New year, new venues for TIGLFF screenings

By : Joseph Kissel
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Tampa Bay – Aside from entertaining and engaging films, community is at the heart of TIGLFF.

The film festival is coming into its 25th year of bringing “queer” folks together in a dark room to laugh, cry and think about our stories.

That’s even as Hollywood streams high-quality depictions of LGBT life right into our homes or even pocketable devices.

“You don’t see as much queer cinema as you did in the 70s,” says Margaret Murray, Executive Director of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. “A lot of the new queer cinema has been assimilated into the Hollywood system. You see many more gay and lesbian people having careers in mainstream filmmaking. Todd Haynes is a perfect example.”

The upcoming screenings of Helicopter Mom on Jan. 28 as well as acclaimed documentary Through a Lens Darkly and Boy Meets Girl show how far queer culture and LGBT independent filmmaking has come since 1977, when the first festival of its kind premiered in San Francisco.

The concept of community comes into particular focus with Through a Lens Darkly, an examination of how African Americans represented their families in photography throughout the years.

“There are things kept quiet in those photos,” says Program Director KJ Mohr. “The stories of an uncle who dressed in drag and his gay brother are really illuminating.

“Nobody has looked at photography this way before,” Murray adds.

Following the free screening Feb. 25 at the new Studio Movie Grill in Tampa, Bob Devin Jones will lead a discussion regarding the film’s themes of representation and of what is depicted in the photography and what is hidden.

“It’s going to be an incredibly important part of the screening,” Murray says.

And it will be a historic night as well.

“It’s the last chance to see these films with an audience,” Mohr adds.

Helicopter Mom leads the trio of first quarter films with a comedy starring Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

She’s a mom so cool with her son being gay—setting up dates, applying for LGBT college scholarships—that she might be making the decision for him in true helicopter mom fashion.

“It’s a funny, romantic coming-of-age story,” Murray says of the film.

Mohr said the festival is committed to showing entertaining titles all year long.

“For my first year, I didn’t know the audience well,” she says. “People want to laugh and be entertained. I don’t take it lightly that people are spending their time and effort coming to us. I know how much effort it takes to get my butt in that seat.”

For those looking for laughs in unlikely places, the final screening March 18 of Boy Meets Girl, once again shows how far queer cinema has come.

In the film, Ricky is a gorgeous transgender girl in Kentucky who’s finding it difficult to meet the right guy and may consider dating a girl, forcing those in her life to come to terms with their feelings toward her.

“I also like this film because it’s set in the south,” says Mohr. A lot of films depicting LBGT issues in the south tend to focus on being in the closet and homophobia, Mohr said. “This film isn’t necessarily in that vein.”

Helicopter Mom and Boy Meets Girl will screen at freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg.

“We love working with them,” says Murray.“ They really understand what the film festival is all about. This festival is solidly built on community. This is our 25th year, and it’s so important to have a place for people to come together and see films they aren’t going to see anywhere else.”

For more information about the festival and the films, visit TIGLFF.com.

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