Park City's loss is Palm Springs' gain. Passed over by Sundance, American Primitive will have its world premiere Saturday at the 20th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. Simple and artfully done, this is one of the must-see films of the fest.
Set in 1973 Cape Cod, Harry Goodhart (Tate Donovan, Damages, Good Night, and Good Luck), a British widower, relocates with his two teen daughters to start a new business building American Primitive furniture.
As daughters Madeline and Daisy adjust to life in a new high school, Harry struggles to withhold a secret: His new business partner, Theodore Gibbs (Adam Pascal, Rent), is more than just that.
When the girls try to fit in with the cool kids in school, they sneak into Provincetown's Atlantic House gay dance club. There, Madeline is hit with the realization that her widower dad may be over his mourning period. The secrets that each keep slowly threaten to tear the family apart—especially when word gets out in the small town.
Set during a time when American society was redefining its national identity as well as its personal views, the film captures the look and the language of the period, using "homosexual" (which has since been replaced by "gay"), and "queer," used then as an insult before being reclaimed by us during the last decade.
As someone who experienced my own father's coming out during the '70s, the gossip in school and around a small town, I found myself identifying with the journey of Madeline. But even if American Primitive isn't your story, the issues of what makes a family and who can raise children are amazingly as relevant today to all of us as they were 36 years ago.
UPDATE: At tonight's sold-out opening, out Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, himself a father of toddler twins, will present the American Primitive filmmakers a proclamation for their efforts on behalf of family equality rights. The film screens again Tuesday.
Official Website: AmericanPrimitiveMovie.com
Screening at the Palm Springs International Film Festival
Saturday, January 10, 7:00 PM
Tuesday, January 13, 1:30 PM