May 5, 2016 at 5:37 pm EDT | by Brian T. Carney
Pigeons, surrogates and more
Guys Next Door, Maryland Film Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

Eric and Sandro pose with their friend Rachel, the surrogate mother to their two daughters. Their story is depicted in the film ‘The Guys Next Door.’ (Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio)

Legendary gay filmmaker John Waters offers a simple reason why you should go to the Maryland Film Festival this weekend.

“The Maryland Film Festival is the best place to see new movies that will surprise, horrify or delight you,” he says. “It’s better cruising than Grindr.”

And the Baltimore native should know. He’s a proud board member of the festival which will offer about 120 screenings at venues throughout Baltimore. The festival, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday, May 8, is described as an exploration and elevation of the passions of filmmakers. It emphasizes the connection between filmmakers and audiences, so each North American feature-length screening will be hosted by the filmmaker.

Waters himself will be on hand on Friday, May 6 to continue a festival tradition and host one of his favorite movies. This year his selection is “The Deep Blue Sea” by gay auteur Terence Davies. The movie centers on the disastrous affair between Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) and English fighter pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston) in the wake of World War II.

“If you ever have been in love in a destructive, obsessional manner, the movie I am presenting, ‘The Deep Blue Sea’ will be your perfect date movie,” Waters says.

The festival also features some excellent LGBT movies. On Saturday, audiences can watch the moving documentary, “The Guys Next Door” with filmmakers Amy Geller and Allie Humanuk. The documentary tells the remarkable story of college friends Rachel and Erik and their extended families. Rachel is married to Tony; they are raising three kids in suburban Boston. Erik is married to Sandro, and when the two decide they want to start a family, Rachel offers to be their surrogate.

The film opens shortly before the birth of Erik and Sandro’s second daughter and follows the two couples over the course of the next several years. Filmmaker Geller says that the movie is an intimate portrait of an American family that explores who we are now.

“It also challenges our idea of family,” she says. “It’s about how children change the way we think about the past and how they change the way we plan for the future.”

Humanuk says directing the film jointly challenged their ideas about filmmaking and collaboration. Working so closely together, Humanuk says, “was incredibly hard. We’re both very strong-willed and we think about things very differently. But we had the same goal and in the end the creative challenge resulted in a better product.”

On Sunday, Canadian filmmaker Ingrid Veninger will be on hand to watch her new movie “He Hated Pigeons.” Veninger describes the film as “a slow-burning odyssey about love and loss. It features a beautiful man in a red pick-up truck who travels from the northern Atacama desert to the southern Patagonian edge of Chile to fulfill the wish of his mysteriously deceased lover Sebastien.”

“He Hated Pigeons” got started when Veninger attended FEMCine, a women’s film festival in Chile. Actor Pedro Fontaine was assigned to be her translator and over the course of the festival they became friends.

“I left Santiago for the Yukon and found myself thinking about returning to Chile to make a feature film with Pedro in the lead role, even though I had never seen him act in anything,” Veninger says. “When I landed, we Skyped and Pedro committed to being in my next film, without knowing anything about the script.”

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