Sarasota Film Festival celebrates the LGBT community

By : Krista DiTucci
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jason benjamin

director/producer Jason Benjamin

SARASOTA – Come out and support the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival as it features seven LGBT feature films, five short films and the free panel “Making LGBTQ Films.” Sarasota Film Festival is partnering with the 2016 Harvey Milk Festival and is receiving grant funding for LGBT series from Our Sarasota Fund.

To celebrate the festival’s LGBT presence, Sarasota’s monthly “Gay Guy Happy Hour” (G2H2) will feature special guest director/producer Jason Benjamin. Benjamin made his directorial debut with Suited, a documentary about the Brooklyn-based tailoring company Bindle and Keep which serves the LGBTQ community. G2H2 will take place on April 7 from 5:30 to 8:30 at Aloft Sarasota, a new festival sponsor.

G2H2 director of operations Eduardo Anaya says April’s G2H2 will feature a 50/50 raffle to benefit the festival, as well as a $10 cover charge, complimentary appetizers, and a cash bar happy hour.

“This year more than any other year, I see a strong LGBT presence in the festival’s itinerary,” Anaya says. “The LGBT nightlife in Sarasota is pretty much gone, so it’s awesome for them (the festival) to take notice and want us present.”

SFF director John Secor says this year’s festival will feature more lesbian and gender identity films than before. Secor attributes the increase to his community partnership with Anaya and Josh Beadle, event coordinator and owner of Beadle Media. He says when the SFF hosted G2H2 last year, over 80 people showed up at the office and the festival procured a film.

“I feel like, as a viewer, you want to be transported but also feel like you’re connected,” Anaya says. “Seeing strong lead roles of gay males or queer people makes you feel like you’re not alone.”

In addition to giving G2H2 members a chance to meet Jason Benjamin, the event will also help promote the “Making LGBTQ films” panel on April 9 at noon at the Florida Studio Theatre. New College professor Emily Fairchild will be the panel moderator. Participants will include Jennifer Prediger, David Hunter of the SFF film First Girl I Loved, Harvey Milk Festival director Shannon Fortner and Jason Benjamin. The panel will discuss how to make LGBTQ-themed films that will serve the LGBTQ community while also appealing to mainstream audiences.

“I moved to Sarasota from New York City about 19 months ago,” Secor says, “and I feel like Sarasota is more cohesive as an LGBT community than New York City. We all look out for each other and help each other out. It has been a really great experience.”

Feature films include Borderline, First Girl I Loved, The Guys Next Door, Kiki, Other People, Suited and Tickled. Although some have debuted already, viewers can still see Borderline on April 9 at 1 p.m. and April 10 at 1:15 p.m., as well as First Girl I Loved on April 8 at 4:45 p.m. and April 10 at 6:45 p.m. Feature films will be shown at the Florida Studio Theatre.

“Every time our creative director Michael Dunaway talks about First Girl I Loved, he gets tears in his eyes,” Secor says. “Our tag line is ‘find yourself in film,’ and Michael says he has found himself in this lesbian film.”

Short films include Victor XX, Pink Boy, About James, Penny and Dee and Viktor. Future show times are as follows:

Victor XX: April 8, 2:30 p.m., in Hollywood 20 Theater 11

Pink Boy: April 8, 7:45 p.m., in Hollywood 20 Theater 12

About James: April 10, 10:30 a.m., in Hollywood 20 Theater 11

Viktor: shown before First Girl I Loved, April 8 at 4:45 p.m. and April 10 at 6:45 p.m., at Florida Studio Theatre

“After two years of working in the Sarasota Film Festival and being a movie buff, I think motion picture is the most effective medium for changing lives and changing the world,” Secor says. “We still have a ways to go in the LGBT world – look at what’s happening in North Carolina and Mississippi. But the pendulum will continue to swing.”

For tickets, event schedules or to support the Sarasota Film Festival, please visit SarasotaFilmFestival.com.

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