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Day 6

Sundance 2008 blog Bruce LaBruce is one of Canada’s most audacious filmmakers. His satiric, sexually graphic work includes Super 8 ½ (1993), Hustler White (1996) and The Raspberry Reich (2004). His latest picture is the gay zombie film Otto; or Up with Dead People. The film has its world premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which runs Jan. 17-27. LaBruce will be blogging about his adventures at Sundance for CBCNews.ca.

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Filmmaker Bruce LaBruce. (Bruce LaBruce)

After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to face the last dance at Sundance. It’s hard to drag myself away from our cozy fireplace, but I’m scheduled to appear on a panel at the Queer Lounge entitled “Gay Filmmakers and Sexual Provocation,” a subject upon which I do have a thing or two to say. My fellow panelists, Isaac Julien, here with his Derek Jarman doc, and Lesli Klainberg, who co-directed the TV series Indie Sex, are both quite agreeable. Kyle Buchanan, the Advocate film critic who conceived and moderated the panel, isn’t afraid to dig into contentious subjects, like whether or not GLAAD — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and sponsor of the Queer Lounge — tries to censor or otherwise influence Hollywood scripts and teleplays. I’ve always vehemently and publicly opposed this strategy, and I do so again today. A representative from GLAAD denies that the organization still does this, and says that he is no longer in favour of his organization trying to act as a lobbyist to coerce “positive portrayals” of gays and lesbians out of Hollywood writers and producers. After all, as Isaac comments, “One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.”

Just as the panel began, a rumour started to spread like wildfire through the room, and indeed, through the whole festival. Unhappily, it turns out to be true: Heath Ledger has been found dead in a New York apartment. First Brad Renfro, who was 25, dies just a few weeks ago, and now the 28-year-old Ledger is gone. And didn’t Owen Wilson almost meet the same fate a couple of months ago? Drugs and depression seem to be rampant in young Hollywood these days. Like Emmaline Henry says to Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, “A pain like that is a clear sign that something isn’t right.” Hollywood, heal thyself.

My co-producer Bruce Bailey is in fine form today. He informs me that he ran into William H. Macy in the chocolate store, talked him up and gave him our promotional card featuring the nude drawing of Otto by artist Christophe Chemin. Mr. Macy said it looked like an Aubrey Beardsley drawing. Smart man, because that was exactly the reference intended. Bruce is a fearless promoter of artists that he supports and respects (he’s also the man behind the amazing Toronto artist Kent Monkman), so it’s great to have him here to work his magic.

Bruce and his husband, Alfredo, and I are picked up after the panel by one David Berg, a Salt Like City denizen that Justin Strange, my DJ buddy, brought to our party the other night. Mr. Berg is a political activist and vegan who, at the age of 35, has already run for Utah state legislature twice. He is also a staunch supporter of Dennis Kucinich, and indeed his car has rather large Kucinich for President and Impeach Bush stickers on it. He informs us in his booming yet lilting voice on the trip down to Salt Lake City, where we have a Sundance screening of Otto tonight, that contrary to its conservative Mormon reputation, his city is one of the most progressive and leftist in the country. After showing us some of the local haunts, including a gorgeous little lefty library and tearoom called the BeeHive and a darling little dive of a gay bar called Radio City, I’m beginning to see what he means. David has a thing or two to say about Park City, the richest place in the entire state, and how Sundance tries to appease Salt Lakers with a few token screenings and events in the city to keep them at a distance. In reality, he says, they really don’t want the people of Salt Lake City to come near Park City unless they work there, and indeed they won’t even allow a bus line to run up to the exclusive resort. I’m fascinated by the local politics.

David may be right, but I have to say, as with Sundance four years ago, my Salt Lake screening is by far the most fun and enthusiastic: it’s a full house of real, not festival, people; there are no walk-outs; and the audience is not afraid to show their love in the Q and A. Heady with success, we drive afterwards over to Justin’s club night at a roadside tavern called Todd’s Broken Record. We just make it for last call at one a.m., but as Justin has set aside a half-dozen pitchers of beer for us, we’re able to party until the bitter end. The joint is jumping with crazy kids, and I’ve noticed that the females of Salt Lake in particular are quite fetching!

Not knowing how to take no for an answer, David drives us all the way back to Park City. We get a flat tire on the way, which means I don’t get back to my chalet until well after 3am, and I have to be up in a few hours to catch my flight back to Toronto. It’s been quite a ride: the most fun I’ve ever had at Sundance. We haven’t sold the movie yet, but at least we’ve launched it with a splash. I guess that’s about all you can ask for when you’re trying to sell a melancholy political homo porno zombie movie.

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