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Pride Divide

Brave, entertaining docu goes where gay-fest items haven't traveled before: into the unspoken but nagging tensions between lesbians and gay men. Scattershot, talking-heads approach is leavened by nifty old footage and wry juxtapositions. Pic is assured a healthy tube life and frequent revivals on community circuits after fest rounds. "Pride Divide's" premise is that, in an effort to provide a united front against an intolerant majority, the gay community has buried many of its own most contentious issues. In fact, most of them mirror male-female conflicts in society at large, with men getting most of the goodies and women expected to clean up the mess. Issues range from male promiscuity to the disproportionate number of lesbians who volunteer to look after men with the AIDS virus.

With:
Camille Paglia, Kate Clinton, Michael Musto, Rose Troche, others

Pic’s p.o.v. is nominally female, but its appeal to varied auds is guaranteed by its even-handed sense of humor. At packed Seattle preem, men and women laughed, cheered and loudly hissed radically different segs of the film, although everyone booed Camille Paglia’s pronouncements on bisexuality and other matters.

Filmmakers Paris Poirier and Karen Kiss (the same team behind the popular “Last Call at Maud’s”) crisscross the U.S. looking for opinions: In New York, they get serious asides from “Go Fish” helmer Rose Troche and historian Martin Duberman, as well as a tongue-in-cheek tour of defunct gay bars from gossip-monger Michael Musto; in L.A., they chat with scientist Simon LeVay, who discovered the so-called “gay gene”; and in San Francisco, drag diva Joan Jett Blakk talks flippantly about gender and showbiz. Stopping in Washington, D.C., they even get a Clinton — Kate, the funny one — who’s been riffing on pic’s subject for years.

Expected consensus from these disparate voices (about 100 of them) is that boys just wanna have fun and gals are too serious by half. What’s more revelatory is the archival material about women’s-movement veterans who took to the land in the 1970s to have a taste of male-free experience, and what they brought back to their urban lives in subsequent decades.

Subtle exclusion of lesbians from political and social life of developing gay activism over the years, especially in the conformist ’50s, is another sore point that can’t just be shaken off with a few jokes. Biggest surprise, though, is the apparent (and apparently new) willingness to address these things in an openhearted way.

Pic will do extended duty as a discussion-sparker in grassroots screenings. As TV fodder, “Pride” will mean a lot to gays in isolated regions, while straight auds can enjoy a well-made subculture sojourn that gets cranky without pointing the finger at them.

Pride Divide

Production: A Horizon Unlimited (Venice, Calif.) production, with support from the Independent Television Service and the Corp. for Public Broadcasting. Produced by Karen Kiss, Paris Poirier. Directed, written by Paris Poirier.

Crew: Camera (color, Beta/Super 8/16mm), Fawn Yacker, Amy Nesbitt, Kelly Rae Fry, Dan Geller, Peter Gilbert; editor, Mary Beth Bresoulin; music, Tim Horrigan, Fletcher Beasley; sound, Michael Kowalski. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 7, 1997. Running time: 57 MIN

With: Camille Paglia, Kate Clinton, Michael Musto, Rose Troche, others

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