The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival marks its 16th anniversary with ten days of great works, both silly and groundbreaking, offering more than 60 films representative of 20 countries.
The festival has come a long way from its humble beginning as a three-day weekend affair. It has compiled a rich history of premieres and breakouts, and interim festival director Mark Gilbert has been on the board almost since the fest's inception. Though he's not a permanent head of festivities, he relishes the job and takes it seriously. New Times spoke with him about making the jump to honcho and what attendees can look forward to at this year's edition.
New Times: How different is it serving as director as opposed to being a board member?
Mark Gilbert: Way different! As a board member, you give ideas and check on execution. As an ED, you have to deal with all the minutiae, and I do mean every single detail. I guess being both the board chair and ED is the best of both worlds, because I give myself orders and then yell at myself when they are not done. More serious, I have learned how to deal intimately with the budget and how important it to use the budget in every decision — every hire, everything you do.
What role did you play in the selection of this year's films?
The hiring of a phenomenal programmer, Joel Bilancio. The involving of Victor Gimenez to handle the programming committee. All I did was give them a mission, and they added the steroids. The results have been sensational — one of the best film programs in years.
What's the process of selection?
We start open submissions in December. We invite filmmakers from all over the world to submit films for consideration in our festival. Being around for 16 years certainly helps, as does the relationship of our programmers. It goes through committee, where members watch the films and review them. Those results are submitted to the programmer, and together with the head of the program committee, they decide what is accepted and what slot it will be awarded — opening, centerpiece, closing, spotlight, world premiere, U.S. premiere, etc. All are taken into consideration. Then venues, size location, formats played, and other factors go into consideration to develop the final program. We collectively make sure that opening and other important films are slotted to maximize attendance.
Do you think your involvement with other local LGBT organizations, such as the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Miami Beach Pride, helps you in directing MGLFF?
Absolutely. My show gave a voice to gay South Florida, and I was known as the voice of the community, hosting hundreds of events all over town. I loved what this community was doing to bring not only equality and political awareness but also the incredible caliber of the organizations that were bettering our quality of life.
What would you say is the main goal of MGLFF?
To tie a community together through film. To give thousands the opportunity to experience gay film with others who share the experience in a similar way. To educate, inspire, and generally share various aspects of who we are as a community — our ups, downs, joys, wishes, loves, values, and so much more.
What direction do you see MGLFF going in the future?
I like the path we have turned onto now. We are upping our game in every way and doing all we can to make this festival world-class. In the end, even though we have been so meaningful to our community, we want to be an even brighter shining light.
Have you noticed a change in film admissions to the festival this year from last year?
I think that changes every year. Filmmakers from all over the world do what they do best, make films. Their ideas, concepts, dreams, and visions are limited only by their brilliance and imagination. We are simply part of that journey.
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Did you make any changes in how MGLFF was run this year from previous years?
So many... The biggest is upping our game to produce the best roster of films ever.
What can audiences expect from this year's films?
One helluva good time. We have one of the best programs in this festival's history, something for everyone. Gay, lesbian, bi, trans, straight, black, white, brown, yellow, purple, green, left-handed, right-handed — there is a film this year that will entertain and inspire you.