CinemaQ film festival in Denver bring Colman Domingo, Charles Busch
Colman Domingo was taking a break from a feature film shoot in upstate New York to talk about his life and career, and the upcoming CinemaQ Film Festival at Denver’s Sie FilmCenter, at which he will be given the inaugural LaBahn Ikon Film Award.
His life, while not an open book, he has generously shared in the terrific solo play “A Boy and His Soul,” about growing up in Philadelphia to the sounds of his mother and stepfather’s soul music LP collection. Not long ago, he talked to GQ magazine about how he met his now-husband, Raul Domingo (nee Aktanov). (If you’re hankering for an authentic version of the cute rom-com meeting, look it up.)
As for his career, the multi-hyphenate has already had a doozy of a ride. Well-known — and oft reviled — for his turn as Victor Strand in AMC’s zombie-apocalypse show, “Fear of the Walking Dead,” Domingo also played Ralph Abernathy in “Selma” and trombonist Cutler in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He was a scene-stealer as X, a pimp in Janicza Bravo’s mad-wild indie “Zola,” based on an even madder, even wilder tweet gone viral. (In a film so larcenous, who knew scene-stealing was even possible?)
He’s been nominated for a Tony, for “Scottsboro Boys.” He has an Obie for his performance in “Passing Strange,” which he leveraged in Spike Lee’s film adaptation of the show (and wowed in). “A Boy and His Soul” won a Lucille Lortel award for off-Broadway’s Outstanding Solo Show. And last month, Domingo received an Emmy nomination for his role as Ali, a former addict and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor of Zendaya’s Rue on HBO’s “Euphoria.”
“I’ve been nominated for many awards, won many awards. This is the first time I actually got emotional,” he says of the Ikon Award, which he will receive on the second day of the Aug. 11-14 festival.
“And I had to unpack why?” he says, thoughtfully. “And I think (it’s) because I’ve had so many people wanting me to receive my flowers. People say, ‘Colman, you work hard, you show up, you do the work.’ And I think sometimes many artists or their work is still somehow overlooked by society. I know for sure I’ve been one of those people.
If you go
“CinemaQ,” featuring films, guests, Q&As and a party or two. Aug. 11-15 at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave. For schedule, passes and single tickets, go to denverfilm.org.
“For me, it’s actually been like fuel, for many years. I can just do work. I can just get in here fine. You ain’t working for me. I can flip here, I can do that. I can write, play the musical, direct and nobody’s checking for me. And keep going and let it be about the work.”
It’s wise, however, not to think of next week’s Ikon nod as one of those dusty, thanks-for-the-memories “career cappers,” says Denver Film’s CinemaQ force Keith Garcia.
“Queer actors over the years have had an interesting dance to do, juggling being out with being willing to play straight roles that conceal their truth, and may place them in a box that can be impossible to leap out of later,” Garcia wrote in an email. “Colman is a talent who found a way to play these straight roles — or roles undefined specifically with any label — and remain authentically himself while driving the narrative and inspiring the message home that you can be yourself and play whomever you want to as an actor, with success all around.”
As for this maiden award, “It’s perfect timing,” Garcia adds. “I wanted to lay the groundwork for future icons who have increased what I call the “Three Vs”: the voice, the vision and the visibility. And to me, there’s no one else right now who is riding that forward momentum at a very important point in their career than Colman.”
And what momentum. At the time he hopped on Zoom, Domingo had recently finished the shoot of the Broadway musical version of “The Color Purple,” which Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and others are looking to release in 2023. Not afraid of complexity, he’ll play Mister. Even more intriguingly, he’ll portrays civil rights maverick and LGBTQ icon Bayard Rustin in Netflix’s upcoming movie “Rustin,” about the strategist behind Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
Domingo had only begun to bare his delightfully nerdy soul — he was the kid who had a Carpenters album and wore geeky glasses — when we had to end the conversation. Fortunately for local filmgoers, we’ll revisit that and so much more onstage when he picks up Cinema Q’s Ikon award on Aug. 12, through a clip reel of his career thus far. He’ll also share his production company’s charming animated short “New Moon,” adapted from his solo show and co-written with Raul Domingo.
More films at the festival
While the Evening with Colman Domingo will be a high point in a festival promising no shortage of them, this year’s CinemaQ is rife with work that exemplifies the breadth, depth and array of LGBTQ+ stories and their tellers.
Opening night begins with another Tony-nominated performer and New York City drag legend Charles Busch, who will be in town with “The Sixth Reel,” co-directed and co-written with Carl Andress, who will join Busch onstage for a post-screening conversation. That happens on Thursday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m., with his iconic comedy “Psycho Beach Party” continuing the campy shenanigans with a pre-party screening at 9:45 p.m.
Indeed, after two years of virtual installments, Cinema Q is back in person with a slate of guests who underline what makes festivals so much more than binge-watching movies on a bigger screen. Among the highlights:
“Jeannette.” Maris Curran’s documentary profiles one of the survivors of the targeted mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were murdered. The mom of a teen son and an aspiring professional bodybuilder, Jeannette Feliciano is a dynamic subject. The film addresses Feliciano’s PSTD and resilience. It also delves into a life that, while profoundly reshaped by the events of June 12, 2016, also has had its own throughlines. We see her touching relationship to son Anthony, as well as her tango of love and frustration with her mother, whose acceptance of her daughter’s sexuality is contorted by her religious beliefs. In town for the post-screening conversation: Feliciano’s friend and fellow terror attack survivor, Yvens Carrenard. (“Jeannette” screens Friday, Aug. 12, 4:30 p.m.)
“Wildhood.” Writer-director Bretten Hannam’s drama finds its beguiling groove once Link (Phillip Lewitski) and his little brother, Skater, escape the brutality of their father in a dramatic, “take that” scene. Link’s coming-of-age saga settles with grace into a lyrical beauty after the two get a ride from Pamsay. Joshua Odjick portrays the young two-spirit man with a guitar case packed with his pow-wow regalia. Lewitski and Odjick have sweet chemistry, and Jordan Poole captures Skater’s love-prickly worry. Bonus: Michael Greyeyes (“Wild Indian” and “Rutherford Falls”) pulls up in a painted van to help the trio on their quest to find Link’s indigenous mom. (“Wildhood,” Sunday, Aug. 14, 12:15 p.m.)
CinemaQ Shorts Package. This smartly curated selection of intimate, rousing, amusing shorts reflects just how global LGBTQ+ experiences are. Among the treats: Leaf Lieber’s elegantly paced “My Dear Boy,” about the first moments of love honored; Matt Nadel and Megan Plotka’s energizing doc “CANS Can’t Stand,” about the Black trans-led fight to end Louisiana’s Crimes Against Nature in Solicitation Law; filmmaker Hao Zhou’s experimental beauty “Frozen Out,” about a young Chinese artist narrating a letter to his little sister in China from the wintry environs of rural Iowa; and “My Mother’s Girlfriend,” about a son forced to wrestle with the cause of his mother’s joy. CANS activist Wendi Cooper, directors Lieber (“Dear Boy”) and Christine Ziviv (“D for Daughter”) will join in a post-screening Q&A. (Cinema Q Shorts Package, Saturday, Aug. 13, 4:45 p.m.)
So many films, so little time
Because film fest schedules can be daunting, we asked Keith Garcia to offer his insights.
- So, you want to spend time on something enduring? Attend An Evening with Colman Domingo, and see “Wildhood” and “Loving Highsmith,” a documentary about the master of the psychological thriller, Patricia Highsmith.
- You want to witness the breadth of queer cinema? Watch the shorts package, “Wildhood” and “Framing Agnes,” Chase Joynt’s hybrid, Sundance award-winner about the discovery of case files that suggest the transwoman Agnes — the sole subject named in a 1958 UCLA study of sex “disorders” — was far from alone. A group of trans artists re-create the very different story.
- You want to learn what’s urgent? See “Framing Agnes,” “Jeannette” and “Mama Bears,” about a young Black lesbian damaged by her religious upbringing and two white evangelical mothers who had a come-to-Jesus epiphany and began to fiercely advocate for their kids as well as other people’s LGBTQ+ children.
- Sorry (not sorry), but you want to feel good and party? Go to the opening night’s Charles Busch Bash and see “Unidentified Objects,” about Peter — a little person who’s more than a little angry — and the looney road trip his neighbor Winona drags him on; and the documentary “All Man: The Story of International Male,” about the famed fashion catalog.
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