You may not know who Jorge Ameer is right now, but with the slew of gay ( and gay-friendly ) movies his company, Hollywood Independents, is making, he won't be an unknown quantity for long. Ameer—a writer, director, producer and actor—has been behind such films as Contadora Is For Lovers, the Straight Men and the Men Who Love Them series ( with the second collection of shorts now out on DVD ) and The House of Adam, slated to run at Chicago's Landmark Century Theater soon. Windy City Times talked with Ameer about sexuality and his films.
[ Note: For the squeamish, there is a section where gory activity is described. ]
Windy City Times: Straight Men and the Men Who Love Them 2 is now out on video. Obviously, there had to be a [ predecessor ] . When did the first one come out?
Jorge Ameer: The first one came out in 2005. The response for all of the movies [ in the series ] has been very positive, and I'll tell you why: There has not been a collection of shorts that deals with the fluidity of male sexuality. Sexuality can be gray, and I've made it a point to focus on that gray section. I don't actually like to label people's sexuality because people are more complex than that—I studied psychology in college, and I know that a straight guy can have sex with a guy and still be in love with a woman. There are two [ divisions ] in the brain: sexual and emotional. People can be fluid [ regarding their sexuality ] .
WCT: What are the shorts like in the second set?
JA: The shorts reveal mostly the psyche of the male, and how that applies to their lives. We're all sexual beings, and this collection surpasses the limits that society puts on sexuality. The collection addresses things that do happen. People don't talk about them, but they do happen.
WCT: Without getting too explicit, how much of this collection is based on your life?
JA: On my life? I live in Hollywood and these things happen every day. I have friends who are married who do things behind closed doors with other men, and there are gay men who have relationships with their [ female ] best friends; I've seen the gamut. That's why I was inspired to film something that deals with the complexities of sex. It's not just one thing or another. This type of stuff is predominant in the entertainment business and in life in general, whether here or in Miami or in New York.
WCT: I was going to say that I don't know how reflective Hollywood is on general reality...
JA: I don't think it's too reflective at all; Hollywood is a community of artists, and it fascinates me to dig into that community to get [ its ] take on sexuality. A lot of the situations in these short films [ involve ] normal, everyday characters who get in these situations. However, I also integrate international shorts because I like to show how different cultures deal with the same topic.
WCT: What's the most surprising thing you've discovered about sexuality?
JA: It's that people are very open, deep and diverse about their sexual appetites—and that fascinates me [ concerning ] men and women. ... Males do need that male bonding—and, sometimes, that bonding crosses the line. That's what I love about these shorts: They set up their own guidelines.
WCT: And there's a third set of shorts, correct?
JA: Yes. The collection was at the Cannes Film Festival, and it contains some shocking shorts. There's one British short called 'Early One Summer,' about a relationship between an older married man and his pupil. They'd go camping on the weekends. Things progress from mild to wild, and the wife finds out about the escapades. Another short is a Spanish one about the transsexual prostitution ring there; a younger person finds out that the most 'normal' people have the most extreme fetishes.
That's something that fascinates me. No one wants to be seen as a freak, but let me tell you: Everybody has a freaky side. Some guys are constantly looking: They have their cake and eat it, too, and then they want the other guy's cake.
WCT: Talk about The House of Adam. It's based on a true story, but it's a supernatural thriller, right?
JA: Yes. I read an article in The Advocate about this very sordid relationship that a college student had with a married [ police ] officer. The officer was very respected and represented the 'norm,' but it turned out that he had this other side.
My film also incorporates religious fanatics and talks about how people use religion to mask all their underlying issues that they project onto others. The fanatics play a prank, but end up accidentally killing [ the college student ] . So now, they become criminals when they once thought the student was a criminal for committing homosexual acts. Then, they decide to butcher the body and bury it underneath a cabin.
The supernatural part occurs when a couple moves into the cabin, where the spirit of Adam [ the college student ] is. He's communicating with these people so they will search for his remains and give him a proper burial.
Then, there's The Dark Side of Love, which is probably my most disturbing film. It involves these two brothers—a straight drug addict and a gay [ waiter ] , who took care of their mother.
My movies are not your popcorn movies. I want people to sit, think and talk with each other in order to create understanding. Ultimately, the movies are about the human condition.
WCT: Let me conclude with a general question. If you could direct any actor in the world, who would it be?
JA: Wow—that's a tough one. I love the work of Peter Sarsgaard. He had something at Sundance called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh that was really good. Peter has a nice edge to him. I also like Campbell Scott [ who was in the gay-themed movie The Dying Gaul with Sarsgaard ] . I'd also love to work with Tom Hanks; one of my favorite films ever is Splash.
WCT: I was not expecting to hear that one. [ Laughs ]
JA: [ Laughs ] I would watch his movies growing up; my parents would just drop me off at the cineplex and I'd just watch films. I liked Tom Hanks' movies.
Let me tell you: I grew up in Panama. I never thought in a million years that I'd end up here making movies, but I have such an appetite for movies. I watch everything. All movies have a message, and cinema is universal.