It's hard to be a queer film lover sometimes; struggling to find movies that offer reasonable representation or narratives more interesting than "hunky gay man falls in love". And, while those movies are going to get made and folks are going to watch them on Netflix, a lot of queer film fans want more, and Miami doesn't always do much to satisfy those needs.
Cue the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, whose 17th edition kicks off this Friday with Boulevard, starring Robin Williams. In addition to that film, the festival, which hits a collection of South Beach theaters from April 24 through May 3, boasts quite a selection of movies. And while you can check out the full schedule on their website, here are some of the films New Times is looking forward to.
1. 54: The Director's Cut
Over a decade ago, Mark Christopher made the queer disco movie about Studio 54 that the world desperately needed, starring Ryan Philippe, Neve Campbell, Selma Hayek, and Mike Meyers. Except, well, he didn't. Most of its queerness was removed due to studio interference, and here in 2015, we're offered up an edition of the film that's essentially a completely new work of art. Plus, it's the only sort-of-classic in the line-up, and revisiting controversial films is always worthwhile.
2. Women Directors
Two female-directed works in the festival sound particularly fascinating. Shonali Bose's Margarita with a Straw tells the story of a bisexual woman of color with cerebral palsy who moves from Delhi to Manhattan to study at NYU, and falls in love with an activist in the city. The rarity of a queer film featuring a protagonist with a disability that especially makes this one something to look forward to.
The other is Catherine Stewart's While You Weren't Looking which covers three queer relationships in post-Apartheid South Africa, with focus shifting through multiple ages, races, and styles of living. It's the kind of multi-narrative film you definitely hope will end up being great because of just how much queer living it covers.
3. Documentaries Galore!
No general film festival is complete without some documentaries and there's a solid few to choose from here, but three stand out. The first comes from filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz, whose last two feature-length docs — Vito and I Am Divine — haven't been perfect, but made for a rather good time on interesting subjects. This time, with Tab Hunter Confidential, it's all about the '50s boy next door Hunter, and his career in Hollywood as a closeted homosexual.
The next is all too different, focusing on queer acceptance in sports. Game Face tells the parallel stories of the first trans MMA pro fighter and a gay college basketball player in Oklahoma, following the obstacles they deal with due to their respective queer identities. Best of all, both subjects and filmmaker Michiel Thomas will be in attendance.
Finally, there's Mala Mala, whose beautiful trailer offers a lot of promise in a film entirely dedicated to intimately showing the lives of nine trans-identifying individuals and drag queens in Puerto Rico.
4. The Queer Films from Sundance
Sundance handed us a pretty cool little slate of queer films this year. And MGLFF has its fair share of that bunch this year. There's the thriller The Amina Profile, the James Franco-starring I Am Michael, Sebastian Silva's Nasty Baby, and the romantic drama The Summer of Sangaile. We can't say whether they'll be great or not — Franco's presence in anything queer is something to worry about — but some of them certainly sound good, and considering Silva's past work proves he's quite the filmmaker to watch (and Kristen Wiig is in it), we'll give Nasty Baby the biggest thumbs-up on the list.
5. The Foreign Stuff
This is a seriously broad category, but we'll just hit you with a few choices that stand out in particular among everything else. The Greek film Xenia boasts inspiration from Araki, Almodovar, and Eurovision of all things, and seems like a fascinating little movie about brotherly love. Then there's the always good François Ozon's latest film, Une nouvelle amie, which sounds like a riveting psychological drama. The Spanish film Amor Eterno sounds as deliciously thrilling as Stranger by the Lake was last year. And finally, there's the Austrian film that sounds too good to be true: The Last Summer of the Rich. Nothing says appealing foreign cinema like a decidedly retro-looking Fassbinder-esque ultra-colorful movie about a rich queer woman who finds a lover in her grandfather's nun. Yeah, that's right. It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes you need that a festival.
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6. In Case You Missed It at Miami International Film Festival (MIFF)
And finally, there's a few films that you might have missed out on at MIFF! There's Pat Mills' Guidance, the dark comedy that was one of the stand-outs at the festival this year. Then we have the Geraldine Chaplin starring Sand Dollars, in which she falls in love with a young local woman who she supports financially in hopes of romance. And then there's MIFF Lexus Ibero-American Opera Prima Competition winner En las gamas de gris (In the Grayscale), Claudia Marcone's debut feature in which he explores the relationship between a man in mid-life crisis and the younger extroverted man he falls in love with.
For more information, including a full schedule, locations and prices, visit mglff.com.
Follow Juan Barquin on Twitter @woahitsjuanito