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Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) reels out over 200 films from around the globe. Filmmakers and celebrities attend many of the screenings and events during the festival. Parties and gatherings at area "hot spots", on board yachts, and on the beach will provide audiences an opportunity to hob knob with film talent and other movie buffs.




Charles Busch: From Drag Artist To Film Director

Thursday, November 2------Film directors always have a colorful history. Some come from film school. Some come from advertising. Some come from other industries entirely. But there are not too many that can claim that they first found fame as a drag artist.

Well, that is how Charles Busch became a household name (at least in my household) for his campy portrayals of glamourous women on the verge of a nervous breakdown (to borrow a title from another queen of camp melodrama). Busch is, in the old fashioned term, a gender illusionist. In other words, he has found a greater depth of character in playing women on stage and on the big screen (and not just any women, but the uber-females in an exaggerated Judy Garland meets Marlene Dietrich meets Bette Davis fashion).

Busch first came to prominence on the New York cabaret circuit and in decadent off-Broadway shows, including VAMPIRE LESBIANS OF SODOM, the longest-running non-musical play in Off Broadway history, YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY, the neo-noir THE LADY IN QUESTION and the ersatz Orientalia SHANGHAI MOON.

Busch had obviously studied the great actresses of the Hollywood era, since his portrayals brought to mind these exceptional strong and diverse women. His admiration for such icons as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and other silver screen sirens inspired his work and brought a new understanding of how these women changed the relationship between the sexes as a result of their long and prolific careers.

Busch carried this camp persona to his first films as a writer, including the deliciously perverse PSYCHO BEACH PARTY (2000) and the Grand Guignol schlocker DIE MOMMIE DIE (2003), for which Busch won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

In the last few years, Busch has begun to move beyond his camp persona to write and act in works that have a more serious edge (although still divinely funny). His 2001 play THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE, was a mainstream Broadway hit, and was nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Play. A film version has been rumored for years, with Barbara Streisand attached at one point to play the neurotic housewife at a crossroads, originated on the stage by Linda Lavin.

Busch has also moved beyond the drag queen impersonation and begun playing a variety of kinds of men. In the HBO series, OZ, he won acclaim for his hard hitting portrayal of a prison inmate. His directorial debut, which he also co-wrote and stars in, A VERY SERIOUS PERSON, is another departure for the actor/performer.

In this moving drama, Busch plays Jan, an itinerant male nurse from Denmark, who takes a new job with Mrs. A, a terminally ill Manhattan woman, played by veteran actress Polly Bergen, who is raising her parentless thirteen-year-old grandson, Gil. Spending the summer by the shore, the emotionally reserved Jan finds himself oddly cast as a mentor to Gil. A deep friendship grows between these two solitary people. By the end of the summer, Gil has developed a new maturity and independence, while the enigmatic Jan has revealed his own vulnerability. Although he does play a gay character in the film, Busch made sure not to include any camp stereotyping, but to play Jan with a full range of emotional depth and seriousness.

The film has been making the rounds of the festival circuit to great acclaim. The film has its premiere at the Fort Lauderdale International Film this evening at 9:45pm at the Cinema Paradiso, with an after-party reception at Icon Las Olas following the screening. The film screens two more times: Tuesday, November 7 at 7:30pm and Wednesday, November 8 at 7:30pm, both at the Cinema Paradiso. Bush's strong fan base in the gay community and general interest in the momentum of his unique career will certainly make this one of the "must see" events of the Festival.

Sandy Mandelberger
Online Festival Dailies Editor

Comments (1)

A Very Serious Person

This is definitely one of the best films I have ever seen. It is perfect...acting, direction, writing, everything. I hope it comes out on dvd. I just wrote a novel with a heavy gay element, and if it is a fraction as good as this film is, I will be completely satisfied. Great job, Charles!

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About Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Online Dailies for the 24th edition of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival , October 23 - November 11, 2009

United States

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