This year’s LGBTQ film series at the 19th annual Sarasota Film Festival, March 31 – April 9, will consist of five feature films, six short films and an LGBTQ panel.
“I’m most excited about the collaboration between the Harvey Milk Festival and the Fabulous Independent Film Festival, as well as the strengthening of our relationship between them,” SFF Director of Education and Community Outreach Shakira Refos says. “We are keeping these relationships going and building on them as a result of the LGBTQ programming.”
Refos also says Jason Benjamin, director of last year’s SFF film Suited, will be playing a large role in this year’s festival through his work with the Veterans Filmmaking Academy, a free program for local veterans to create documentaries and learn essential film production skills.
The discussion panel, “LGBTQ and Black Identities in Media,” is a free conversation and brunch at The Starlite Room on April 9 at noon. The panel is sponsored by Our Sarasota Fund, with donations to benefit ALSO Youth. Celebrity panelists include Tiq Milan, trans-activist and spokesperson for GLAAD; and Andrew Hevia, co-producer of Moonlight. Community panelists include Patrick Jackson, Florida Studio Theater Community Outreach and Education; and Mecca Zabriskie, Assistant Professor of Sociology. Co-moderators include Miles Iton, New College of Florida student body co-president; and Zara Barrie, senior writer at Elite Daily.
“I think it’s really important and relevant that stories are told that aren’t about the stereotypical black experience,” Refos says. “The panel will look into an average life of a person dealing with the repercussions of being in two marginalized groups. We want to show that there is room in Hollywood for everyday stories to be told and that black people won’t always be seen as the maid or the nurse or the judge.”
All feature and short films in the LGBTQ film series will be shown at the Hollywood 20 Theater. Feature films are as follows:
This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous
A documentary film by acclaimed Oscar winner Barbara Kopple in which transgender YouTube star, Gigi Lazzarato (Gigi Gorgeous), shares her life, transition, and fame. Her story includes losing her mother to cancer, coming out as gay, and living out loud to over 2.4 million YouTube subscribers (Saturday, April 1 at 6:15 p.m., Theater 10; Sunday, April 2 at 3:45 p.m., Theater 8).
The lives of three contemporary Palestinian women intertwine in a Tel Aviv apartment where they struggle to break free of societal and cultural expectations while discovering unity in the process (Saturday, April 1 at 1:00 p.m., Theater 8; Thursday, April 4 at 7:45 p.m., Theater 9).
The First Time Club
A local film directed by KT Curran and produced by Planned Parenthood’s “The Source,” four teenagers on the brink of adolescence embark on midnight adventures and unknowingly venture into the world of sex, drugs, and HIV. The film showcases difficulties teens face in today’s America and the unexpected consequences of their actions (Sunday, April 2 at 2:30 pm., Theater 10; Tuesday, April 4 at 1:45 p.m., Theater 10).
Frankie, a Brooklyn teen caught in between his cancer-ridden father and his mother’s pressure to get a girlfriend, resorts to causing trouble with delinquent friends and flirting with older men online. When his webcamming intensifies, Frankie must balance his increasing amount of hookups, a potential new girlfriend, and closeted sexuality (Friday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m., Theater 12; Sunday, April 9 at 11:00 a.m., Theater 7).
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, joins the men of his community in a remote mountain camp to initiate a group of teenage boys during Ukwaluka, an age old rite of passage into manhood. Tasked with mentoring Kwanda, a semi-westernized, defiant initiate, Xolani’s life begins to unravel as the observant boy discovers his best-kept secret when he tries to reignite relations with a fellow mentor. In a conflict of sexuality and masculinity, he must choose between his passionate love for his childhood friend or heed Kwanda’s exhortations to face an uncertain future (Thursday, April 6 at 1:45 p.m., Theater 12; Sunday, April 9 at 12:45 p.m., Theater 11).
Short films ranging from 6 to 16 minutes include:
A new kid makes a big impression at the high school boys’ basketball tryouts (Friday, April 7 at 3:45 p.m., Theater 7; Saturday, April 8 at 3:45 p.m., Theater 12).
The Mess He Made
A man’s journey as he waits for the results of his 15-minute Rapid HIV Test in a small town strip mall (Friday, April 7 at 2:30 p.m., Theater 9; Sunday, April 9 at 1:45 p.m., Theater 8).
It Was Yesterday
13-year-old girl Gio is the head of a boys’ gang and gets ready to compete with the boys to win the heart of her crush (Friday, April 7 at 2:30 p.m., Theater 9; Sunday, April 9 at 1:45 p.m., Theater 8).
An autobiographical tale of growing up gay in Soviet Union Russia, escaping, and finding a new form of oppression in America (Friday, April 7 at 5:00 p.m., Theater 9; Sunday, April 9 at 4:00 p.m., Theater 7).
Bayard & Me
Walter Naegle remembers Bayard Rustin, the March on Washington organizer, a civil rights movement leader, and his longtime partner (Saturday, April 1 at 11:00 a.m., Theater 12; Sunday, April 2 at 7:15 p.m., Theater 12).
A 15-year old gay teen is ready to stand up to his bullies, even his own father. Airs before In Between.
Jordy in Transitland
Jordy attempts to escape the persistent narrow-mindedness experienced as a transgender person (Saturday, April 1 at 11:00 a.m., Theater 12; Sunday, April 2 at 7:15 p.m., Theater 12).
Additionally, Sarasota’s monthly “Gay Guy Happy Hour” will highlight the LGBTQ film series on April 6 at 5:30 p.m., location TBA. Entry fee is $10 and will include appetizers, drink specials, and networking.
Josh Beadle, director of Sarasota OUT and Gay Guy Happy Hour, says the event will help raise money for LGBTQ programming. He says he is working vigilantly with Refos to encourage the LGBTQ community to view the films, which will help increase next year’s filming.
“I really related to Gigi Gorgeous’s story, so I’ve really been pushing that one as a feature to the transgender community in Sarasota,” Beadle says. “It really made me reflect on my life as an LGBT youth and made me wish I wouldn’t have hidden as much.”
Photos from SarasotaOut.com’s Gay Guide to the Sarasota Film Festival.