Premiering hereâ€”but why?
A New York-set comedy is coming straight from the festival circuit to Columbus
BY RICHARD ADES
Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 3:32 PM EST
At first glance, itâ€™s hard to figure out why.
The story about a gay man with an overbearing Jewish mother is set in Long Island, not Columbus. Its director, likewise, has no Ohio connection, being a native Russian who now lives in Los Angeles.
And although one cast member was educated at Ohio State, he has a relatively small role.
So whatâ€™s the Columbus link? As it turns out, itâ€™s Faina Neveleva, a friend of director Evgeny Afineevsky. Though Neveleva also was born in Russia, Afineevsky said she spent several years in Columbus beginning in 1996 or â€™97.
â€œColumbus was like her second motherland,â€ said the heavily accented Afineevsky, speaking over the phone from L.A. â€œAnd later on, Lennox became her third motherland because she was spending most of her time watching movies there.â€
Afineevsky said he met this fellow Russian Ã©migrÃ© after she moved to Hollywood around 2002, and she convinced him Columbus was the place to open the comedy he was then struggling to film.
People here love to go to the movies, Neveleva reportedly told him, â€œbecause nothing else is happening.â€
INFO: Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay! opens Friday at AMC Lennox Town Center 24, 777 Kinnear Road. The director, producer and cast member Bruce Vilanch are scheduled to attend this weekendâ€™s screenings. For times, visit amctheatres.com/lennox/.
Presumably, Columbusâ€™s gay-friendly reputationâ€”and not just its alleged blahnessâ€”makes it a good place to launch Oy Vey!, the story of a gay manâ€™s decision to come out of the closet despite his familyâ€™s objections. Indeed, a largely gay and lesbian crowd greeted Afineevsky when he hosted a Dec. 9 screening here co-sponsored by Stonewall Columbus and the Columbus International Film + Video Festival.
However, Afineevsky said he shaped the film to appeal to a mainstream audience, not just gays. Thatâ€™s been the thrust of his tweaks on the script he inherited from Menahem Golan, a former filmmaking cohort who works in Hollywood under the name Joseph Goldman.
â€œHe started to write this script 27 years ago,â€ said Afineevsky, who, himself, is only 38. â€œIn â€™99, he gave me this script, and in 2002, we (went our separate ways).â€
At about that time, another writer was working on the script and taking it along what Afineevsky called a â€œgay route.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t want that,â€ he said. â€œAnd in 2004, I, on my own, started to rewrite the script, trying to keep old-fashioned traditionsâ€¦and using the old-fashioned stereotypes.â€
Rather than centering on the gay man and his partner, the film focuses more on the manâ€™s Jewish parents and their struggles to deal with their sonâ€™s newly revealed identity. Briefly, it also visits the partnerâ€™s Italian/Catholic parents, who have an equally tough time with their sonâ€™s orientation.
In the process, it seeks laughs from ethnic stereotypesâ€”particularly those represented by Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as the domineering Jewish mother and Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos) as the tough Italian father.
While he was honing the script, Afineevsky began collecting a cast. Early recruits included OSU grad Bruce Vilanch, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and actor who was recruited to play the sex-obsessed Uncle Max.
â€œBruce actually was supporting this movie since 2002, when I met him (through) Whoopi Goldberg,â€ he said.
Soon, Afineevsky was so entrenched in the project that he decided to direct the film himself, even though his previous directorial efforts were limited to the stage. To prepare, he took six monthsâ€™ worth of directing classes at UCLA.
â€œMy teachers were impressed that I can easily adjust (to the film medium) and easily pass my energy to the actors,â€ he said.
One of those actors, Vilanch, will attend local screenings along with Afineevsky and his producer, Svetlana Anufrieva, when the film makes its improbable theatrical debut this weekend at Lennox.
Since the comedy has won numerous audience awards at international film festivals, Afineevsky hopes its Columbus premiere will be the springboard to successful runs across the country. For starters, he said, it could spread to local AMC multiplexes in Dublin and the Easton Town Center.
For this weekendâ€™s showtimes, visit amctheatres.com/lennox/.