During his eight years as executive director of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF), Franc Castro has seen change. "The characters have a lot more depth and are dealing with issues beyond coming out. This is exciting because our sexuality is only a part of who we are," he explains.
While "coming out" was once a prevailing theme in gay cinema, LGBT films have progressed right along with the people whose stories they tell. Universal themes such as unrequited love, triumph over adversity, and loss of innocence are prominent, as are quirky comedies, riveting documentaries, and even Mean Girls-esque teen flicks featuring highly recognizable adult actors in supporting roles as parents and teachers.
This year's program features more than 65 films screened throughout ten days. That's a long way from the first festival 15 years ago, which featured 25 films during one weekend. Castro plans for MGLFF to continue growing under his direction. "We are bringing films that have world-premiered at Toronto International, Sundance, Berlin, South by Southwest, and Tribeca. We are the first major LGBT film festival on the calendar in North America, so in the next five years, I want to further solidify our position as one of the top LGBT film festivals, alongside Frameline in San Francisco, the oldest and largest LGBT film festival; Outfest in Los Angeles, the industry LGBT film festival; and Inside Out in Toronto, Canada's largest LGBT film festival."
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Fest: Movies That Go Beyond Coming Out
G.B.F.: 8 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Gusman Theater, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami. Tickets cost $10, or $25 for both the film and opening-night gala.
In the Name Of: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at O Cinema Miami Shores, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. Tickets cost $11.
La Partida: 9:15 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at O Cinema Miami Shores, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. Tickets cost $11.
Out in the Dark: 9:15 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Gusman Theater, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami. Tickets cost $10, or $25 for both the film and party.
The Rugby Player: 8 p.m. Monday, April 29, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $11.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $9.
With HBO Latin America as a sponsor and James Franco attending this year to receive an Ally Award, MGLFF shouldn't have much trouble becoming one of the world's top LGBT film festivals.
Castro was hesitant to choose favorites among this year's crop of 65 films. But we persisted, and he ultimately obliged. Here's what he has to say about the six MGLFF films you do not want to miss.
G.B.F.: Not surprisingly, the 2013 opening-night film ranks among Castro's top picks. Director Darren Stein, known for the colorful cult high school film Jawbreaker, hasn't strayed far from his previous subject matter. "G.B.F. is about popular girls fighting over the most sought-after accessory — a gay best friend," Castro says. "We will be the first LGBT film festival to screen the film."
Out in the Dark: "This Israeli film will have you on the edge of your seat. The ending is intense," Castro raves. Out in the Dark tells the story of Nimer, a Palestinian student who falls in love with an Israeli lawyer and finds himself in an impossible limbo, denied acceptance for his nationality and his sexuality. MGLFF will host a Q&A with director Michael Mayer at the screening; the film will also follow Franco's Ally Award presentation.
The Rugby Player: In light of recent, potentially terrorist-driven bombings in Boston, the subject matter of The Rugby Player is particularly resonant. It's "a film about Mark Bingham, who was a passenger on the United flight on 9/11. It is believed that Mark, along with other passengers, stormed the cockpit and brought the plane down in rural Pennsylvania and prevented the terrorists from reaching the intended target of Washington, D.C. Mark was an avid videographer, so there is a lot of great footage of his life," Castro explains. MGLFF's screening marks the world premiere of the film, and Bingham's mother, Alice Hoagland, will be present.
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In the Name Of: A tale about a conflicted gay priest might sound clichéd. But Castro insists there's more to Polish director Malgoska Szumowska's In the Name Of than first appears. "This film is beautifully shot and is topical with all the changes happening with the Catholic Church," he explains, noting the film won this year's prestigious Teddy Award for Best Feature.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow: This surprising Taiwanese film, Castro says, is "one of the best comedies I have seen in a long time." The story of ever-changing relationships, both in and out of marriage, won over audiences in Berlin and at Tribeca before making its LGBT festival premiere in Miami.
La Partida: Perhaps the most resonant film for Miami audiences will be La Partida. "This film shows not only the harsh reality of being gay in Cuba, but also the harsh reality of life on the island," Castro says. "It's a late entry into the festival, but anyone who comes to see the film will realize why it was a necessity to include in our film program this year."
More than 65 films, several filmmaker Q&A sessions, and other special events will take place this Friday through May 5 at venues across the city. Ticket prices vary. Visit mglff.com.