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Murder, they wrote
By HANNAH BROWN
06/10/2012
Brian Benson, producer of ‘All About Evil,’ speaks about joy of making movie that pays tribute to 1980s’ teen flicks, slasher films.
 
If you’re looking for grisly fun, you might not think about going to a film festival.

But then, you’d be missing out on All About Evil at the 7th Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival, which runs until June 16 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

Brian Benson, who also co-produced Howl, the film about Allen Ginsberg’s controversial poem starring James Franco, is in Israel to promote All About Evil, along with the film’s director and star, Joshua Grannell, better known by his/her stage name of Peaches Christ.

“All About Evil is what I would call delicious ridiculousness,” says Benson, who is making his first trip to the Middle East to present the film, and spoke to The Jerusalem Post from his office in California. “It’s the story of a librarian who inherits an old single- screen movie palace. And then she starts making movies with real murders to keep it going.

There’s some violence, but it’s really silly and fun.”

The film, which stars Natasha Lyonne as the librarian, premiered in San Francisco, accompanied by a pre-show featuring Peaches and much more.

“We sold out every seat at the Castro Theater,” says Benson.

“The pre-show for All About Evil screenings has become a big event.” The one at the Castro featured [legendary underground movie actress] Mink Stole and Thomas Decker, both of whom star in the film,” as well Peaches’ friend and fellow Baltimore native and indie filmmaker, John Waters. “When it was shown in Manchester [UK], we staged a librarians’ protest.”

Benson promises that there will be quite a show at the Tel Aviv screening. The Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival features dozens of screenings of films from around the world, as well as events such as concerts, cocktail parties and performances. Peaches Christ will host the awards ceremony on June 16.

Benson, who also moonlights as a drag-queen called Cousin Wonderlette, has a background making commercials and working as producer and assistant director on documentaries and other films. But in spite of his long career, he admits that Howl was a special project.

“It certainly wasn’t very commercial,” he says of the film, which is made up of dramatization of City Lights press’ Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s obscenity trial for publishing the poem, James Franco as Allen Ginsberg being interviewed about it, and animated depictions of images from Howl. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who directed the film, “were my idols since I was in film school.”

But it was very difficult for them to get a budget for this literary and idiosyncratic film, “especially during the presidential campaign, when everyone we approached said they were giving their money to Obama.”

But Benson admits, “I’m amazed when any movie gets financed.” Eventually, director Gus Van Sant stepped in and they found a company, Werc Werk Works, that put up the money. The presence of such stars as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and Weeds’ Mary-Louise Parker, as well as critical acclaim, helped the film gain a successful release.

While many people might hesitate to make a first trip to the Middle East amid so many news reports of unrest in the region, Benson is quite excited about his visit. Benson was planning a trip to Jordan, to see Petra and other sights, as well as touring all over Israel. But he was especially interested in seeing Tel Aviv.

“It’s on all these top ten lists. There are all these articles about how it’s one of the top five gay destinations in the world. They say people really know how to live there,” says Benson.

If knowing how to live includes enjoying a really campy, fun film, then the city will surely live up to Benson’s image of it.
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