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The musical evolution of a 'Fruit Fly'
H.P. Mendoza's indie film screens in Savannah
H.P. Mendoza shot "Fruit Fly" on the streets of San Francisco.

Filmmaker H.P Mendoza is a quadruple threat: He wrote, produced, directed and composed the music (14 songs) for the independent film Fruit Fly, one of the featured movies at this weekend’s Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

San Francisco–based Mendoza is best known for his score for Colma: The Musical, the 2006 indie hit.
Fruit Fly is the story of a Filipina performance artist named Bethesda, who moves into an art commune to search for her long–missing biological mother. She comes to discover that she might well be turning into a “fruit fly” (also known as a “fairy princess,” or “fag hag”).

“When Colma: The Musical did the film festival circuit, we ended up going to almost all of the gay film fests and the Asian American film fests,” Mendoza, who is Asian American, told the Web site INDIEwire. “And, while I always felt empowered seeing Asian faces on the big screen, there was always that ONE film that has the ‘faggot’ that gets beat up and everyone in the audience cheers.

“So, when I go to the gay festivals, I look for similar empowerment (and often find alienation) but there’s always the ONE film that has the ‘ching chong Chinaman’ that delivers pizza and when he meets his violently funny demise, everyone in the audience cheers.

“I figured that there must be a way to reconcile both of these issues in a subtle way.  That and, since Colma was really about my life, I thought it might be fun to write about L.A.’s life as a performance artist.”

The film was shot in 23 days, using what Mendoza calls “every guerilla tactic in the book” to photograph singing, dancing and acting live on the streets of San Francisco.

“I wanted, at face value, Fruit Fly to look like some Asian Tales of the City,” he said. “But I also really wanted it to feel like some of my favorite aspects of some of my favorite musicals. There are winks and nods to Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Into the Woods, Cabaret...even an old Tommy Tune show called Busker Alley.

“But I really wanted the music to sound different from Colma. I’m actually prouder of the music in Fruit Fly because it’s all over the map. It’s very musical theater yet very modern electronic, as well.” Mendoza was named 2009 Rising Star winner at QFest, and Fruit Fly took Best Film at Fort Worth QCinema.

Fruit Fly screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 at the Jepson Center for the Arts.

Writer and director David Oliveras, whose Watercolors (screening at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Little Theatre of Savannah) was named Outstanding First Dramatic Feature at the Los Angeles Outfest, will be in attendance Saturday.

Watercolors, the story of an artist struggling with the painful memories of his lover’s suicide, also earned Oliveras the Best Director award at the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

The two–day film festival, sponsored by the Savannah Gay & Lesbian Film Society, also includes a number of short films, a live performance by singer/songwriter Joshua Klipp, and other featured events.

Savannah Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

Day One: Events begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 at the Jepson Center for the Arts, 207 W. York St.

Day Two: Events begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Little Theatre of Savannah, 703 Louisville Road (the Freight Station)

Friday tickets: $15 for film only; $20 for film, reception and shows at Club One

Saturday tickets: $10 per film program