I’ll start off by saying that I’ve always had a little crush on 40-year-old actor Kent Faulcon. He’s not a star by any means or even really recognizable for that matter. He’s just one of those working class actors that you see in random forgettable roles on random forgettable TV shows and movies.But every time he popped up on my screen my first thoughts were “Yo, who’s that dude?” Then I’d frantically check IMDB to find out it was him, yet again. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶g̶a̶y̶ filmmaker Tyler Perry chose Kent to be in the cast of his new TBS series, “For Better or Worse.” I may not be a fan of Mr. Perry’s films but I have to admit that he has excellent taste in black men 35-and-up.

PictureSTRANGE FRUIT (2004)

My man-crush for Kent Faulcon was magnified when I saw an indie film produced in 2004 called “Strange Fruit”. Here Kent holds down the lead role for once and portrays William Boyals, a masculine openly gay attorney living in New York City, who travels back home to Louisiana once he learns that an also-gay childhood friend has been lynched outside of a gay bar.

Just from that last sentence alone you know I was intrigued to see this film. That description is almost like the plotline for a John Grisham novel. Well, a gay-themed one at least. So I give Caucasian gay director Kyle Schickner a lot of credit just for the attempt to create a gay mystery/thriller that tackles both homophobia and racism. Also, according to the Wikipedia Page for the film, Schickner turned down a $6 million budget when the studio demanded that the lead character could not be both black and gay. So instead he made the film independently for only $250,000.

While admirable, this leads directly to my problems with the film. The low budget is distractingly evident throughout. From poor lighting to poor acting, every scene feels thrown together like the clean-up job you do in your home right before an unexpected “hook-up” shows up at the door.

The caricatures of “southern folks” in the film were laughable. It’s almost as if the director’s only exposure to the south was old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and reruns of the “In the Heat of the Night” TV series.

However, if you can look past that and see the attempt at creating something outside of the typical “gay-cinema” box, you may appreciate this film. Also, the eye-candy that is Kent Faulcon kept me into the film enough to see it for what it was, not just for what it could have been.

On a positive note, none of the gay characters were stereotypes. Maybe that was the brilliant plan of the director: make every character except for the gays caricatures. From the thick southern drawl sheriff to the constantly weeping and weary old black mother, everyone was a stereotype except for the gay characters.

Also, the films conjures up the issues many of us city northerners never really have to deal with. As I watched the film I kept imagining what it must be like for discreet masculine gay men living in small rural southern towns/cities.

Anyway, I recommend this film to all masculine black gay men (its available on Amazon, a used copy for only $9) but don’t expect the production quality of The Firm, The Pelican Brief or A Time to Kill.

– Nick D