Behind the Screens

Even while opening night looms for this year's festival, director Robert Rosenberg is making plans for the future. Big plans. "This festival is only two years old, and we have a lot of room to grow," says Rosenberg, a lanky, energetic ex-New Yorker whose own film experience (he's an Emmy Award winner for his documentary Before Stonewall) shows in his programming, a sophisticated mix of mainstream features, adventurous independent projects, documentaries, and video. "South Florida lacks much exposure to unusual film forms, especially documentaries and short films," he says. "We don't have the resources like the New York museums or the film archives in Los Angeles. The festival helps fill a gap in film programming here. We want to expand, both in the length of the festival and also in programming at other times of the year."

Rosenberg sees the festival as an important nexus of activity in both the gay and film communities in South Florida. It already is an important fixture in gay Miami and Broward, offering an interesting mix of high art and party time that fills a void in local gay culture. Hence his grand scheme of mixing screenings with social events. "The parties and the panels are a key part of the festival's identity," he explains. "We want the audience members to have a chance to meet the filmmakers and respond to the films. And the filmmakers have the opportunity to exchange ideas with filmgoers. This is a way not only to entertain but to create community. Last year even just standing in line for tickets turned into these terrific little social events. When five hundred lesbians or Latin gay men turn up for a film, it's hard not to think, Hey, we really do have a community here."

Next time around: more films, more days. "I'd like to expand to two weeks next year, but we'll see how this one goes," he continues. "More panels, for sure. And in the long run, the festival may be able to offer grant support for gay filmmakers in South Florida or statewide."

And stay tuned for more -- much more -- Spanish-language offerings. "We are already the leading gay film festival for gay Latin films," Rosenberg says. "But since Miami is increasingly the center for Latin media, we want to grow along with it with more Latin films and filmmaker opportunities."


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