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Think Pink: Miami G&L Fest


Miami, a city of vibrant pastel colors, was showing off its pink as it celebrated the 6th edition of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (April 23-May 2). The event brought out Miami’s colorful and diverse gay community (and friends) to a showcase of films from the US and overseas, with a special caliente dash of the best of gay and lesbian Latin films.

Programmed by Carol Coombes, formerly of the London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Festival has grown to become one of the most important in the US. While most other gay-themed festivals are clustered around the traditional Gay Pride Months of June and July, Miami’s earlier dates gives them access to both World and North American premieres. And of course, for a town known as much for its partying as its artistic taste, the range of social events made for a dizzying whirl of activity.

The Festival opened on April 23 with a gala screening of the American film STRAIGHT JACKET at the historical Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. The theater’s art deco style was the perfect setting for the film, set in the 1950s, which follows the story of a Rock Hudson-like movie star whose private indiscretions don’t match up to his public image. The overflow crowd enthusiastically greeted the film and its guests Richard Day, producer Michael Warwick and drag diva Clinton Leupp, better known as Miss Coco Peru. The screening was followed by the first of many fab parties at the historic Alfred Dupont Building.

Screenings followed through the weekend and into the next week at the Regal Cinemas in “gay central” South Beach and Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, attracting a mixed crowd of muscle boys, lipstick lesbians, butch dykes and…..the film curious. As important as the Festival is in fostering community in Miami’s diverse gay and lesbian population, it also attracts a large “straight” following, curious about the films and the stories they tackle….not surprising when the controversy over gay marriage has become a hot button issue in this year’s Presidential election campaign.

The Festival presented four films as World Premieres: INESCAPABLE, an erotic lesbian film directed by Helen Lesnick, exploring the sexcapades among a group of women during a reunion weekend in Oregon; MAKE A WISH by director Sharon Ferranti, a genre-bending lesbian THE BLAIRWITCH PROJECT that may be the first lesbian horror film; and two documentaries GLITTER GIRLS: TRANSEXUALS IN THE RAW, a revealing look at the lives of gender benders, and NAKED FAME, an autobiographical portrait of former porn star Christopher Long and his attempt to break out of the porn world to launch a music career.

North American premieres included ANONYMOUS, an American film written and directed by Todd Verow that voyeuristically follows a night time employee who seeks out anonymous sex on the Internet, over the phone and in public places and THE IRON LADIES II, a follow-up to the international film smash from Thailand about a championship-winning soccer team made up exclusively of transvestites and transsexuals (and, believe it or not, based on a true story).

IRON LADIES was one of the films in a salute to pioneering distributor Strand Releasing, whose principals Jon Gerrans and Marcus Hu were honored for fifteen years of dedication to releasing gay and lesbian films in theaters in the US. Other Strand titles featured at the Festival included PROTEUS, a historical love story set in a penal colony of fthe coast of South Africa, directed by John Greyson, THE RASPBERRY REICH, the latest incendiary film from shock director Bruce La Bruce and A THOUSAND CLOUDS OF PEACE, a dreamy Mexican film that won top dramatic honors at the Berlin Film Festival.

Due to Miami’s large Spanish-speaking audience, the Festival has a tradition of highlighting the strongest gay and lesbian films from Spain and Latin America. This year was no exception, with such standouts as the Festival Centerpiece Film CACHORRO (Bear Cub), an emotional film about non-traditional family values and the connection between a promiscuous dentist and his young nephew; 12 HORAS (12 Hours), a kaleidoscopic look at the parallel lives of creatures of the night in San Juan, Puerto Rico and BOLA DE NIEVE: EL HOMBRE TRISTE QUE CANTABA ALEGRE (Bola De Nieve: The Sad Man That Always Sang Happy), an absorbing look at the Cuban singing legend.

Other international titles making their debut at the Festival included STRAIGHT OUT: STORIES OF ICELAND, a revealing look at gay life in a country that allows legal gay marriage and divorce; ADORED: DIARY OF A MALE PORN STAR, Italian writer-director Marco Filiberti’s wry look at the life of a fictional porn god; THE ROAD TO LOVE, French director Remi Lange’s emotional tale of forbidden male love in the Arab suburbs of Paris; and GARDEN, a fiction story of Palestinian-Israeli love and conflict from Israeli directors Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz.

The Festival’s closing day on May 2 was festive and chock-full of delights. The evening began with the HBO “Best of the Festival” Awards Ceremony. Winner of the Best Feature prize was BROTHER TO BROTHER, an American film directed by Rodney Evans that invokes the glory days of the Harlem Renaissance through the memories of Bruce Nugent, one of its literary lions. Winning Best Documentary honors was PATERNAL INSTINCT, directed by Murray Nossel, a timely story about a male couple and their quest to conceive a biological child. Winner for Best Short Film was OEDIPUS N + 1, a futuristic film mixes Greek myth and sci-fi, directed by Eric Rognard. The Audience Favorite Award was won by CALLAS FOREVER, directed by Italian icon Fanco Zeffirelli, featuring Fanny Ardant as the opera diva and Jeremy Irons as her gay manager.

The Ceremony was followed by the screening of the Closing Night film D.E.B.S., an all-girl action adventure romp by debut director Angela Robinson. The director was in attendance as was prolific indie producer Andrea Sperling, who was awarded the Wolfe Career Achievement Award for her pioneering work with such directors as Greg Araki, Christopher Munch and Jamie Babbit. The Closing Night Gala at Bongos Cuban Café in downtown Miami was a fitting end to a festival and a city that is more South American than North American, in many ways. Viva Le Festival!!!

By Sandy Mandelberger, Contributing Editor


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