Still mad you didn't meet James Franco last year when he promoted the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival's screening of his film Interior. Leather Bar.? Don't fret. Franco's impish grin and squinty gaze may be gone, but he's not the only creative genius making LGBT films.
The world-renowned festival turns 16 in 2014, and to celebrate, it's packing 65 films into its schedule. Of course, it's impossible to catch them all, and such long lists can be daunting, so we asked program chair Victor Gimenez to single out the six most unmissable, must-see selections.
Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (The Way He Looks)
MGLFF opens with the North American premiere of The Way He Looks, based on the award-winning short film I Don't Want to Go Back Alone. This atypical coming-of-age story deals with some typical stuff, particularly adolescent angst, first love, and helicopter moms. The story unfolds through the eyes of Leonardo, a blind teenager trying to make it on his own. When Gabriel, the new kid in town, shows up, Leonardo's plan to travel to another country as an exchange student begins to look less appealing.
Directed by Daniel Ribeiro. Portuguese with English subtitles. 8 p.m. Friday, May 2, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets to the film cost $20, and admission to both the film and the opening-night party costs $40.
An MGLFF Women's Spotlight selection, BFFs tells the age-old story of best friends who might (or might not) be more than friends. Samantha and Kat pretend to be romantically involved to take advantage of a free stay at a weekend couples' retreat. The plot may be clichéd, but the clever writing and superior acting prove to be otherwise.
Directed by Andrew Putschoegl. 7 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at the Colony Theatre. Tickets to the film cost $15, and admission to both the film and Women's Spotlight Party costs $25.
Stoic, straitlaced police officer Jakob is strangely drawn to an elusive figure lurking in the forest outside a small town in East Germany. The mysterious figure in white wields a samurai sword and decapitates innocent villagers, yet goodie-two-shoes Jakob is compelled to follow the feral creature, forcing the officer to confront his own primal truth. Der Samurai is more about the battle between our id and our superego than it is about a cop trying to catch a killer.
Directed by Till Kleinhart. German with English subtitles. 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $12.
Snails in the Rain
MGLFF presents the Florida premiere of this Israeli film set in 1989 Tel Aviv. You don't find many American films dealing with closeted characters these days, but in some parts of the world, you can still lose your life over the person you love. Boaz is a linguistics student in a committed, heterosexual relationship who begins receiving love letters from another man. The string of letters seems obsessive and contains information about Boaz's previous sexual explorations with other men. Both the sender and the receiver are deeply closeted in this smart and emotional film.
Directed by Yariv Mozer. Hebrew with English subtitles. 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at O Cinema Miami Shores, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. Tickets cost $12.
South Beach on Heels
Fans of RuPaul's Drag Race, rejoice! South Beach on Heels is what Drag Race would be if it aired on a premium cable channel instead of Logo. Think of this film as the uncensored Miami edition; it might even contain more drama than you can handle. MGLFF's Made in Miami Spotlight film takes audiences on an 80-minute "backstage, front-stage, behind-the-scenes" tour of Miami's drag community, revealing the private lives of Miami's brightest and boldest drag personalities.
Directed by Dmitry Zhitov. 9:45 p.m. Friday, May 9, at Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Tickets to the film cost $15, and admission to both the film and the Made in Miami Spotlight Party costs $30.
My Straight Son
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LGBT audiences are accustomed to coming-out films in which the lead character, usually an adolescent, comes to terms with his sexuality and notifies family, friends, and co-workers of the surprising discovery. My Straight Son, an MGLFF Centerpiece selection, gives the usual coming-of-age tale a twist. Diego lives a shallow and glamorous life as a successful fashion photographer until life throws him not one, but two curve balls. First, Diego's life partner falls into a coma, but then, and maybe worse, his estranged (and straight) son, Armando, comes to live with him. Both light and dark, the film expertly addresses the difficulties between an openly gay parent and his less than tolerant teenage son.
Directed by Miguel Ferrari. Spanish with English subtitles. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at O Cinema Miami Shores. Tickets to the film cost $15, and admission to both the film and the Centerpiece Party costs $30.