a wheelchair who wants to act in a community theater and aspires to play the role of Jesus. "I've never seen people in wheelchairs being portrayed as real people," he said. "This character is not a nice guy. He's in a wheelchair, and he's mean and vicious, and I think people are going to fall in love with him." (Claudia Parsons, Reuters)

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