Mature Friends Newsletter

What’s New in August
Mailing Address:
Mature Friends
PO Box 21203, Seattle, WA 98111-3203

Every month, Mature Friends publishes the newsletter with updates on our activities. So, here is what we’re up to this month, such as traveling (both locally and internationally), attending arts events, playing bridge or pinochle, reading and discussing books, making investments, touring gardens, taking walks and going on hikes, choosing among many options for dinners and lunches, cooking, and tasting fine wines from our own state, from other states, and from around the world.


Goings On

Please click on underlined area for additional information.

Eating Date and Time Location
Lunch Out
Wed., Aug. 9 and 23, at 12:00 noon Roosters on Broadway  🍴
Dinner Out
Tue., Aug. 15, at 6:00 p.m. Robb’s 125th Street Grill  🍴
Wine Tasting
Mon., Sep. 18, at 7:00 p.m. In member's home. 🍷
Annual Banquet
Sat., June TBD, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. Womens’ University Club  🍴
Annual Picnic
Sat., Aug. 12, at 12:00 noon
Food Contributions
Woodland Park  🌲
Dinner for Six
Determined by participants In members’ homes 🍴
Christmas Lunch
Sat., Dec. 16, at 12:00 noon Robb’s 125th Street Grill  🍴
Playing Date and Time Location
A Better Club for Investing
Contact club leader Ray Contact club leader Ray  📈
Book Club
Tue., Aug. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
In members’ homes
Selection: Tom Stoppard’s
The Invention of Love  📖
Board Meeting
Mon., Aug 14, at 6:30 p.m. In a board member’s home  📓
Tue., Aug. 15, at 9:30 a.m. Martin Creek – Kelley Creek Trail  🚶
Garden Tour
Thurs., Aug. 10, at 10:30 a.m. Garden in Edmonds  🌺
Arts, Theater, and Music
Aug. 18 – 22 Seattle International Film Festival and
Fourth Annual Ashland Road Trip
Travel and Events
Various trips, foreign and domestic Check our destinations   ✈️
Bridge Club1 Every Wed. at 7:00 p.m. Wallingford Community Senior Center  🃏
Pinochle Club2 Wed., Aug 2 and 16, at 7:30 p.m. Wallingford Community Senior Center  🃏
Green Lake Walk & Lunch
Every Wed. at 11:00 a.m.
S.W. Corner of Green Lake 💃

1 The fee for Bridge Club are $4.00 per night for members (who pay an annual fee of $40.00 to join the club) and $5.00 for nonmembers.

2 The fee for Pinochle is $4.00 per night for members and for nonmembers.


Picnic Contributions

Taking advantage of the usually great weather in mid-August, Mature Friends gather together in a local park for a picnic. We look forward to this outing every year.

If you bring a vegan or vegetarian dish, please label it as such.

Plan for all dishes to serve 6-to-8 people.

Dish to Bring Initial of Last Name
Appetizer1 C, I, M, N, R, T, Y
Hot Dish
D, J, K
O, P, W
A, E, F, S, U, Z
B, G, H, L, V

1 For those assigned to bring an appetizer, please arrive early.



Once a month, our hike leader takes a group on a day hike through some beautiful territory. If the hike leads the group out of town and you share a ride, expect to chip in a few dollars to the driver for gas. Also, the group sometimes brown bags it for lunch along the trail. Other than that, this activity is an invigorating, frugal day’s entertainment!

So why not join us on the next hike?

August Hike along Martin Creek – Kelley Creek Trail

Our hike in August will be along the Martin Creek – Kelley Creek Trail, located east of Skykomish, Washington, on the north side of Highway 2. This trail starts at the same parking lot as the west end of the Iron Goat Trail, but goes west along the creek, away from the old railroad bed.

From the trail head at the north end of the parking lot we drop quickly to Martin Creek – Kelley Creek and cross it on a fine bridge. Climbing gradually parallel to the creek, the trail ascends through old growth trees, fern filled gullies, tumbling creeks and rivulets, and moss covered rocks. There are whitewater rapids along the creek. The trail is in the woods, a plus to keep us cool on an August hike. We will hike about a mile and a half in, to where the trail starts to veer away from the creek, and find a lunch spot within earshot of the creek. The elevation gain is moderate, about 400 feet. The trail was rebuilt a few years ago and is in good condition.
We will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday August 15 at the north end of Northgate Shopping Center, just off Northgate Way, in front of the Bank of America building. Bring a lunch and water. Car pool riders share the cost. We will arrive back in Seattle by 4:30 p.m.

Note: A Northwest Trail Pass or Senior (Golden Age) pass is required at the trail head.

If you wish to go directly to the trail head:

  1. Take Highway 2 toward Stevens Pass to milepost 55.
  2. Turn left onto the Old Cascade Highway.
  3. At the junction with FR 6710, take a sharp left onto FR 6710.
  4. In 1.4 miles reach the trail head.

There is a vault toilet and parking for about twenty cars.

July Hike along Gold Creek Trail Park

Our hike for July meandered along the Gold Creek Trail, near Snoqualmie Pass. The hike started at Gold Creek Pond, which many of you may have visited. The trail the goes farther up the Gold Creek Valley between Rampart Ridge and Kendall Peak, with views those mountain sides.

Gold Creek Trail

Hikers Dale, Doug, Bruce, Stephen, and Gene Take a Break along Gold Creek Trail, with Taz at Dale’s Feet

After walking along the west side of Gold Creek Pond, we hiked for a half mile on a gravel road through private property. Once we on the trail in the woods, we soon entered the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and continued up the Gold Creek Valley through deep second-growth forest and open talus fields, enjoying occasional glimpses of Gold Creek. The trail continues on but we found a lunch spot near the creek for our turnaround.

This is a moderate hike. The hike round-trip distance is about four miles. The elevation gain is around 250 feet, with some gentle up and down once we are in the woods.

A Northwest Forest Pass or Senior Pass is required at the trail head.

Snapshots from Some of Our Previous Hikes

Our hikers posed with beautiful backdrops from some of our past treks. The following pictures show some examples.

Hikers Dale, Roger, Gene, and Jerry Take a Break in Rockport State Park

Dale, Roger, Keith, Brian, Ed and Harvey on the Chief Sealth Trail

Garry, Doug, Jim, Roger, Gene, Ramon, and Dale in Saint Edward State Park

Dale, Edwin, Garry, and Ramon Pause on the Boulder Garden Loop Trail

Back to "Goings On"


Garden Tours

This wildly popular activity takes you on tours of beautiful gardens in the Seattle and greater Seattle area. Led by our resident horticulturalist, Dr. John Wott, you see a variety of plants, flowers, and shrubs. So, if you like plants and gardens or if you’re just interested to learn a little about horticulture, come join us!

August Garden Tour in Edmonds

The August Garden Tour will visit a garden in Edmonds, Washington, which was established nearly thirty years ago by Walter Thompson and his wife Kari. They removed a very tiny cottage, built and designed a new home, and eventually Walt became a horticulture connoisseur who collected plants. They are fortunate to have a flowing spring on their property which provides water for gurgling sounds and ponds. Meet promptly at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, August 10.

Walt has been a volunteer for the Rhododendron Species Foundation Garden, Dunn Gardens, and Miller Botanical Garden. Along the way, he has collected a very interesting array of plants. Also, he has built a winter garden house, a greenhouse as well as several other structures. It is all packed into his oasis in the middle of the city.


  1. Take I-5 either north or south.
  2. Take the WA-107 exit to Kingston Ferry/Edmonds.
  3. After 2.95 miles, turn right onto 100th Avenue W.
  4. Watch as 100th Avenue W. becomes 9th Avenue S.
  5. Turn left onto Pine Street.
  6. Take the first right onto 8th Avenue S.
  7. Take the third left street which is Spruce Street.

Your destination is on the left, 720 Spruce Street, Edmonds, Washington 98020-4032. Park on the street.

Capacity Crowd Attends July Garden Tours

As in June, the July Garden Tour actually featured two spectacular gardens. The massive group in attendance had ascended into garden heaven.

Lisa Bauer’s Garden

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, thirty-seven members assembled in northeast Seattle to tour two city gardens on a prefect sunny summer day.

Garden Group

 At 1:30 pm, we met in the front garden of Lisa Bauer, owner of Chartreuse Landscape Design and graduate of the Edmonds Community College horticulture program. She and her husband razed the house, built a new one, and she set about designing a garden featuring many colors of green. Having owned a textile business, she incorporated many weave-like features into the garden.

Lisa told us about her early experiences and how she has changed the garden over the years. On the small lot, she has created many small rooms. She has created small islands of textural diversity. From the street, it has a most inviting look. After weaving through the small rooms, including past a trickling water fountain, we followed a green path to the rear garden.

The rear garden is packed with goodies, including a multilevel deck and a large fountain with fish. Roses, and other colorful plants added accent. A large banana was producing a magnificent bloom. Many enjoyed the ample sitting areas.

Garden aficionado Brian’s photos of Lisa’s garden.

John Wott’s Garden

After an hour, the group traveled about a block south to the plant collector’s garden of John Wott. Created in 1995, with many exotic plants from Heronswood Nursery, it still showcases many of those large specimens. In 2015, almost all the ground layer plants were removed and new plants were added,which now show cases the garden in its third growing season. The group toured the front garden, with its large specimens of Garrya x issaquahensis, and Eucryphia. The piggies were also showing off next to the begonias.

There were many unusual plants in dozens of pots, including dwarf conifers in tufa pots. The clipped dwarf laurel hedge outlined the path way to the south steps which lead down past the succulent collection, many of which were in bloom. At the base of the steps, a trellis featured a purple-leaf grape, introduced by Betty Miller, famed northwest horticulturist. The entire garden features many shades of green, but contrasting plants add splashes of color. For example, the green “pokers” contrasted with Luis Fernando, a Spanish tin cock.

There many containers of succulents, as well as Captain SmartyPants, and Jamaican steel drum art. A shaded area offered a plethora of unusual plants. All took advantage of the refreshments and the time to enjoy the garden from both deck levels. When leaving, they stopped to admire and sniff the Conca d’Or lilies at the front door.                                                            

Garden aficionado Brian’s pictures of Dr. Wott’s fine garden.

— Dr. John Wott, Tour Organizer, Leader, and Expert Horticulturalist

Back to "Goings On"

Travel and Events

This section tells you all about recent or upcoming trips planned for Mature Friends. Everybody who has gone on one of these trips has had a great time and was well taken care of. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up and join the fun!

NOTE: To travel with us, you must first join the club.

Lake Diablo Day Trip: August 10 (Filled)

NOTE: This is a joint event with Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. These are limited to 24 applicants.
A  day trip to Lake Diablo. See the members' News Letter for reservations for upcoming Parks & Recreation trips. 

Woodinville Wineries: October 12

NOTE: This is a joint event with Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. These are limited to 24 applicants.
Transportation by city vans is arranged to Woodinville where we will enjoy winery tours and wine tasting. Wine tasting fees and lunch will be on your own. Cost of transportation is only $10. 10AM to 4PM.
See the members' News Letter for more information.

Tacoma’s Big Three Museums: November 9

NOTE: This is a joint event with Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. These are limited to 24 applicants.
Here's an opportunity to visit three Tacoma Museums: the Glass Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, and the Washington State History Museum. With pick-ups at Northgate Mall and the Miller Community Center, we will be transported for a cost of only $15 round trip to Tacoma for the day. Your choice of museums. Entry fees are on your own.
See the members' News Letter for more information.

Dinner and Point Defiance Zoo Lights: December 14

Enjoy dinner at Tacoma’s Historic Stanley and Seaforts restaurant and then experience the Point Defiance Zoolights. Great way to get into the holiday spirit. Dinner and zoo admission on your own.
See the members' News Letter for more information. 

Viking Homelands: April 28 – May 12, 2018

Next year Mature Friends are planning a more ambitious cruise than in 2017. We embark for fifteen days on Viking Ocean Cruises to Bergen, Norway, and disembark in Stockholm, Sweden. We will visit eight countries and dock at eleven ports of call. Accommodations on the Viking Sky include a private veranda stateroom and includes wine and beer with meals. The itinerary comprises eleven guided tours with ports of call that include Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, Gdansk, and St. Petersburg.

For full information, contact Shawn (or call him: 360-903-4353) at Woodside Travel.

— Mature Friends President Bruce T.

Other Plans for 2018

For 2018, we are looking at a South American Odyssey. The itinerary includes Santiago, Puerto Varas, Bariloche, two nights on the Argentine side of the Iguassu Falls, and two nights in the wine region of Mendoza. Pricing for 2018 is not yet available, but in 2017, the package ran at $4,000.


We were working with Expedia to develop additional travel offerings. Apparently, our group is too small for a multi-billion-dollar travel company and plans for two additional excursions have failed.

The board voted to try another new travel company. I will be meeting with their representatives by early April. If you have suggestions for future travel, please forward your ideas. Suggestions from members in recent years have gotten us to China, Spain, Russia, and San Antonio. If you have other ideas, please pass them along to Bruce.

Past Trips and Events

If you missed some of the trips organized by Mature Friends, you might be interested in reading about what you missed. Or if you went on any of these wonderful trips, you might be interested in reliving the fun and adventure. If so, this section is for you!

California Coastal Cruise, 2017

Departing on April 11, seven Mature Friends sailed on the ten-night California Coastal Cruise departing from Vancouver, B.C. Sailing at 4:30 p.m., we cruised down the coat for two days before arriving in Los Angeles, followed by a day on Catalina Island. After Catalina, we embarked for Santa Barbara for a day, ending up with an overnight stay in San Francisco. Then we sailed up the coast for two days before arriving back in Vancouver the morning of April 21.

Escape into Cuba

Five Mature Friends took off on an all gay tour with seven days in Cuba. They departed from Seattle and arrived in Havana in time for a group dinner.

The tour included a bus overview trip around the city and visits to a rum-bottling facility and a tobacco farm to see the cigar-making process. We also saw the unique mountains and caves in Vinales National Park. The highlights, though, were the explorations of  the city we did on our own.

We saw the beautifully renovated plazas and streets in Old Havana (a UNESCO Heritage Site), strolled along the Malecon with hundreds of cell phone-toting Cubans, saw various museums, and reveled in the joy of riding in 1940s and 1950s vintage American car taxis. We all thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company, and it was a trip we will long remember.

Sail Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain Sailing Ships

Avast, ye buccaneers! Last summer, our evening sailing on the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain got canceled because of a heavy rain and lightning storm that struck just before our sailing time. This year we tried again.

The three-hour cruise on Lake Washington in reproductions of eighteenth-century sailing ships features booming cannons, close quarter maneuvers, and the singing of sea shanties. Both ships have appeared in numerous movies and television shows. The ships will sailed on Saturday, September 3, at 2:00 p.m. from the docks at Carillon Point in Kirkland.

But don’t take my word for it. Read all about it and check out the pictures!

— President Bruce T.

The Cruise to Nowhere, September 16 – 23

The famous Cruise to Nowhere (actually it went somewhere) departed from Seattle with a one-day stop in Astoria, Oregon, then for two days in San Francisco, and finally one day in ., before returning to Seattle. This voyage consisted of a full seven-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas with no airfare required.

Cruise to Nowhere

Rome and Tuscany, April 23 – May 8, 2016

This trip began with a week in Rome. We spent a week in the Eternal City with a gay guide escorting us to the major tourist sights, including ancient, renaissance, and contemporary Rome.

We spent the second week at a private villa in Montisi, a small hill town in southern Tuscany. Day trips took us to Siena, the wine towns of Montepulciano, Montalcino (home of Brunello wine), Assisi, Pienza, Chiusi (Etruscan sites), Orvieto, the antique fair in Arezzo, and Monte Olivetti Maggiore (a major abbey with a large collection of frescoes by the Renaissance painter Sodoma).

The fabulous trip concluded with a day in Florence. Some travelers extended their tour for a day or more in Florence.

Weekend in Texas, October 30 – November 1, 2015

On Friday, October 30, nine Mature Friends flew on Alaska Airlines nonstop to San Antonio. We spent a great time in this beautiful city over Day of the Dead (Halloween) weekend, staying at the traditional El Tropicano River Walk Hotel right on the banks of the famous River Walk.

Daily high temperatures hovered around 75º with cloudy and clear skies. San Antonio is a popular convention town and the most visited city in Texas. It has the Alamo, an easily walkable downtown with several museums, and an amazing San Antonio River, which meanders for miles and on which quiet tour boats glide. Great restaurant terraces line the route from which you can watch the lighted boats pass and hear Mariachi and jazz quietly echoing up the canyon. The natural ambiance is romantic and real. And . . .

Remember the Alamo!

The Alamo

We spent a low-stress weekend mainly riding the hop-on-hop-off sight-seeing bus. Some in our group had booked a Halloween dinner cruise on the San Antonio River, but at the last minute the cruise got canceled due to heavy rains. Undaunted, the dinner guests got re-booked into a fine restaurant on the River Walk. Others of us went off on our own and also experienced fine dining on the River Walk. Two went to Landry’s Seafood and sat outside by the river. When the rain started, everybody scampered indoors . . . all except for two of us, who decided to stay put when the staff erected an umbrella over us.

Aside from the great food and beautiful scenery along the river banks, we enjoyed touring the Alamo, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Tower of the Americas, La Villita, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, as well as many more sights. We could have spent a week and seen something new every day.

We flew home on Sunday evening after a full day of last-minute of sight-seeing. Everybody had a great time. Thank you, Jerry and Bob, for organizing this relaxing, enjoyable long weekend in Texas.

Reno Gambling Trip

Twenty-one people took off for our annual gambling trip on May 12. The package included round-trip airfare and accommodations at the El Dorado Resort Casino. We arrived in Reno shortly after 5:00 p.m., just in time for cocktail hour in the Roxy bar.

But to get the full story, come on and click the link and see some pictures of this relaxing three-day excursion.

Reno Or Bust!

Grand Tour of China

In April 2014, about twenty Mature Friends set off for an adventure of a lifetime — touring China! To read about the trip, all we did, all we saw, please click the link:

Tour of China

And enjoy the pictures, too!

Spain and France

On October 12, 2014, twenty-four Mature Friends took off for Madrid, where they began a two-week tour of Northern Spain and Southern France. Please click the following link to see some of the sights they saw:

Tour of Spain and Southern France

Don’t forget to click the links in the story to see some pictures.

Costa Rica

On February 14, 2015, some adventurous Mature Friends took a short winter’s break in a land down south to soak up some warm weather and fine culture, as well as to see incredibly beautiful and fascinating sights. If you missed the tour or have an interest in what we did and what we saw, just click the link below for a description, written by Dan, one of the Mature Friends on the trip. Also, click the links in the write-up to see more:

Tour of Costa Rica

Cruise Down the Asian Coast

At the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, several Mature Friends took a cruise down the East Coast of Asia. We began in Hong Kong and ended up in Singapore. As with the tour of China, we saw several incredible sites, but without the hassle of unpacking and repacking, because our Holland-America ship acted as our home base. Check out this great cruise:

Cruise Down the Asian Coast

Cruise to Alaska

On April 29, a few Mature Friends set off on a short cruise off the Alaskan coast to Ketchican. Everybody had a great time, as usual on a Mature Friends’ voyage. Check out some of the pictures of this relaxing trip.

Back to "Goings On"

Theater and Music

This section lists local theater and music productions that might be of interest to Mature Friends.

Fourth Annual Road Trip to Ashland

Come join us as we drive down to Ashland August 18 – 22 for the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  We will  see Julius Caesar, and the  two parts of Henry IV in the intimate Thomas Theater and Shakespeare in Love adapted from the film. We will also celebrate Daedalus, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s fund-raiser for AIDS, including a reading of a play appropriate to LGBT issues and a talent show produced by the company, which includes the ever popular underwear contest, where you get to stuff your donations into the underwear of the actors or crew members.

Deposit $100 check, due ASAP or at least by the end of February, to me, Bruce B. I have filled all the rooms reserved and will need to reserve additional rooms before they fill for the season. I do have plenty of tickets.

Estimated cost $600 including four nights accommodation at the Stratford Inn (double occupancy), tickets to the four plays, the two Daedalus events, and a group dinner. You provide transportation, by car, including car pooling, or flying to nearby Medford. I can help you arrange car pools. You will pay for lodging directly to the Stratford Inn, approximately $80 per night, when you check out. Single rooms cost about the same as a double, so the single supplement will be around $300, but we can help you find a roommate for the trip or try to accommodate you in a suite for three.

— Bruce B.

Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)

This season’s film festival opened May 18 and ran through June 11.

SIFF 2017 Report

I hope you got to see some good film during this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. I saw a number of Mature Friends members at screenings.

Like any festival, there were favorites and not so favorites. On the whole a great selection of offerings across genres and SIFF continues to have exceptional LGBT film programing. I recommend you watch for some of these to come to a big screen or your own smaller screens in the future.

It is telling that some of the very best films this year were LGBT coming of age stories, showing that we still need positive stories, but now the world cinema is willing to tell them. The restored Maurice (UK, 1987, d. James Ivory) was a special SIFF 30th Anniversary archival presentation. The E.M. Forster novel was written in 1913–14 but not published until 1971 after Forester’s death. Compare this to the 2017 Tom of Finland which was supported by the Finnish government celebrating major artistic accomplishments in the history of Finland. How times have changed.

The edited reviews below are by Ken Rudolph, who sees lots of films and reviews them at his website. I think you will enjoy them.

In Order of John’s LGBT Favorites

GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (UK, 2017, d. Francis Lee) A Brokeback Mountain in Yorkshire.
In this bleak, but hopeful gay themed drama, Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is a young man gradually taking over his elderly parents’ sheep farm in the contemporary, hardscrabble Yorkshire, England countryside.  Johnny is attracted to men; but deeply closeted. His infirm father (Ian Hart, convincingly lame) hires a temporary worker, Gheorghe (attractive Alec Secareanu), a Romanian refugee who grew up on a similar farm in his own country.  When innocent horseplay between the young boss and worker suddenly turns sexual, the two young men commence on a serious and troubled secret affair. This was an insightful coming-of-age story.  The relationship between the two men rang especially true...sort of a more enlightened version of Brokeback Mountain, romantic and yet masculine, without the complication of women and with a minimum of homophobia among family and neighbors. The film was slow paced; but due to the fine acting and assured direction from veteran actor Francis Lee making his directing debut, I was totally involved with these characters.

HANDSOME DEVIL (Ireland, 2017, d. John Butler) Superb and uplifting.

Ned (played by cute, red-headed Fionn O’Shea), was a 16-year old Irish prep-school student.  He was an introvert, interested in music, and enrolled in a boys school that is batty for rugby, which made him a picked-on outcast.  His new roommate, Connor (attractive Nicholas Galitzine), was mysteriously expelled from his previous school; but he turned out to be a talented rugby player, so he instantly became a BMOC.  Also new at the school was a closeted gay English teacher (ingratiatingly played by Andrew Scott).   Ned and Connor surprisingly became friends; but there is some sexual ambiguity surrounding both boys...which became the crux of the drama.  I was totally involved in this well written and acted gay-friendly coming-of-age story.

HEARTSTONE (Iceland, 2017, d. Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson)

The setting is late summer in a small Icelandic farming village. Thor and Kristjan are best friends, in that stage of adolescence where boys are just approaching (Thor) or have achieved (Kristjan) puberty. Thor is a typical 14-year old "boy"...attracted to the girls of the village, full of mischief; but Kristjan is more sensitive, protective of his smaller friend. The boys horse around; but clearly Kristjan has longings that he can’t even express to himself. That is the basis for this achingly beautiful and truthful coming of age story that just illustrated that the difficulties of the teen years are universal...felt just as strongly in the sexually liberated Scandinavian climate as anywhere. The two actors playing the boys, Baldur Einarsson and Blaer Hinriksson, were naturals, perfectly embodying their roles, even if most of the other characters (mainly the girlfriends and parents) were sketchily written. But all in all, the central relationship and the bleak and gorgeous mountain setting of rural Iceland made for a film which resonated with a particular poignancy for me.

WIERDOS (Canada, 2017, d. Bruce McDonald)

Just about anything I could summarize about the plot of this little B&W gem of a film from Canada would be a spoiler.  Bare bones:  summer of 1976 in Nova Scotia.  15-year old Kit runs away from his teacher father’s home with his best friend, feisty Val.  They hitchhike to the city to find Kit’s mother, who turns out to be a bipolar mess. Adventures happen and truths emerge.   The kids were played by Dylan Authors and Francine Deschepper; and both are naturals with a fresh youthfulness that rings true to life.  Kit’s mom is a cameo by Molly Parker, who maybe overdoes the craziness a little; but she lights up the screen with her energetic performance. It’s a mild SPOILER to disclose that this is essentially a gay coming of age story...and a beautifully tender and moving one.

TOM OF FINLAND (Finland, 2017, d. Dome Karukoski)

This biopic follows the life of Touko Laaksonen, who became world famous as the artist Tom of Finland. Tom drew realistic sketches of leather men with huge dicks, built bodies and fetching demeanors that were published in physique magazines and picture books during the era from the 1960s until the artist’s death in 1991. His art filled the imagination of generations of gay men (including myself.) The real Touko was a soldier in WWII, a victim of gay persecution in the repressive 1950s in Finland, and finally, after his art was recognized and published in America, he became a revered celebrity. Pekka Strang played Touko with a convincing dispassion. He was surrounded by a series of good-looking men (I was particularly enamored by Lauri Tilkanen who played Tom’s ill-fated long-time lover, Veli.) The film progressed as a typical biopic; but it had the scope of a large production; and just based on my interest in the subject matter held my interest throughout.

THE ORNITHOLOGIST (Portugal, 2017, d. Joäo Pedro Rodrigues)

In this strangely mysterious drama from the controversial (but fascinating and gay) Portuguese director J. P. Rodrigues, Fernando (in a charismatic performance by Paul Hamy) was a gay ornithologist, studying the birds of present-day northern Portugal, navigating the rivers by kayak and camping solo in the neighboring jungle-like forest. His kayak was wrecked, and he apparently drowned when he got caught in a series of river rapids. [I’m going to go into SPOILER territory here to try to explain the film, so beware.] After an interlude, he was resuscitated by a pair of Chinese lesbian pilgrims, who drugged and trussed him, preparing to torture him, until he managed to escape.    He then became involved with a series of misadventures, including a sexual tryst with a deaf-mute goatherd named Jesus.  Finally he was killed and, for some reason transformed into a dead man named Anthony (played by the director himself).  The film is steeped in Christian mythology, which was totally opaque to me until I was turned on to a Wikipedia page which totally explained the metaphorical background of the main character.  Here is the summary from that page, the knowledge of which made the entire film make sense:  "Saint Anthony of Padua (Portuguese: St. António de Lisboa), born Fernando Martins de Bulhões (1195 – 13 June 1231), also known as Anthony of Lisbon, was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Padua, Italy."  I hope that helps others who might have been as mystified as myself by the film despite really enjoying it.

PROM KING 2010 (USA, 2017, d. Christopher Schaap) Seattle raised Actor/Director

In this modern, gay slice-of-life romantic drama, Charlie is a college student living in New York City.  He’s mostly out to friends and family (his mother is particularly supportive); but he’s dissatisfied with his sex life...longing 1) to finally experience as a bottom "real" sex;  and 2)  to find true love rather than casual hook-ups.  What ensues is a series of encounters with various men that mostly end in disaster.  That’s about it for plot.  However, the film was written and directed by young Christopher Schaap, who also was in every scene playing the central character of Charlie.  And Schaap is the real deal:  a gay auteur making the most auspicious debut since Xavier Dolan burst onto the scene as an 18-year old wunderkind.   Shaap’s script is clever and filled with realistic anecdotes that resonate.  He’s a personable film presence as an actor who nails the character’s naive longing and innate good nature.  His direction is assured, with high production values including vivid cinematography from Aharon Rothschild that capture New York as clearly as an old Woody Allen flick.  The casting of Charlie’s friends and boyfriends and family is inspired.  For me, at least, this is the find of the festival so far.  I’m really looking forward to see where Schaap goes from here as a film maker as he branches out from the personal navel gazing of this debut effort.  I predict a bright future.

CHAVELA (USA, 2017, d. Catherine Gund, Daresha Kyi) Amazing lesbian story.

Chavela Vargas was a Mexican torch singer born in 1919, who achieved relative fame in Spain and Latin America for her passionate songs of love and loneliness.  She was also an unabashed lesbian from early childhood.  This documentary tells her story, much of it from interviews with Chavela herself shot during her long life, along with anecdotes told by her lovers and admirers to the film makers.  Additionally the film presents films and videos of her public performances over the years; and they are remarkable at illustrating her talent, which I suspect will come as a revelation to the Anglophone world.

BREACH RATS (USA, 2017, d. Eliza Hittan) Lower class struggle and gritty. **

In this realistic and disturbing coming of age film, Frankie is a teen-age boy spending a summer in the present day Brooklyn suburbs. At home, his father is dying, his younger sister is a pest, his mother is concerned but unsupportive. He runs with a group of straight boys who are into drugs and girls; but secretly he plies the Internet gay chat-rooms to find older men to satisfy his inchoate longings. This is a particularly realistic (at least to my point of view) look at the psychology of the closet and the difficulties of growing up poor in the suburban lower classes today. Frankie was played by the attractive newcomer Harris Dickinson, who managed to project surly masculinity and adolescent homosexual confusion all at once. The film also got the tawdry urban milieu right, especially Coney Island and the summer beach scene. There’s no happy resolution to Frankie’s story here, which for me just seemed appropriate and true to life.

LGBT Documentaries Worth Seeking Out

(Mexico, telling a Mexican gay marriage struggle) My favorite!

(USA, a world I did not know existed)

THE FABULOUS ALLAN CARR (USA, Disco Diva documentary including the Village People)

DEVINE DIVAS (Brazil, mature performers and their stories)

Other LGBT Films with Interesting Stories

(India, a whole different world)

A DATE FOR MAD MARY (Ireland, a fun story and wild performance)


SANTA & ANDRES (Cuba, the struggles of Andres, an openly gay writer)

John’s Other Top SIFF Films

THE JOURNEY (superb storytelling about understanding and common values, don’t miss it!)

THE FARTHEST (It will be on PBS in August, but see it on the BIGGEST screen you can!)

AFTER THE STORM  (Japan, d. Hirozaku Kore-eda, opens June 23 at SIFF)

(Spain, d. Rodrigo Grande, Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film and Best Director. Rear Window with cellphones and computers, not to be missed.)

A DRAGON ARRIVES! (Iran, d. Mani Haghighi, Director Haghighi was denied a US visa to come to the festival and it has no US distributor, very SAD. An amazing and complex film, one reason I go to SIFF.)

MOKA (France, d. Frédéric Mermoud, opens June 30 at SIFF)

Lots of other Great Film Coming to SIFF: SIFF Coming Soon

The National Theater Live productions bring some of the best theater to the SIFF screen. Check out the July openings of the NT:LIVE Angels in America. Part 1: MILLENNIUM APPROACHES  Part 2: PERESTROIKA

See you at the movies!

— John Chaney