Diversity Rules at 15th Miami LGBT Film Fest
The LGBT Film Festival season gets into full swing this week as The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF) celebrates its fifteenth year with its most diverse festival to date. Initially a three-day affair, today the event runs some 10 days (Friday, Apr. 26 through Sunday, May 5), over which some 65 films from 15 different countries that chronicle the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities will be screened in various venues in South Beach and other area screens.
The MGLFF is presented by HBO Latin America and Miami-Dade County. For more information, to view film trailers, or to purchase tickets or memberships, please visit the Festival’s website.
Being the first in the nation, MGLFF establishes the tone for the festival season, which runs into the fall and takes in major cities with substantial LGBT populations (from Boston to San Francisco).
"For our 15th year, we’ve assembled an amazing schedule of world premieres, U.S. premieres and Southeast premieres," Franc Castro, executive director of the MGLFF, said. "We’ve got filmmakers and actors flying in from around the world to meet our audiences and talk about their craft. Our parties will be over-the-top affairs as only Miami knows how to throw a party. Fifteen is going to be stellar for the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival."
What looks to be a Festival high point is the scheduled appearance of actor/filmmaker James Franco, whose film "Interior. Leather Bar." will be shown at the festival. Franco will be at the event to accept the HBO Latin America Ally Award for his career accomplishments and his unwavering support of the LGBT community. The Ally Award presentation will take place on Saturday, Apr. 27th, at the Gusman Theater in downtown Miami immediately preceding the film "Out In The Dark" at 9:15 p.m. ("Interior. Leather Bar." will screen on Sunday, Apr. 28th at the Colony Theatre.)
EDGE caught up with the ever-busy Castro just days before the Festival opens on Friday for a Q&A interview.
EDGE: How long have you been with the Festival?
Franc Castro: I have been involved with the film festival for a total of eight years. I started as a board member in 2004, served as vice chair for two years, then as chair for two years. When I decided to leave banking in 2009, I volunteered to serve as the Interim executive director. In August 2010, the board of directors hired me as the executive director and I am currently the MGLFF’s only full-time staff member.
EDGE: How have you seen it change over the years?
Franc Castro: Since becoming the executive director, we have expanded the festival programming with the Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival which grew over 300% last year, GLOW Miami and 954 GLOW which are six consecutive monthly screenings each.
EDGE: With the seismic change in LGBT assimilation, how does a festival like this adjust to changes?
Franc Castro: I believe that we are all connected and until we are all equal, none of us are equal. There may be a segment of the LGBT community that has assimilated, but if you are a person of color, a person in a rural community or a transgender person then there are still barriers that keep us all from assimilating. That is why I love the film festival because it is able to present all of our stories from every corner of the world. Every continent is represented in our 2013 film program.
Why LGBT fests?
EDGE: Why are festivals like this one still necessary?
Franc Castro: With the consolidation of theaters into multiplexes and the fascination with 3-D film, it has been difficult for independent queer cinema to find screening venues that will present their films. Film festivals such as ours give these talented artists a platform in which to present their work. Yes it is true that with Video on Demand it is much easier to access film and touch a much broader audience.
I think we are fortunate to live in a city that has a community large enough to support a yearly presentation of the best in emerging queer cinema. I think the experience of watching a film on a big screen with big sound with my community is exciting. We also offer the opportunity for film enthusiasts to interact with the filmmakers and the talent that make them possible.
Events and parties
EDGE: What are you looking forward to in this year’s festival?
Franc Castro: I am looking forward to seeing how the community receives what I believe is a world class LGBT film festival. We have incredible films with several world premiers and many films coming from major film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin and Tribeca. We have great industry guests attending including James Franco. We have "Blow Your Mind" parties planned at some of the hottest and most unique venues Miami and Miami Beach have to offer.
EDGE: With the changes in distribution over the years, how are LGBT filmmakers and distributors adjusting?
Franc Castro: I think we are seeing the re-emergence of the importance of LGBT film festivals as an important tool that helps build an audience and creates awareness for critical mass. If you make the best film ever available on the Internet and you don’t have an audience, then who will download your film?
Are gay films ’too gay?’
EDGE: Do you think LGBT filmmakers are finding that many of their films go no further than these film festivals?
Franc Castro: I think it depends on the filmmaker. Some of these films do get screened in the Art House Cinemas that are becoming very active. Other films find placement on premium channels such as HBO.
EDGE: Why aren’t there more LGBT commercial films?
Franc Castro: I think there are more LGBT commercial film than you think. This past year, "Concussion" was a major lesbian film that was picked up by a major distribution company. Recently there were films such as "Gunhill Road," "Pariah," "Dirty Girl," "The Perfect Family," "Any Day Now" that were picked up by major distributors. Unfortunately they were, in my opinion, mishandled and therefore did not get to the targeted audiences. I will say that what I hear from filmmakers is that it is very difficult for LGBT films to be made because they are considered to have a targeted audience and therefore a low return on investment. "Behind The Candelabra" was recently made only because HBO was willing to fund the project. Director Steven Soderbergh was told that the film was "TOO GAY."
Excited & honored
EDGE: Are you excited that James Franco will be part of the Festival?
Franc Castro: I am extremely excited and honored that James Franco has accepted our invitation to attend our film festival.
I think it speaks to his continued support of the LGBT community, his commitment to the films he creates and to the importance of our film festival as a launch pad for the upcoming season in emerging queer cinema.
EDGE: Is there a single film in the festival that jumps out at you as your favorite?
Franc Castro: WOW! This is hard to answer because we have a great program!
"G.B.F." should not be missed! The film had its world premier at Tribeca and we will have the second screening and will be the first LGBT film festival to screen the film. Check out the HOT new trailer for the film on our website.
"Who’s Afraid Of Vagina Wolf." Director Anna Margarita Albelo is originally from Miami and she will be here with Guinevere Turner to present her film as a Work In Progress.
"Out In The Dark." This film is from Israel and will have you on the edge of your seat. The ending is intense! Director Michael Mayer will be attending for a Q&A. We will also present James Franco with an Ally Award. We are thrilled that James is coming to Miami to receive his award.
"The Rugby Player." We are proud to present the world premier of this film about Mark Bingham who was a passenger on the United flight on 9-11. It is believed that Mark along with other passengers stormed the cockpit and brought the plane down in rural Pennsylvania and prevented the terrorist from reaching the intended target of Washington DC. Mark was an avid videographer and so there is a lot of great footage of his life beginning from high school. His mother Alice Hoagland will be in attendance.
"In The Name Of." We are presenting the North American premiere of this Polish film about a gay priest. This film is beautifully shot and is topical with all of the changes happening with the Catholic church. This film won the Teddy Award for Best Feature. The Teddy Awards are presented in association with the Berlin International Film Festival and is the oldest organization to recognize achievements in queer cinema.
"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." This film is from Taiwan and is one of the best comedies I have seen in a long time. It made its World Premier in Berlin, it will screen at Tribeca for its North American premier and then straight to us. We will be the first LGBT film festival to present this film.
We are also presenting a "Sneak Preview" of a film from Cuba. This film shows not only the harsh reality of being gay in Cuba but also the harsh reality of life. This is a late entry into the festival but anyone that comes to see the film will realize why it was a necessity to include in our film program this year. The screening is scheduled for Sunday, May 5 at 9:15pm.
Other films not to be missed but I have already offered 7 films are: "Submerge," "Wildness," "Breaking Through," "I Do," "Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro," "I Am Divine," "Facing Mirrors," "Valentine Road," "Born This Way," "Interior. Leather Bar.", "Continental," "Pit Stop," "Hot Guys With Guns."
For more information about The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF), to view film trailers, or to purchase tickets or memberships, please visit the Festival’s website.