On September 12th through the 14th I had the pleasure of attending QFilms, The Long Beach LGBTQ Film Festival produced by The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach as a benefit for their organization. Over three days The Center works with the fantastic, and conveniently located next door, Art Theater of Long Beach to show 14 films and 29 shorts focused on the LGBTQ community.
The producers, Ron Sylvester and Porter Gilberg (who basically run The Center) do a great job of finding films that cover every letter of oft repeated, even in this article, LGBTQ acronym. The film fest takes over the Art Theater and spills into The Center to allow ample viewing space for all the films. Many of the films have Q&A’s after the film. If you want to mingle with the creators further you can head to the lobby of The Center which has been turned into an ongoing cocktail reception complete with a full bar to get drinks from.
However, there was one thing I wish the film fest had more of – people like me. There were plenty of people at the film festival but I don’t think it accurately covered the diversity of the Long Beach gay community. I didn’t see a plethora of the 21-40 year old demographic filling the theaters. Obviously not every movie is for everyone but things like this film festival help keep us viable as a community. The Center is an important resource for many LGBTQ and supporting it helps so many young, and old, members of our community. This film festival has been going on for 21 years. It’s a thing. Next year make sure you don’t miss out. Sunday Funday can still happen, they have a full bar after all.
“But how were the movies?”, you ask. Better than I expected to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of gay and lesbian films. I think they often have bad acting and production values and represent what people “think” actually happens in real gay life. And when you add in the gratuitous sex scenes because “It’s a gay flick” it just becomes too much for me to take seriously. Luckily, as time has gone on we have gotten better films about gay and lesbian life. Some of which were represented over the weekend.
Some of my favorites from each category:
Letter to Anita – directed by Andrea Meyerson
This documentary tells the story of Ronni Sanlo who lost her kids in a custody battle in Florida in the 70’s because she was a lesbian. At the time, the infamous Anita Bryant had just waged a war on homosexuals and it was law that gays and lesbians were not “fit” parents. The documentary uses a letter Ronnie Sanlo wrote to Bryant, as a cathartic exercise, as the guiding narrative force. 80’s mom fave Meredith Baxter serves as the narrator and sometime interviewer.
If you don’t know who Anita Bryant is, then you have some homework to do. This documentary could serve as research since it gives a nice history of the time period and the havoc she caused as a crusader for family values. Anita Bryant is a shared part of our history that many gay and lesbians aren’t aware of and should be.
I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion as Ronnie Sanlo persevered despite her family being ripped apart. What unfolds is a inspiring story about one woman making a difference in so many lives and the forgiveness we must all offer in order to move past our anger and hurt.
Hopefully, this doc will make it on to Netflix and you can check it out at home and get your homework started.
Cupcakes – Directed by Eyton Fox
This movie was my favorite of everything I saw. This amazingly cute movie comes to us from Israel. Cupcakes tells the story of six “friends” that live in an apartment building in Tel Aviv. One night while watching an international American Idol-ish competition, Universong, these six very different people spontaneously create a tune to comfort an upset friend. The song, written by one of the Scissor Sisters, is catchy and the group gets entered in the competition. Performing on stage for millions is definitely not what these people had in mind. But this life changing experience causes feelings and emotions about their personal happiness to emerge and each person is changed by the experience.
I loved this movie. The production values were great. The art direction was great; the thought that went into the color palette was much appreciated. I loved that not every character was gay or lesbian (just like real life). It was cute. It was funny. It was touching. It was cheesy. But it was never too much. Plus, the gay guys were very easy on the eyes.
I know reading subtitles are not for everyone but this movie was worth it.
I was able to see the Men’s Short Films program and there were a few gems.
Spooners – Written and Directed by Bryan Horch.
A very funny look at the process one gay couple goes through to purchase a new mattress from a super store.
Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_0Wj4W-QMo
Families are Forever – Directed by Vivian Keiman
This tearjerker of a short documentary tells the story of one very unique Mormon family and how the dealt with their gay son…in a positive light. Refreshing.
Here’s the trailer: http://vimeo.com/68510570
There were even more films I wasn’t able to see but I’m sure were great. Gay and Lesbian film has assuredly matured in the last few years. And while gays and lesbians become more mainstream every year, events like QFilms become even more important. Even though it seems like we “won” on so many levels, they help us remember where we started, how far we have come and where we need to finish. If you didn’t get to make QFilms, don’t miss out on this great celebration of “gay” next year. Plus, telling your friends you went to film festival hits home the point that you really ARE a big deal.