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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Style vies with substance in Out on Film docs

click to enlarge LESS IS MORSE: Keith Haring speaking in Morse code in The Universe of Keith Haring
  • LESS IS MORSE: Keith Haring speaking in Morse code in The Universe of Keith Haring

All documentary filmmakers must feel, on some level, as though their movies have the potential to change the world. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine them devoting so many unglamorous hours to trailing after subjects and hunching over editing equipment. Given that most nonfiction films seldom find audiences outside the festival circuit, the majority of documentarians have to settle for altering the thinking of viewers on a grassroots level.

Atlanta’s 2009 Out on Film Festival, playing May 28-31 at the Plaza Theatre, includes three documentaries. Two of them overtly address contemporary social ills, while the third offers a positive role model. Each uses a different means to reach the viewer on a personal level.

With Out on Film’s opening night entry Fagbug (2 stars, Thurs., May 28, 7:30 p.m.), Erin Davies portrays herself as both victim and crusader. On April 18, 2007, as a graduate student in Albany, N.Y., Davies discovered the crudely spray-painted words “fAg” on the driver’s-side window and “u r gay” on the hood of her Volkswagen New Beetle. Rather than just paint over the epithets, she left them in place and kept driving the car. It was a way to turn abuse into a point of defiance, similarly to the gay rights movement reclaiming the word “queer.” In a provocative, arguably reckless act, Davies resolved to drive alone cross-country on a hate crime awareness tour and record the experience.

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(Photo courtesy Out on Film)

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