Strange Fruit

Take that, Anita Bryant! The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is reclaiming the orange

"It's all very queer, and I love it," Coombes says of the event, which was organized by Miami Beach Cinematheque curator Dana Keith. "It's taken a long time to plan — we started last August — and we're doing a lot of things that we have never done before. We hope the weather stays well."

The same goes for the MGLFF's first outdoor screening on May 4 at the Flamingo South Beach, the world premieres of director Casper Andreas's A Four Letter Word — a fun and frothy farce about gay clichés and sex addiction — and the winning HBO LGBT Script Writing Competition shorts.

As part of its mission to be a filmmaker-friendly festival, the MGLFF also will introduce ScriptLAB on May 5. Director/screenwriter Mary Guzman, whose short Do the Math screens the same day, will read her script Lost Dog in both English and Spanish. The hope is to drum up interest, and possible financial support for her project.

Both Sides of the Bed: I love you, but you're standing on my foot
Both Sides of the Bed: I love you, but you're standing on my foot

Details

April 27 through May 6 at Regal South Beach Cinema in Miami Beach, the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, Sunrise Cinemas at Gateway in Fort Lauderdale, and the Flamingo South Beach in Miami. Visit www.mglff.com for a complete schedule.

"We're doing it as an experiment," Coombes says. "I've been following this film project for five years. I like the script, but Mary needs help [getting financing]. Next year I hope to run it properly and have open submissions for scripts."

The MGLFF opens with director Duncan Roy's contemporary reworking of Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray. It ends May 6 with The Chinese Botanist's Daughter, director Dai Sijie's modern-day exploration of lesbianism in the Socialist republic. Potential highlights include the documentary Saving Marriage, which examines the aftermath of Massachusetts' decision to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot; Red Without Blue, about identical twin brothers, one of whom decides to undergo a sex change; Nina's Heavenly Delights, a Scottish comedy that reveals what happens after a woman returns to Glasgow three years after bailing on her wedding; The Two Sides of the Bed, a sequel to director Emilio Martínez Lázaro's The Other Side of the Bed; and A Jihad for Love, a work-in-progress documentary about homosexuality in the Islamic world that is receiving a fundraising screening.

And what would the MGLFF be without an appearance by Jamie Babbit? The director of the breezy MGLFF 2000 entry But I'm a Cheerleader is back with Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Blessed with what will doubtless be the most memorable film title of 2007, Babbit's loud and boisterous tribute to the riot grrl movement takes great pleasure in ridiculing D-cup envy as it espouses feminist principles.

"It's very important for a movie [such as Itty Bitty Titty Committee] to have a place where people can see it and enjoy it," Babbit says. "Gay and lesbian film festivals are great as a place for the community to see what's happening in the community.

Project Greenlight winner (and whipping boy) Pete Jones bounces back after the failure of Stolen Summer with Outing Riley, a Brothers McMullen-like character study of an Irish-American architect debating how best to come out to his homophobic siblings. Jones — who's straight and lives in Chicago with his wife and three kids — wrote, directed, and starred in Outing Riley because he was tired of Hollywood depicting homosexuals as "flamboyant sidekicks," and not like the gay guys he watches football games with on Sunday afternoons.

"I'm anxious to see the reaction," says Jones, who will screen his comedy for the first time for a predominately gay audience at the MGLFF. "I've had test screenings where gay members in the audience have said they had not been able to relate to the story, that their experience of coming out was completely different. Others have completely related."

For the attention-span-challenged, the MGLFF does offer a couple of clip collections with such self-explanatory titles as Hollywood KINK and LEZPLOITATION-Triple X Selects.

There are 100 films this year — up from 89 in 2006, but the increase comes in the number of shorts, which has jumped from 59 to 70. Hence the decision to jack up the number of shorts programs from seven to ten.

"We had a huge amount of shorts submissions, many of which were excellent," Coombes explains. "I didn't want to pass on them. It's sensible to grow the shorts programs, especially as many work together thematically."

Joining such tried and true programs as the PlanetOut Short Movie Awards, What Boys Like and What Girls Like is Futura, a collection of sci fi-theme shorts by women directors. In one of the Futura shorts, The Gendercator, a lesbian falls asleep in 1973 and wakes up in 2048. Gays and lesbians no longer exist — they have been subjected to sex reassignment surgery.

"I think we see this happen in the larger culture — think of Children of Men, The Fountain," says the film's director, Catherine Crouch, whose Rip Van Winkle-inspired satire will receive its world premiere on May 5 as part of the program. "We're uncomfortable with our own time, and we'll wonder what will happen in the future. I've never made a sci-fi film before, but the story fit."

In a case of quality trumping quantity, the MGLFF will honor the career of Israeli director Eytan Fox, whose four feature films include Walk on Water and Yossi and Jagger, on May 5. The festival will also unveil Fox's searing new drama, The Bubble, which depicts an ill-fated gay love affair between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian.

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