Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay! will have its first U.S. theatrical run in Central Ohio

Bruce Vilanch at the 2009 Outfest Legacy Awards
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Premiering here—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

After appearing at film festivals around the world, a comedy called Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay! will have its first U.S. theatrical run in Central Ohio. It opens this weekend at AMC’s Lennox multiplex.

At first glance, it’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 what’s the Columbus link? As it turns out, it’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 ’97.

“Columbus was like her second motherland,” said the heavily accented Afineevsky, speaking over the phone from L.A. “And later on, Lennox became her third motherland because she was spending most of her time watching movies there.”

Afineevsky said he met this fellow Russian émigré 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, “because nothing else is happening.”

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 weekend’s screenings. For times, visit amctheatres.com/lennox/.

Presumably, Columbus’s gay-friendly reputation—and not just its alleged blahness—makes it a good place to launch Oy Vey!, the story of a gay man’s decision to come out of the closet despite his family’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. That’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.

“He started to write this script 27 years ago,” said Afineevsky, who, himself, is only 38. “In ’99, he gave me this script, and in 2002, we (went our separate ways).”

At about that time, another writer was working on the script and taking it along what Afineevsky called a “gay route.”

“I didn’t want that,” he said. “And in 2004, I, on my own, started to rewrite the script, trying to keep old-fashioned traditions…and using the old-fashioned stereotypes.”

Rather than centering on the gay man and his partner, the film focuses more on the man’s Jewish parents and their struggles to deal with their son’s newly revealed identity. Briefly, it also visits the partner’s Italian/Catholic parents, who have an equally tough time with their son’s orientation.

In the process, it seeks laughs from ethnic stereotypes—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.

“Bruce actually was supporting this movie since 2002, when I met him (through) Whoopi Goldberg,” 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 months’ worth of directing classes at UCLA.

“My teachers were impressed that I can easily adjust (to the film medium) and easily pass my energy to the actors,” 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 weekend’s showtimes, visit amctheatres.com/lennox/.

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