Sunday, January 20, 2008 | 06:27 PM ET
Saturday is the world premiere of Otto; or, Up with Dead People, and I’m surprisingly calm. I’ve already shown the film to my husband, Antonio, who, trust me, is my harshest critic, and to Katharina Klewinghaus, the female lead of the picture, and they both really like it, so that’s good enough for me. The rest is just gravy and stale popcorn.
In the afternoon Jeremy, my Otto, and I catch a movie called The Broken, a British horror movie about monstrous doppelgangers who break out of mirrors to murder and replace people. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Alice Through the Looking Glass. Despite its overabundance of horror clichés, it isn’t half bad. Then again, that must mean it isn’t half good.
After picking up my director’s jacket and having lunch, Jeremy and I try to find a liquor store, trudging through slushy parking lots and a maze of snow banks. When I finally choose my booze for the Otto after-party and try to check out, the mean man at the cash register looks at us askance and asks Jeremy for I.D. I tell him he isn’t 21, and the guy freaks out and tells us to get out of the store immediately because it’s illegal for minors to even be on the premises. He informs me that we’re on the surveillance cameras and that I shouldn’t try to come back alone to buy booze today. That’s Utah for you. For alcoholics, it’s like the seventh circle of hell.
After a brief rest and a cocktail at the chalet, we change and get ready for our pre-screening dinner at a restaurant called The Windy Ridge. I’ve been invited to participate in a gathering which includes Isaac Julien (here with his new documentary on Derek Jarman), Tom Kalin (with his feature Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore), Greg Araki (here to celebrate the 15th-anniversary reissue of his movie The Living End) and, apparently as kind of an afterthought, me. Marcus Hu of my usual U.S. distribution company, Strand Releasing, coordinated the event, and since all the filmmakers have Strand in common, and as we were all lumped together under the moniker New Queer Cinema in the early nineties, it only makes sense that the four of us, still crazy and going strong after all these years, should celebrate together.
When we get to the restaurant, however, it seems my entourage has been set up with a long table in an adjacent room next to the kitchen. Oh well. As a former farm boy, I’m always more comfortable with the help anyway. I do mingle in the main dining room with the other three filmmakers, each of whom I’ve known for many years, and we pose for photos together. When I bring Greg Araki over to our dining table in the sticks to say hello to everybody, he remarks, “Wow, this looks like the kids’ table!” It’s actually quite a smart way of looking at it: the kiddy table is always the most fun. Jeremy, who is a big fan of Greg’s great movie Mysterious Skin, is thrilled to meet him. Tom Kalin also comes over and hangs out. He’s very gracious and sweet. We reminisce about the time we both gave a talk on queer cinema at the Pompidou Center in Paris. I can’t wait to see his hot new mother/son incest movie. It’s his first film in fifteen years, and it already made quite a splash at Cannes.
Two more of my co-producers – my L.A. gallerist Javier Peres and my fellow Canadian artist and international art world It Boy Terence Koh – finally make their grand entrance. Terence is wrapped in an obscenely expensive black and white chinchilla and fox coat. Heady with excitement, we fast forward through our meal and head for the Library for our world premiere.
In the green room I’m still not nervous and I handle an interview with the French TV station Arte with aplomb, if I do say so. The next thing we know we’re whisked onto the stage to present the movie. I calmly introduce everyone, including my director of photography, James Carman, who has just arrived from Brazil with some sort of awful virus he got on the plane. He can hardly stand up.
It’s pretty much a typical Sundance screening for me. About a half an hour into the film, there is a scene in which one zombie f---s another zombie in the rotten hole in his stomach. On cue, entire rows of people stand up in unison and walk out. People always walk out of my screenings here, but sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between those suffering from brutally long days of film-watching (ours is a midnight screening) - festival burn-out, as it were - and those who are genuinely offended by the film or dislike it for other reasons. But for the majority who stay until the bitter end, there is a very enthusiastic response, judging by the lively Q and A. My best review so far, however, comes from a group of six straight teenage girls and boys who are waiting outside the theatre when I leave. Shari Frilot, the programmer who introduced the film, tells me she doesn’t even know how they managed to get into the screening, which is restricted. As I pass they all yelled “Great movie!” and “That was awesome” and “Thanks for making that movie!” You can’t ask for a better review than that.
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