Q1 2024

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By Ashley Monti I n 1997, I was 11 years old, living in Rome, and attending Catholic school when my father came out to me. My parents had separated a few years earlier, but they had refrained from sharing the details about their marriage with me until they felt I was old enough. We w e re a l l n a v i ga t i n g u n c h a r te d territory. My father, an Italian diplomat, had been posted overseas so I would only see him on holidays. I cherished those moments. It was during one of his visits that we decided to go see "In & Out," an American comedy directed by Frank Oz. "In & Out" tells the story of Howard Bracket (Kevin Kline) a teacher living in the fictitious small town of Greenleaf, Ind. His life takes a hilariously unexpected turn when his former student — now Hollywood superstar — Cameron Drake, outs him live on the Oscars stage. Howard scrambles to navigate the media frenzy and convince ever yone, including his f iancée Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack), of his unwav- ering heterosexuality. At first, I wasn't particularly interested in seeing the film. It sounded like it was a movie for adults, but my parents insisted I go see it with them. To this day, the self-help masculinity tape scene is one of my all-time favorite dance sequences. Howard is desperate to prove to himself that he is straight. When the audio tape suddenly starts playing "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, Howard finally gives in to the urge and dances with unrestrained joy. Back then it wasn't common to see stories about gay characters on the big screen, especially in Italy where the Cath- olic Church still exercises a lot of power. So the dance number got me thinking about my father and whether he also felt like he had to conform to expectations regard- ing masculinity. "IS EVERYBODY GAY? IS THIS 'THE TWILIGHT ZONE'?" yells Emily — in her wedding dress, after being turned down twice in one day, both times by gay men. This scene is pure comedy gold, but it also got me thinking about my mother, who was sitting right beside me. I wondered how she must have felt about my father coming out. But then I remember catching a glimpse of her smiling at the screen. I knew, in that moment, that she was going to be okay. Howard Bracket and Emily Mongomery had become my new heroes. Howard for being honest and brave for living out his truth. And Emily for being vulnerable and ultimately forgiving. (While things don't w o r k o u t b e t w e e n E m i l y a n d H o w a rd romantically, Emily is able to move on with her life.) After the screening, I recall an animated discussion with my parents. We talked for hours about the movie. My parents even reenacted some scenes. Our faces ached from laughing. This felt like the beginning of many more movie nights. In 1999, the cost of living soared as the Euro replaced the lira, and my mother made the brave decision to relocate back to her home country, Canada. Four thousand miles and six time zones separated us from Rome, as my mother and I now settled in a Toronto suburb. A $20 international calling card became my lifeline to my father. In my mind, Rome had morphed into a distant memory. In 2004, my senior year of high school, a new course ignited a spark in me: Film. It was here that I discovered the magic of moviemaking. Armed with my camcorder and an eMac, I started shooting and editing short films. As I started telling stories that centered on queer characters, I also began questioning my own sexuality. In 2011, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a masters degree and later met my wife. Looking back, "In & Out" was more than just a laugh-out-loud comedy. It made me realize the power of movies to spark con- versation, transport us to new worlds, and bring us closer together. My parents and I might not see each other as often as we like, scattered across different countries, but when we do, our movie nights still hold that special magic. ■ Ashley Monti is an editor and assistant editor based in Los Angeles. She can be reached at Kevin Kline in 'In & Out.' P H OT O : P H OT O F E S T 62 C I N E M O N T A G E T A I L P O P A FRANK OZ COMEDY RESONATED FOR AN ITALIAN DIPLOMAT'S FAMILY OUT DOOR

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