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Wednesday, April 11,2012

The screening room

Capital City Film Festival rolls out the documentaries

by James Sanford

Part of the fun of a film festival is having the chance to make discoveries. The Capital City Film Festival is no exception. Here are a couple of the notable documentaries screening this weekend.

“everydayPeople” — How do you see the Saugatuck and Douglas area? Is it West Michigan’s answer to Fire Island? Would you call it the Ann Arbor of the lakeshore?

In their insightful documentary “everydayPeople,” directors Jeff and Steve Croley offer a slightly more complex portrait of the community as they investigate how a large lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender population has been welcomed (and even embraced) in what is seen as a largely conservative, heavily Christian region. The film takes its title from the name of a restaurant in Douglas that has become a gathering place for LGBT residents. 

One longtime resident describes Saugatuck as being “like a Norman Rockwell painting.” But which one of the artist’s works showed rainbow flags flying in the annual Fourth of July parade or depicted gay men and lesbian couples happily blending into the country line dances at the local roadhouse? 

To find the roots of this tolerant attitude, the Croleys look back to the beginnings of Saugatuck and Douglas, when, we’re told, artists from the Ox-Bow colony rubbed shoulders with vacationing Chicago gangsters. Alienating the LGBT population in a small town would be foolish from an economic standpoint, according to local business owners.

The hour-long documentary sometimes repeats itself (too many sources seem to say the same thing), but it truly hits home when the Croleys discover the Hamlins, two retired Methodist pastors whose son was gay and who died of AIDS in the mid-1990s. They speak movingly about their reactions to his life and his passing, and they express great dismay at anti-gay attitudes.

“The power of people who can invoke this hatred because people don’t think the same way is hurting everybody,” Joan Hamlin says. For the residents of Saugatuck and Douglas, those may be words to live by. (Screening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14 at Lansing Public Media Center, 2500 S. Washington, Lansing.)

“Boogie Stomp” — That Bob Baldori is a phenomenal pianist is no secret: Hes been performing sizzling boogie-woogie around the world for decades. But his documentary “Boogie Stomp” demonstrates he’s an accomplished filmmaker as well.

“Boogie Stomp” ambitiously weaves together three plotlines: Baldori’s working relationship and friendship with his partner, Bob Seeley; Seeley’s background in the Detroit music scene; and the rise of the boogie-woogie form in American music. Through careful scripting and smooth editing, “Stomp” seems to move effortlessly — even elegantly — from fascinating history lessons and helpful explanations of musical terms to the material that charts Seeley’s long career before he teamed up with Baldori.

To those who don’t know them, the men seem to be a mismatched team. Once they get behind their pianos, however, the combination is genuinely combustible. The musical segments in “Stomp” practically dare you not to dance in your seat: Number after number rocks, rolls and roars. (Screening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14 at Lansing Public Media Center., 2500 S. Washington, Lansing.)

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