Philadelphia’s annual LGBTQ film festival is days away — and one of the highlights features a very Philly story.
In the short film “Going Forward,” screening 7 p.m. March 25 (opening night) at the Kimmel’s Perelman Theater, local filmmaker Tim Harris follows Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta on Election Day 2018 as he becomes the first openly gay person of color to be elected to state office.
Harris, who first met Kenyatta when they were undergraduates at Temple University, filmed the candidate from 5-10 a.m. He then took a break to vote and nap before resuming filming from 5-11:30 p.m. The footage assembled for the 15-minute short creates an inspiring, affectionate portrait.
“The story is about Malcolm and this community [the residents of the 181st District of Pennsylvania] in North Philly,” said Harris. “There aren’t many films about small campaigns or about people, issues, and trying to solve those issues. It became clear it was a story about a community that needed a change, and Malcolm is an exciting young candidate to bring change about. We had to document it. It was a perfect day to do it. He was out talking with hundreds of people from the community about what was going on. It all came together.”
As “Going Forward” shows, Kenyatta is passionate and full of energy. Harris filmed him behind the scenes — picking up doughnuts for his volunteers or waiting for his dry cleaner to open. But Kenyatta is also seen diffusing an exchange with a supporter of his rival, T. Milton Street.
“These scenes show how hard a worker Malcolm is,” Harris said. “That moment with the Street supporter works because Malcolm is not angry at being attacked. He’s thoughtful and trying to reason. You learn who Malcolm is through that moment.
“It’s tough to have that mentality in the political world nowadays, with all the anger, despair and negativity. You can tell Malcolm genuinely cares.”
Kenyatta texted his thoughts about being filmed: “It was easy, because I know how thoughtful Tim is as a storyteller. He let me just run my campaign and allowed things to develop naturally. I’m grateful for the story he told, the way he captured the desire of my neighbors for transformational change. I wish every day that my parents were here to witness it.”
“The beauty of my story is that it’s not going to be a one-off,” Kenyatta added. “I’m so awestruck by the opportunity to represent my neighborhood, but the true power of my historic victory as the first openly LGBT person of color will come when other marginalized, queer and trans kids step up to run. That’s how I’ll measure my success — who did I inspire to follow my path?”
Thomas Jay Ryan (LEFT) with Alexander Horner in “Daddy”
Also appearing with a film at qFLIX is actor Alexander Horner, who grew up in Pitman, N.J. and attended Temple University. He stars in writer/director Jonah Greenstein’s accomplished debut feature, “Daddy,” screening 7:15 p.m. March 29 at Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place.
Horner plays Joseph, a homeless young gay guy who meets men on a dating app and sleeps with them for shelter and money. This compelling drama chronicles Joseph’s various trysts and a relationship that develops with one client, William (Thomas Jay Ryan).
Horner, making his film debut, is exceptional as he conveys Joseph’s calculated emotions and expressions in plying his trade. In a recent phone interview, the actor described how he “found” his character.
“I had to get into this mindset of his desperation and not knowing where I was going to sleep. I tried to appropriate myself in every situation, and mirror what Joseph’s [clients] wanted without giving too much of myself to them. I was being guarded and not too vulnerable. I [internalized] the mystery and his wanting stability.”
In “Daddy,” Joseph has to be attractive and seductive; he doesn’t have a choice. When asked about his “research” for the role, Horner said, “When I lived in Philly, I was friends with a small group of girls who were sex workers. So, I was conditioned to that environment. Sex work was a normality, and I was comfortable with that idea. I was interested in this underground world of dating apps that I’m not familiar with. I was drawn to how this world worked — and as an actor, I jumped into it.”
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Tim Harris will be at the screening of “Going Forward.” Alexander Horner and writer/director Jonah Greenstein will participate in a post-screening Q&A for “Daddy.” For tickets and more information, visit http://www.qflixphilly.com/.