Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bears - Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

A big bowl of woof

I have a friend who loves Bears. I don't mean teddy bears. He might like those as well. What I mean is big, burly guys with lots of hair. Seth Rogen fits the bill, as does George Clooney in his beefed-up Syriana incarnation. He's also hot for Kevin James. That one I don't get. At all. But, whatever. I adore Rossy de Palma and I don't expect anyone to understand that. So, it's a particular taste. Fortunately, if you're gay and you're mad for the Kevin Smith type, there's a whole subculture devoted to that, mostly consisting of men who also look like Kevin Smith. Like any other culture, they like to celebrate their beauty in the form of pageantry and thus began the Mr. International Bear Contest in 1992.

The contest is held as part of the International Bear Rendezvous, a yearly event staged by the Bears of San Francisco. As per its name, bears from all over the world attend. In 2004 Marc Klasfeld, a director mostly known for his videos for the Foo Fighters, Jay-Z, Gnarls Barkley and Eminem [oh, the irony] documented the 10th annual IBR. Klasfeld profiles a few of the US regional winners, including Mr. NY Bear, Jay Duckworth, a 6'3", kilt-wearing, bagpipe playing, theatrical prop designer; Mr. Kentucky Bear, Bill Howard, a former marine, horse-breeder; Mr. San Francisco Bear, Dave Hayes, a two-steppin' line-dance instructor; Mr. SoCal Bear, Scott Hunter, a irrepressible show-man, so unabashedly self-promoting, you will find him to be irresistibly adorable or utterly annoying; and last, but not least, Seattle's own Mr. Northwest Bear, Alan Matthews.

Many of the bears in the film differentiate themselves from mainstream images of homosexuality, insisting they aren't twinks, but regular guys who happen to be gay. By this, they mean that, aside from their sexual orientation, they're no different from any other workaday schlubb who likes beer, nachos and Nintendo. Which is to say they're no different from any other guy who avoids exercise, likes to eat chips, leaves their socks on the floor and wears ass-less chaps. Which is to say, they're no different from any other kinky man in North America, gay or straight, twink or butch. Which is to say,AePwhat's the difference again?

All kidding aside, the bears presented in Bears come across as a pretty nice, caring bunch of guys. Although the International Bear Contest centers around a beauty pageant, a good portion of the competition is dedicated to fundraising contests for various community programs. One such challenge involves selling long strips of raffle tickets in a manner known as 'boots to balls'. What this means for the raffle ticket purchaser is that, for $5, you get a fairly generous crotch-nuzzle from a kneeling bear; an event the Miss America pageant could surely use.

In place of a swimsuit competition there's an underwear contest, where the costumes range from basic tighty-whities to full-on leather ensembles. I won't spoil the ending by revealing the identity of the winner but, believe me, personality counts.

Bears, 2007, US, 80 min.
Sunday, October 14, 6:45pm, Cinerama

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