A Dark Comedy & LGBTQ Refugees: Wednesday at the SFFilm Festival

I saw two very different movies yesterday at the SFFilm Festival.

The Death of Dick Long

This very dark comedy works extremely well as a noirish thriller. Or is it a noirish thriller with a deep strain of dark comedy? Three good-old boys party a little too hardy. The next morning, one of them (the Dick of the title) dies in the hospital as an unidentified John Doe. Our hapless protagonists (Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland) try to hide their connection to the lethal accident, and succeed only in digging themselves into a deeper hole. The wonderful supporting cast includes Virginia Newcomb, Janelle Cochrane, and The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr.

And yes, Billy Chew and director Daniel Scheinert play with the obviously obscene name Dick Long, but they do it rarely and well.

I give The Death of Dick Long an A-. There was no Q&A after the film.

I saw the last SFFilm screening of this film. However, it was picked up by a24 Films, and will probably be in theaters (or at least streaming) before the end of the year.

Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America

Being gay in some parts of the world can be a death sentence, and the only hope is to get refugee status in a country where one’s sexuality is not a capital crime. Tom Shepard’s moving documentary follows four such refugees with hopes of a safe home. But the process takes years, and during that time these likeable people live in limbo. To make matters more difficult, they must struggle with a new culture and language, find homes and jobs, and get immigration lawyers they can afford. An inspiring study of people hoping for a better life.

I give Unsettled a B+.

The Q&A after the screening included director Shepard, producer Jen Gilomen, editor Eva Brzeski, and all four of the refugees in the film. Some highlights, edited for brevity and clarity:

  • I shot over 400 hours of footage and Eva cut it down to 80 minutes.
  • On deciding to make this film: I was doing volunteer work and I met Junior [one of the four stars of the film]. That experience reminded me that atrocities in other parts of the world are getting worse.
  • I never imaged I would tell my story to a camera. But it’s an opportunity to tell a story about being a gay man in the middle east.
  • On learning to trust Shepard: I really didn’t trusted him. It’s our lives we’re putting up there. But now he’s an awesome friend.
  • We want this film to connect with asylum seekers throughout the country. Many of them haven’t had LGBTQ refugees yet.
  • There’s always that fear that we might be sent back home.

You have one more chance to see Unsettled at SFFilm: tonight (Thursday), 8:00, at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. It will likely play on PBS in the near future.