The spring film season in Washington starts with a bang with “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” a comic and poignant documentary by Chiemi Karasawa that captures the legendary performer’s days in New York City. The film interweaves footage from Stritch’s professional life (teasing Alec Baldwin on the set of “30 Rock” and struggling to remember the tricky lyrics of Stephen Sondheim for her final show at the Café Carlyle) and personal life (medial crises and packing for her move from Manhattan to Michigan). “Shoot Me” opens at West End Cinema on March 14.
The works of groundbreaking gay writer Tennessee Williams will be among those featured at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring this spring. A celebration of Vivien Leigh’s centenary will include “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” and Leigh’s iconic performance as Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” A retrospective on the career of Burt Lancaster will include his sizzling performance opposite Oscar winner Anna Magnani in “The Rose Tattoo,” as well as his powerful appearance in the classic “Come Back, Little Sheba” by gay playwright William Inge. Details at afi.com/silver.
Two documentaries about anti-gay campaigns will be released on DVD this spring. Michael Lucas’ “Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda” will be available on April 1 and finds the gay porn legend continuing his branching out into non-porn terrain. Yoruba Richen’s documentary “The New Black” examines how the black community is grappling with the issues of marriage equality and civil rights, and how the Christian right is exploiting anti-gay sentiment in black churches. It comes to home formats in June after it is broadcast on PBS as part of its Gay Pride Month celebration.
April 1 is also the DVD release date for the documentary “I Am Divine,” which explores the transformation of mild-mannered Baltimore native Harris Glenn Milstead into Divine, a “cinematic terrorist” and legendary international drag icon. Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz combines interviews with Milstead’s mother and Divine’s cinematic collaborators to create a complex portrait of a fascinating artist.
On a lighter note, the trend of female buddy movies continues with “The Other Woman,” a comedy featuring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton as three women turn the tables on the man who cheats on all three of them. The movie, which opens in wide release on April 25, also features a performance by pop singer Nicki Minaj.
B’more QFest (formerly/formally known as the Baltimore Queer Film and Media Festival) strives to “bring unity to the community” by bringing quality LGBT film to Charm City. Upcoming events include a double bill of “Sordid Lives” and “Southern Baptist Sissies” with screenwriter Del Shores on April 6 and Leslie Jordan (“Sordid Lives” and “Will & Grace”) performing his one-man show “Fruit Fly” on June 10-11. Details at bmorequeer.org.
“Stranger by the Lake,” the gay erotic thriller that won the Queer Palm (an independent award given to entries made to the Cannes Film Festival) and was named one of the top films of 2013 by the influential Cahiers du Cinema is still looking for a venue in D.C. If all else fails, this steamy tale of murder and sexual awakening set by a scenic lake in rural France will be available on DVD May 13.
“Interior. Leather Bar.,” inspired by the mythology surrounding the 1980 film “Cruising,” will be released on DVD on April 15. Filmmakers James Franco and Travis Mathews (“I Want Your Love”) reimagine the “lost footage” from the controversial film as they document their own challenges with shooting sexually explicit material.
LGBT filmmakers will have a chance to strut their stuff in the annual 48 Hour Film Fest. From 7:30 p.m. on May 2 to 7:30 p.m. on May 4, teams of local artists will create original short films. The films will be screened the following weekend at AFI Silver Theatre and the winner will advance to the national competition. Teams can register at 48hourfilm.com.
Although the D.C. Shorts Film Festival won’t be held until September, the staff and volunteers, under the direction of founder Jon Gann, an openly gay director, will host a variety of events this spring. In March, the Mentors program will offer a series of workshops for filmmakers of all skill levels. On June 13-14, the D.C. Shorts Laughs will offer evenings that combine funny short films and stand-up comedians. And most importantly, the Festival is now accepting entries from both directors and screenwriters. For more information, visit dcshorts.com.