TIGLFF is back on both sides of the bay with films to heal and celebrate the LGBT community

By : Jeremy Williams
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Art has a power to it that helps move emotions in a person and a community, and no medium in art does that more powerfully than film. For the 27th year, the Tampa Bay area looks to honor that medium with the International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, better known as TIGLFF.

TIGLFF will run 65 films – 32 feature length and 33 shorts – and 35 programs representing 18 different countries from September 30 to October 8 on both sides of the bay, including the venue where it all started, the Tampa Theatre.

While the theme for TIGLFF, CommUNITY, was announced back in May, it takes on a deeper meaning since the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando that killed 49 people and injured 53 June 12. The festival looks to not only celebrate diversity in film, but also to honor and heal the community.

“From the beginning [of TIGLFF] on opening night, we’ll start the healing by doing a short film on Pulse and looking back on the year and what the community has been through,” says Scott Skyberg, TIGLFF’s executive director. “You’re going to see the struggle with the trans community in some of the films, and the struggles that LGBT youth have in dealing with and coming to terms with gender and sexuality – how they can communicate with others.”

TIGLFF has always looked at film as a way to remember and heal after tragedy in our community. Earlier this year, TIGLFF held a screening of Upstairs Inferno, a documentary about the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans that was deliberately set on fire in 1973, resulting in what was the largest gay mass murder in U.S. history until this past June.

“To see these films, with friends in a safe environment, and have a chance to heal or mourn with people who understand and may be going through the same thing,” Skyberg says, “it allows us to move through mourning and healing together, and even uncover some of those feelings that someone didn’t know they had – or go through the healing that they think they didn’t need to go through.”

It’s not just film, it’s the arts in general that enable us to deal with suppressed emotions and face a tragedy – from still art and photography to theater and live performances – but film seems to have more mass appeal, because it can get to most anybody.

“Once you see a film on the screen and it strikes you in that moment and you’re among your community who is trying to heal, as a whole, I think it is very progressive in helping a person to move through that,” Skyberg says. “You’re going to see some of it this year [dealing with Pulse], but in the upcoming years, I think you will see a lot more of it.”

Several documentaries have already made their way to the small screen, with MTV’s True Life series doing an episode on Pulse survivors and Ellen Page and Ian Daniel’s Viceland docu-series Gaycation looking at the affected communities in Orlando after the tragedy, but as filmmakers become more involved with those impacted and hear their stories, audiences will start to see more feature-length and film shorts flooding into the festival circuit.

“I already know several filmmakers and artists working on [Pulse-related] projects, and there are things in development that [TIGLFF] will be looking at in the next couple of years as they become available,” Skyberg says. “Films on other LGBT issues, like the epidemic of trans murders in this country, are also starting to work their way out to festivals and the public, so I think we will see more of those films in the coming years too.”

Skyberg looks forward to seeing projects come forward in the upcoming years from filmmakers directly affected by tragedies like Pulse.

“That’s a whole other process of healing going on,” Skyberg says. “It’s very powerful to sit as an audience member and see the process of their healing on the big screen, so we’ll be looking at them as they come available, not only for the festival but also for our monthly film series as well.”

The theme of commUNITY is putting the emphasis on “unity,” and leading up to and during the film festival, TIGLFF will be partnering with LGBT groups and organizations for many events.

TIGLFF will start atop the Bank of America building at the Tampa Club for the film festival’s launch party Sept. 17.

“It’s going to be a great. We will run trailers for the films that will play during the festival, as well as play some of the shorts,” Skyberg says. “We will also have a silent auction that will feature a piece from world-renowned artist Alberto Murillo.”

The festival goes back to its roots, opening September 30 at the Tampa Theatre, where TIGLFF will partner with Equality Florida.

“Opening night will be a celebration in the community as we take a moment to have that peace and reset for Orlando and go into celebrating the achievements in LGBT film,” Skyberg says.

After an introduction from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Equality Florida chief executive officer Nadine Smith, the opening film will be Eddie Rosenstein’s The Freedom to Marry, a documentary that takes us behind the scenes, in real time, capturing the fears, determination and the unfathomable hard work of Evan Wolfson and Mary Bonauto, two of the attorneys who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges for the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Rosenstien, Wolfson and Bonauto are all expected to be in attendance.

The feature documentary will be preceded by Vicki Nantz’s short film We Are Gay, We Are Proud, We Are Orlando, which looks at the aftermath of the worst anti-gay hate crime in our nation’s history and celebrates the indomitable LGBT community and the grieving city that stood against hate.

Leslie Jordan will be a part of TIGLFF with his new one-man show, Straight Outta Chattanooga, at the Tampa Theatre Oct. 5.

TIGLFF will close the festival on the other side of the bay at the Sundial in St. Petersburg on Oct. 8 with a pair of comedies: Ingrid Jungermann’s Women Who Kill and the third installment of BearCity from director Douglas Langway.

Women Who Kill stars Jungermann and Ann Carr as ex-girlfriends who now host a local true crime podcast that looks into the possibility that one of their love interests may also be a murderer.

Women Who Kill will be followed by two shorts: Ella Lentini’s Piece of Cake and Jeremy Dehn’s Happy F-ing Valentine’s Day.

BearCity 3 stars Daniel Franzese (Mean Girls, HBO’s Looking) and Kathy Najimy (Sister Act, Hocus Pocus) and take a looks at love, marriage, divorce and bankruptcy among the men of the BearCity gang.

BearCity 3 will be followed by the musical short Son of a Preacher Man, Tom Goss’ gay spin on the Dusty Springfield classic.

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