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Memorial Film

Kicks off Fusion Festival

Memorial Film

Kicks off Fusion Festival


Pedro Zemora face a face to the many people with HIV to many young people in the early 1990s. Dustin Lance Black's latest film honors him and kicks off Fusion, a film festival for LGBT people of color in Los Angeles.

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.

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.

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Kyle Buchanan