Rainbow Madison Square Garden Photographed by Me on Saturday, June 25th at 10:00 PM
One day in the life of a pair of Brooklyn teenagers moves beyond their typical routine to mark an emotional turning point in the lives of the two best friends in Naz & Maalik; an engaging new film from screenwriter/director Jay Dockendorf. The film’s dynamic script is based on a first-person account from one of Dockendorf’s former neighbors; a gay Muslim man who revealed his own experience as a teenager living in Brooklyn, at a time when the NYPD and FBI were spying on Muslims across the country. In Bed-Stuy (Bedford Stuyvesant, a heavily African American neighborhood of Brooklyn) in particular, COPs would infiltrate mosques with undercover agents, coerce civilians arrested for petty crimes into becoming informants and conduct door-to-door interviews with Muslim citizens in front of their homes. The overbearing presence of the police created a charged environment, and a similar atmosphere of consistent tension infiltrates this bittersweet coming-of-age story that is expertly directed and acted.
Portrayed by Curtiss Cook Jr. (Maalik) and Kerwin Johnson Jr. (Naz), two young actors both making their feature film debut in these roles, Naz and Maalik spend their days together, earning cash by selling Lotto tickets, Saint cards, candy and scented oils on the streets of their neighborhood, as well as while riding the subway lines. Their faith is also made evident, as they make a stop at a local mosque during their day to pray with the faithful. Their bond of friendship is fast and tight, and, as we learn early on, their relationship has only just taken a romantic turn — something that Naz is way more comfortable with than Maalik. As devout Muslims, their love is forbidden, and it doesn’t help that Maalik’s bratty younger sister has already threatened to “out” the couple to their parents. As if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough.
And then there’s the matter of that FBI agents that starts following the boys’ every move…
As their story unfolds naturally, Naz & Maalik takes on many hot-button issues — racial profiling, religion, sexuality — as the streets and subway trains of Brooklyn advance the backstory of just who these kids are without a need for superfluous narrative dialogue. In fact, to suggest that Brooklyn is also a main character in the film is not out of line.
Naz & Maalik isn’t so much a film about easy resolution as it is about tackling life’s curve balls and trying to stay true to yourself and your beliefs while also embracing the uncertainty of new love. Naz and Maalik are extremely likable characters and their story is both straightforward and nuanced, and highly engaging overall. The film’s original score, also written by Dockendorf is also fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about this film.
After Debuting at NYC’s Cinema Village, Naz & Maalik is currently available via Wolfe on DVD and Video On Demand.
ClampArt Gallery is currently hosting an exhibit of homo-erotic self-portraits from the ’70s and ’80s by the infamous gay icon, Peter Berlin. The reason there are only two photos in this post is because these were two of the few in which Berlin’s very impressive junk is not fully on display. Here is a bit of background on the photographer and model: in his 20s, Berlin worked as a celebrity portraitist for German television. Around this time, that he began designing and sewing his own skin-tight clothing, which he would wear as he cruised the parks and train stations in Berlin, Rome, Paris, New York, and San Francisco.
After several long-term stays on the East Coast, Peter Berlin eventually moved to San Francisco in 1969, and became a fixture on the streets with his signature look. He soon began producing films and starred in the now iconic Nights in Black Leather (1973), co-directed by Richard Abel. Berlin then produced, directed, and starred in That Boy the following year, and made four shorter films through the mid- to late-1970s, while publishing and selling his photographic self portraits. Peter Berlin was the subject of several Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, three drawings by Tom of Finland, and at least one portrait by Andy Warhol, attesting to his worldwide celebrity.
Still alive and well at age 73, Berlin was truly a vision to behold in his youth. If homoeroticism in your thing, don’t miss this exhibit.
Peter Berlin’s Wanted will be on Exhibit Through October 10th, 2015 at ClampArt, Located at 531 West 25th Street, Ground Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything, a film comes along that tells a completely unique story, and it blows your mind a little bit. Combining highly engaging aspects of a sociopolitical exposé, a deeply engrossing travelogue, and a minutely focused autobiography, filmmaker Parvez Sharma’s A Sinner in Mecca is a one-of-a-kind documentary.
Raised in India, but now living as an openly gay, married man in San Francisco, Sharma is a devoted Muslim who is deeply conflicted. His desire is to make the sacred journey of faith to the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but as a gay man (a Sinner), his internal struggle concerns whether Allah/ Islam can truly accept him as a devotee, and whether this trip might bring him personal resolution and peace. It does not help that there is a fatwa (religious opinion) calling for Sharma’s death for his 2008 film, A Jihad for Love. The viewer knows from the outset that by embarking on his pilgrimage, known in Islam as a Hajj, Sharma is putting himself in the path of possible grievous bodily harm. Like one of the most white-knuckle Hollywood thrillers, the act bravery undertaken by Sharma in bringing his story to the screen is astounding.
With its primary action taking place in a land where filming is forbidden and homosexuality is punishable by death, A Sinner in Mecca is guerrilla film-making at its most epic. All on-location footage was captured entirely on Sharma’s iPhone and on two small cameras that passed for iPhones. This allowed him to be able to act like he was just talking on phone should suspicions be aroused, and so Parvez Sharma was able to record to film aspects of the Hajj that no non-Muslim has ever seen before.
Mecca is the most visited city in the world, but entry is forbidden to all but followers of Islam. For centuries, only Muslim pilgrims knew what happened inside the city of Mecca, but now this film opens wide a door to that world. Many scenes in the film, such as the pristine interiors of the temples, the crowds of millions of pilgrims continuously encircling a massive black cube, the Kaaba — housed within the sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram, which is the most sacred site in Islam — and rest areas strewn with an endless sea of garbage left behind by the faithful, are positively otherworldly.
A Sinner in Mecca is not only visually stunning, but there is also a great story. While Parvez reveals engaging and candid tales of his own up-bringing, as a Muslim whose otherwise loving mother, a poet, never approved of his lifestyle, he also discusses the history of Islam going back centuries. Sharma helps to elucidate the differences between the peaceful, spiritual religion he grew up with, and the violent, extreme and puritanical form of Islam practiced within Saudi Arabia (and associated with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS) which is called Wahabism. I believe that films like A Sinner in Mecca — which provide an alternate, inside view of the religion — are important for westerners to be exposed to, especially those of us living the USA — where, let’s face it, prejudice against Muslims as a group is out of control — in order that we can better understand that the actions of certain extreme terrorist groups do not represent all people who practice the Islamic faith. This a very important film.
A Sinner in Mecca opens in New York on September 4th at Cinema Village, and Los Angeles at Laemmle Music Hall on September 11th, 2015, before expanding to additional markets and VOD. You can contribute to the Indie Gogo campaign to help fund additional screenings of the film at This Link.
The Worley Gig Gives A Sinner in Mecca Five out of Five Stars.
Watch the Trailer Below:
It may have been as long ago as last summer that I met Christian, as he set up a table near the corner of 10th Avenue and 23rd Street in the Chelsea Gallery Distinct to hand out his amazing coloring /activity books that he makes himself.
On each of the book’s pages you will find an icon of the art, fashion or music world along with a famous original quote of theirs. Here is Andy Warhol, my favorite artist ever in the Universe of all time, also accompanied by my favorite quote of his, “Art is What you Can Get Away With.” That is so true.
Here we see Freddie Mercury and Grace Jones (as seen on the cover of her legendary CD, Island Life).
Elton John, I love him!
I can feel Bjork on this quote, because people asked me the same thing when I got home from an Alaskan Cruise. Really people? Eskimos? It was cruise, not an anthropological expedition!
Andre Leon Talley is an eccentric fashion mogul who sometimes gets himself into trouble, because he has a very sassy mouth!
There are alossome fun games and activity pages in the book, such as this cool maze to help Andy Warhol find funding for his art, or something like that!
Also, you can connect-the-dots to draw designer Karl Lagerfeld. So fun!
Find out more about Christian and see how he has colored and decorated some of these pages himself on his Facebook page, Christian Loves Sparkle!
While I can’t admit to being fan of every single John Waters‘ directed film (and I have seen most of them), I sure do appreciate his artistic aesthetic, and he seems like a cool person from what I hear. So, I was really excited to rush out to the Marianne Boesky Gallery in 15 degree weather to check out Waters‘ latest exhibit (and third at this gallery) which is called Beverly Hills John. This is an ambitious exhibit which showcases the director/artist’s work in a variety of mediums including photography, prints, collage, sculpture and film — all of which I found to be utterly delightful.
In boundary-pushing works that address Waters‘ obsession with Art, Pop Culture, Pulp Fiction Novels, the Film Industry and Gay Culture, his irreverent humor is evident everywhere you look; but he also gives you something to think about.
Or Thimk about.
In Congratulations (above), Waters riffs on the infamous red dot commonly used in galleries to indicate a sale.
Bill’s Stroller features a studded leather strap for securing baby and the stenciled names of various underground Gay Sex Clubs.
R.I.P. Mike Kelley is a tribute to the late artist, who committed suicide in 2012.
In Grim Reaper, Jackie O and JFK are trailed by Death as portrayed by Bengt Ekerot in the Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal.
Film Festival takes a famous film title and changes one word, making it grammatically incorrect while (in most cases) maintaining roughly the same meaning. Two detail shots are below.
Separate But Equal, (2014)
I have no comment for this one.
The absolute highlight of the exhibit (for me) is a new 74-minute video entitled Kiddie Flamingos, which is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen in my life and is brilliant on so many levels. Kiddie Flamingos shows a table read of Waters’ X-rated 1972 cult film Pink Flamingos, rewritten as a children’s movie with an all-kid cast. Bluntly put: this video is mind blowing. Even if you can’t stay for the entire film, make sure you see at least 15 minutes of it, because it is just insane. According to the press release, “Waters hopes that this defanged and desexualized sequel is even more perverse than the original, transferring innocence into a new kind of joyous, G-rated obscenity.” Seriously, don’t miss this exhibit.
John Waters: Beverly Hills John will be on Exhibit Through February 14th, 2015 at Marianne Boesky Gallery, Located at 509 West 24th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.
Love doesn’t have to look a certain way, and it is a thoroughly compelling love story that anchors the Gay rights battle at the heart of The Circle, a new German language film from Director Stefan Haupt. In this engaging film that mixes a scripted dramatic narrative (set in 1950s Zurich) with present day documentary interview footage with film’s real-life main characters, The Circle (Der Kreis) is also the name of a gay social organization and the multi-lingual, borderline-homoerotic magazine/newsletter it publishes and distributes to an extensive international list of subscribers.
Although post WWII Switzerland has no laws banning homosexuality, The Circle’s staff members are always careful to avoid excessive censorship by keeping the publication’s nudity “artistically tasteful” and ensuring that any provocative articles are written in a language that the censors don’t speak. It’s obvious from the beginning that The Circle offers an invaluable social outlet and sanctuary for its members; one which they will go to great lengths to preserve and protect.
It’s at one of the organization’s formal dances that reserved Girls School teacher Ernst Ostertag (Matthias Hungerbuehler) meets flamboyant drag performer Robi Rapp (Sven Schelker), and Ernst is instantly smitten. While Ernst’s profession and desire to achieve tenure necessitate that he remain closeted to anyone outside of The Circle — including his ultra-repressed parents —Robi is openly gay and very comfortable inside his own skin. Robi has particularly charming relationship with his very warm and accepting mother (played by actress Marianne Sägebrecht ).
As Robi and Ernst’s relationship develops into a committed romance, Ernst becomes more self-confident and accepting of his sexual identity while also growing more passionate toward his involvement with The Circle and the cause of Gay rights.
Both actors are brilliant in their respective roles, sharing a palpable onscreen chemistry that really brings the deeply loving relationship between Ernst and Robi to life; but it isn’t all about romance. When several friends of The Circle fall victim to a series of murders within the gay community, the formerly liberal authorities begin to crack down on suspected same-sex behavior. This leads to The Circle’s regular dances and social events being declared illegal, and police using strong arm tactics to collect the personal details of all members. With the resulting turmoil, the organization becomes impossible to maintain and must be disbanded.
A unique aspect of The Circle’s method of storytelling is the interspersing of documentary interludes, featuring present-day interviews with the real life Ernst and Robi, now in their eighties. Not only are they still happily together but, in 2003, they actually became the first legally married same-sex couple in Switzerland. Friends and family of the couple, as well as former members of The Circle also contribute their personal stories, to create a very satisfying and entertaining movie-going experience. I really loved this film.
The Circle (Der Kreis) – which is the Official submission of Switzerland to the best foreign language film category of the 87th Academy Awards 2015 – opens in NYC on November 21st and in Los Angeles on December 18th, 2014. Runtime: 102 minutes.
The Worley Gig Gives The Circle Four out of Five Stars