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Miami G&L kicks off gay Fest season

The 8th edition of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which opens this weekend, is the official kick off of the US gay film festival season, which will see similar events in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and more than 15 other cities in the coming months.

But Miami is the first out of the gate…setting the standard with an intoxicating and provocative mix of dramatic features, documentaries and short films that will make the rounds of the gay film festival circuit.

The festivities begin on Friday evening, with the Opening Night Film, Reinas (Queens) by Spanish director Manuel Gómez Pereira, to be screened at the historic Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. The film, which is having its East Coast Premiere at the event, is an uproarious farce that imagines a mass same-sex wedding that becomes an overhyped media circus. The film features several of Spain’s best known actresses, including Almodovar divas Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes and Verónica Forqué. The director will attend the sold-out screening to discuss the film.

The Opening Night Gala, one of the highlights of the gay party circuit, takes place in The Space Miami, an exciting new restaurant and club, located in the Wynwood Arts District. Visiting filmmakers and guests will party along with local fashionistas and trend setters. If Miami is known for anything, it’s the quality of its parties, and this opening bash should be one of the highlights of the season.

Several special events highlight the Festival’s opening weekend. On Saturday evening, April 22, the Festival will present the Florida Premiere of 20 Centímentros (20 Centimeters), a Spanish musical comedy that seems destined to become a kitsch classic, directed by Ramón Salazar. The film screening is a key element in a Tribute to TLA Entertainment Group, a pioneering gay film distribution company that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. TLA principals Raymond Murray, Richard Wolff and Patrick Murray will be present to receive the Festival’s Entertainment Tribute Award.

Saturday night also brings to Miami the East Coast Premiere of The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, the gay hit of the Berlin Film Festival. Directed by Filipino director Auraeus Solito, the film is set in the squalid slums of Manila, where a 12 year old boy forms a not-so-innocent relationship with an idealistic young policeman. . The film, which won the prestigious Teddy Award as Best Gay Film, also won honors at this year’s Rotterdam and Sundance film festivals.

On Sunday afternoon, the winner of the 7th annual Planet Out Short Movie Awards will be announced, based on an international competition of short films with gay and lesbian themes. The Grand Prize Winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, as determined by an esteemed national jury of film professionals. Short film nominees have been available for viewing on the Planet Out website, and the public has been able to cast its own vote for Best Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama and Experimental film. The Awards Ceremony, which will also screen the winning films, is followed by the Planet Out Reception at the rooftop bar of the trendy The Hotel in South Beach.

Other highlights of the 10 day Festival include the Centerpiece Gala Film, Whole New Thing, by Canadian director Arnnon Buchbinder. In this ground-breaking “coming out” film, a 13 year old boy, played by the extraordinary child actor Aaron Weber, discovers his true sexuality while living in a small coastal fishing village in remote Nova Scotia. The director, who also wrote the original screenplay, will attend the Festival.

The film screening will be followed by the Centerpiece Party, slated to be one of the Festival’s event’s most talked-about and decadent events. Produced by Dana Keith, the founder of the Miami Beach Cinematheque, the first floor of the historic Hotel Nash will be transformed into a fantasy space, with wild and kinky scenarios played out against a backdrop of provocative videos by local Miami artists.

On Friday, April 28, the Festival pays homage to pioneering French director François Ozon with the HBO Career Achievement Award. Ozon is a singular talent who has taken films with gay sensibility and made them international hits for a wide audience. With such milestones as Water Drops On Burning Rocks, Under The Sand, 8 Femmes and Swimming Pool, Ozon has earned the distinction of being one of Europe’s most respected film auteurs.

The Festival will screen Ozon’s latest film, Time To Leave (Le Temps Qui Reste), an emotional family drama about a gay man who discovers that he has terminal cancer and is determined to embrace life in his final days. Melvil Poupaud gives an impressive performance in the title role. The cast also includes the legendary Jeanne Moreau as a sympathetic grandmother and Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi as the distant mother. The film will be distributed later this year by leading arthouse company Strand Releasing.

The Festival concludes on Sunday, April 30 with the Closing Night Gala screening of US director Todd Stephens’ Another Gay Movie, a gay spin on classic teen sex comedies such as American Pie. Featuring an all-gay cast and some outrageous scenes, the film will be released in theaters later this year by TLA Releasing.

The Closing Night Gala festivities continue with the announcements of the HBO Audience Favorite Awards, voted on by the attending public, for favorite Fiction Feature, Documentary Feature and Short Film. A post-Awards party will take place in the historic Alfred I. Dupont Building in downtown Miami, with music coordinated by international by Oren Nizri. An intoxicating (and exhausting) mix of outstanding films, panel discussions and superb party events makes this one of the country’s most celebrated events celebrating gay and lesbian film artists, appealing to both gay and straight audiences interested in the best of provocative international cinema.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor


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