It’s time for anyone who wants a heavy dose of queer cinema in their lives to get excited: The MiFo (Miami/Fort Lauderdale) LGBT Film Festival hits town this month. Formerly the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF), the fest is now split into two editions — one in Miami and one in Fort Lauderdale. The 18th-annual Magic City edition takes place Friday, April 22, through Sunday, May 1.
The opening-night feature, Helena Bergström’s A Holy Mess (En Underbar Jävla Jul), kicks off the festival's ten days of programming. Rebranded last year, the festival’s motto, “United We Film,” is a telling choice for the options offered. The fest's selection covers the spectrum of queer lifestyles with 39 features, 14 documentaries, and 31 shorts.
Aside from screening films, the festival also encourages attendees to linger and converse. “The point is we’re all the same in the end; we’re all coming together to share our experiences, watch our stories on the big screen, and gather before and after to talk about what we saw,” MiFo executive director Victor Gimenez says.
“We want the festival to be more than going to the movies. We want it to be a community experience where you come together to enjoy the film and then talk about what you just saw.”
Gimenez's mantra ties into the partnerships MiFo forges throughout the community. Pridelines, Aqua Foundation for Women, the Alliance for GLBTQ Youth, and even other film festivals such as Popcorn Frights and the Miami Jewish Film Festival all collaborate to support various films.
The festival tries to open itself up to audiences who might be unfamiliar with queer experiences. But in the same vein, it wants to give LGBT viewers something they might not be use to. “I think there have been some good films this year that people talk about just because they’re not the standard story or they make you reconsider how you see things,” Gimenez says.
Regarding the lineup, he brings up a couple of films he thinks fit that description. Alison Armstrong’s documentary The Guy With the Knife is one. It was filmed over the course eight years and traces the friendship between a gay-rights activist and a convicted gay-bashing murderer. Gimenez explains it “presented a case that I remember well. I like that it comes from the point of view of the individual who's in jail. It’s an interesting thing to see from a different context that's not from the LGBT perspective.”
Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride, a documentary about a trans woman in Florida who owned an auto-wrecking company before becoming a dominatrix and trans activist, is another such film. “When I first saw it, my first thought was, This shit only happens in Florida, and it’s really not your typical transgender story,” Gimenez says. The film will have its world premiere at MiFo.
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Something that organizers changed this year is announcing the winners of the jury prizes before opening night. It’s a great way for MiFo to let audiences know which films the fest favors while still allowing for surprises once the audience award voting rolls around.
Best Feature Film goes to Closet Monster (with Other People and Girls Lost as runnerup and honorable mention, respectively). Best Documentary Film honors Remembering the Man (with The Guy With the Knife and Women He’s Undressed as runnerup and honorable mention). And as for the shorts, Thanks for Dancing is the winner and Spark the runnerup.
“I’ve heard too many times in the past: ‘Oh, I wish I’d known that was the winner before — I would have gone to see it!’" Gimenez says. "So I thought this time we’d let people know in advance."
MiFo LGBT Film Festival
Friday, April 22, through Sunday, May 1. For a complete schedule and tickets, visit mifofilm.com.