DEKKOO DISPATCH 047 – ‘DESERT MIGRATION’

Title – ‘Desert Migration

Director – Daniel F. Cardone

Release Date – 2015

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Derek Jarman. Keith Haring. Freddie Mercury. Rock Hudson. Liberace. Michel Foucualt. Leigh Bowery. David Wojnarowicz. Brad Davis. Perry Ellis. Arthur Ashe. Rudolf Nureyev.

Today is December 1st – World AIDS Day. Today we recall and mourn all of our role models, friends, family members, and lovers that have passed away far too early from HIV/AIDS. It’s also a day for us to raise awareness of all the work that needs to be done to erase the virus from the face of the earth. An estimated 36.7 million people are living with the disease and almost 5,000 will contract it today. We’ve made great progress in education, treatment, and prevention, but there’s still so much more to be done.

On Dekkoo we’re bringing you the documentary ‘Desert Migration‘ by Daniel F. Cardone. An official selection of Outfest and Frameline this film takes a deep look at 13 older gay men living with HIV in Palm Springs, CA. From morning medications to afternoon meditations we get to experience their daily routines and thoughts. Half of the people living with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50 and much of this generation are gay men whose lives were saved by antiretroviral treatments in the 90s and are now coping with both that intense medication and plain old age. Palm Springs is not only a haven for Los Angeles denizens desperate for a break from busy city life, but it’s also a mecca for gay men. They come for the beautiful scenery and lively gay social life and stay for the exact same reasons. Once you’re there it’s really hard to go back to city life. It’s so peaceful and serene and warm!

All of the men in this documentary are heroes. They’ve overcome insurmountable odds to still be alive and the fact that most of them have a positive outlook on life is astounding. This film isn’t an advertisement for Palm Springs, but they all credit the oasis in helping them find joy and meaning in their lives. All of their stories are similar yet different. Eric wants to find a boyfriend who doesn’t embraces his identity as an HIV-positive gay man. Steven is looking for any sort of relationship. Joel loves being healthy enough to go back to work. Doug is most at home in the gym cruising the guys and trying to look his best. I found this documentary to be incredibly uplifting and inspiring. The cinematography of the desert was stunning and made me yearn to be back in Palm Springs’ warm and loving embrace. While the film is incredibly inspiring, it doesn’t have an agenda it’s trying to push beyond the message that life finds a way. A way to cope, to rebuild, and most of all to have hope.

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Watch it with: A few close friends

Mix it with: A glass of white wine

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 Coming Next Week: “In this moody, occasionally dreamlike drama, it’s not what happens to Jasper and his friends that’s important, so much as what happens within Jasper’s soul.” – Eric D. Snider, Moviefone

DEKKOO DISPATCH 045 – ‘CHRIS & DON. A LOVE STORY’

Title – ‘Chris & Don. A Love Story

Director – Tina Mascara, Guido Santi

Release Date – 2007

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“I think about you all the time, and about times I might have been kinder and more understanding, and I make many resolutions for the future — some of which I hope I’ll keep.”
-Christopher Isherwood to Don Bachardy

The touching, informative, and heartwarming love story between prolific writer Christopher Isherwood and his partner of over 30 years, Don Bachardy is superbly brought to life by Tina Mascara & Guido Santi in their documentary entitled ‘Chris & Don. A Love Story‘. After having heard about the film since its release in 2007 I finally was able to watch it last night and was glued to my couch with longing. As you’re watching Don Bachardy talk about his life with Christopher you begin to understand how special their relationship was and you have this urge to jump in a time machine and go swimming with them in Los Angeles circa 1955.

What differentiates this from a typical ‘I had a really long gay relationship movie’ is the fact that Don and Christopher had a 30-year age difference between them and they started dating when Don was only 18. Of course this caused all kinds of friction outside of their relationship; Christopher even had to leave his apartment when his landlady said it couldn’t go on. Inside the relationship however things were very different. They lovingly (and realistically) imagined themselves as a young cat (Don) and a lame horse (Christopher) and encouraged each other to have affairs outside the relationship. Christopher felt that he was a father to Don (‘without any of the downsides’ he joked in his diary). The other element heavily focused on is how an 18-year old develops (both emotionally and professionally) in the shadow of such a huge talent like Christopher Isherwood.

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Quick history lesson for anyone not aware of who Christopher Isherwood is because he’s pretty darn famous which is a big angle explored in the doc. Isherwood was born in England in 1904 and after failing college ended up in Berlin due to the enthusiastic letters sent from there by W.H. Auden who he become good friends with. There he was able to finally live his life as a gay man and have sex with working-class German boys which he preferred vastly over his upper-class British counterparts. His rise to fame came with the publication of ‘The Berlin Stories’ which was then made more famous by the movie ‘Cabaret’ starring Liza Minnelli. Other notable novels include ‘Christopher and His Kind’ & ‘A Single Man’.

The documentary doesn’t entirely rely on Don’s narrative point of view (although that is the majority). Many Isherwood scholars give notes based on interviews or Christopher’s exhaustive diaries that were published after his death. There are also some fun celebrity cameos like Liza Minelli, John Boorman, and Gloria Stuart. One of the most special elements of this film is definitely the archival footage that they were able to restore. Obviously Don and Chris were very interested in Super8 photography and we get fantastic snapshot of their vacations, parties, and general home life. Don almost always has a big smile on his face and you quickly understand why everyone (especially Chris) loved Don; he made you happy and that’s exactly how I felt through the whole documentary.

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Watch it with: Ideally a boyfriend, but an imaginary boyfriend will do in a pinch!

Mix it with: Whatever drink makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside 🙂

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Coming next week: A film about one of the 20th century’s most notorious crimes: The 1924 thrill-kill murder of a 13-year-old boy in south-side Chicago

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Coming next week: An achingly romantic new indie from a Filipino auteur!

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Coming next week: James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, bares his body and soul in this twisted portrait of a tortured real-life artist.