By WARREN DAY
Even in places that are LGBT friendly, such as South Florida, you wouldn’t get the chance to see many of the gay films if it weren’t for special festivals, such as the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF) running from April 27 through May 6 in South Beach.
From production to distribution, making an independent gay film is still an arduous task, so it’s important the GLBT community support the people who are venturing forth to tell our stories. As the first major gay film festival in the calendar year, MGLFF is a platform for numerous World, North American and East Coast Premiers with over 65 movies from 15 countries. There’s literally something for everyone.
Films in this year’s festival continue to be dominated by the trials and tribulations of being gay, but there’s at least one major exception in the exceptional documentary “Out for the Long Run” (see below). It’s an interesting phenomenon that in recent years the better gay films have been documentaries, and that’s certainly bore out with the offerings of this year’s MGLFF.
The opening picture on Friday, April 27, is from New Zealand and is called “Kawa”. It tells the dramatic story of a successful businessman who finds the courage to tell his wife, children, parents and traditional Maori community that he’s gay.
On April 29 is “Seventh- GAY Adventist,” * a remarkable documentary dealing with the conflict that happens, “When your church says the only way you can be true to God is by being false to yourself.”
Seventh-Day Adventists is a very conservative denomination believing in the literal interpretation of the Bible.
It’s more than a religion for it provides a rather encompassing culture for its members to grow up – Sabbath on Saturdays, Friday nights devoted to family, vegetarian in diet, its own scout movement called Pathfinders, a close knit community, and so forth.
The result is that by being openly gay, you risk your relationship with both the church and the culture, as also happens with Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Southern Baptists and some other religious groups. The film follows three gay couples (two male, one female) as they confront these issues with good character and courage, and find support in surprising places. “Seventh- Gay Adventist” is an inspiring and upbeat film.
One of the two documentaries set in Florida is shown on April 30.
“Unfit: Ward vs. Ward” tells the true story of how a Pensacola judge ruled that a convicted killer, who didn’t even know which grade his daughter was in, was more fit to raise the child than her lesbian mother.
In the cliché clustered “Naked As We Came”* (May 2), a self-absorbed brother and sister are called to their mother’s rural home due to her failing health and find an attractive young man living with her.
A lot of confusion and some forced resolutions follow with a none-tooconvincing relationship developing between the brother and the young man. This movie is not particularly gay in either sense of that word.
“Taking a Chance on God” (May 3) is also a documentary about the conflict between the church and being honest about who you are, and is the second festival film dealing with a Florida resident. Eighty-five year old John McNeill has often been a voicein- the-wilderness as he confronted the anti-gay doctrines and powers of the Roman Catholic Church. This nonfictional film is a moving testament to McNeill’s influence as a priest, writer, and untiring activist.
“Out for the Long Run”* (May 5) is one of the best gay documentaries ever made and I urge you to see it because it’s that rare stereotypebreaking GLBT film that focuses on the positives rather than the usual angst of being homosexual.
Expertly made, it follows four openly gay young athletes, two of high school age and two in their first years of college.
Like the excellent d o c u m e n t a r y “Bully” (showing in theaters now), the parents are totally supportive and provide a constructive counterpoint to the images often portrayed in films (as do the gay young people themselves). Austin is a high school senior and long-distance runner who, unlike many of his straight friends, has never had a relationship, and then, through Facebook, he meets Taylor in North Carolina, another openly-gay athlete who will also be attending Brown University. The camera is there when they meet for the first time in person and the look on Austin’s face is worth any trouble to see this movie. All four of these young people set a stirring example, not only for their peers, but also for the older generation. This movie will give you hope for the future.
The beautifully photographed and acted “North Sea Texas”* is a Belgium film in Dutch with English subtitles (talk about diversity) and is the closing night event on May 5. Pim is a lonely 14-year-old dreamer, ignored by his crass mother who works in a bar named Texas. It’s a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of his crush on the older boy next door who may or may not return his affection.
Filled with poignant emotions, “North Sea Texas” proves there’s still power in a well-done coming of age drama. Bavo Defume has previously directed only short films with gay themes. In this his first feature-length production, he raises great expectations on what gay films we might expect from him in the future.
These are just eight of the over 65 movies being shown throughout the 14th Annual Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. For a complete list of the movies, showtimes, special events, and venues, go to mglff.com. And then go see some of these films yourself.
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