When the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF) launched 13 years ago, it screened mainly short films with local talent over the course of three days. This year, the festival will span 11 days and showcase more than 50 films — dramas, light and dark comedies, documentaries, and animated flicks — from as far away as Italy, Israel, Spain, Germany, France, and Denmark. That's coming a long way, baby.
The program includes a documentary about Rock Hudson, a film portraying a confused woman hitchhiking through Canada, and a quirky comedy about a geeky, teenage hermaphrodite. The characters in this year's offerings run the gamut when it comes to race, ethnicity, religion, and age.
"This festival will entertain, educate, and inspire our community," MGLFF chair Lily Saborit says. "The films raise consciousness and awareness of issues and concerns of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual communities. We have a film for everyone — some deal with difficult and powerful issues, and others touch your heart."
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2011
For tickets and information, call 305-534-9924 or visit mglff.com. Tickets also may be purchased at the guest services counter at Regal Cinemas South Beach (1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach) from noon to 10 p.m. MGLFF feature film ticket prices range from $7 to $12.
Here we review a handful of the films screening at this year's fest.
Nicknamed "Spork" by her pot-smoking guardian/brother because she was born with both male and female genitalia, the title character is a frizzy-haired, four-eyed geek who gets picked on by a clique of mean girls at school. The film — which shares plot points with Napoleon Dynamite, including the dance contest at the end — pokes fun at itself by following the typical recipe for outcast-teen movies: the mean popular kid, the one true friend, and the redeeming finale that catapults the social pariah into instant popularity. But writer/director J. B. Ghuman Jr. uses these conventions tongue-in-cheek to tell a unique and dark story, not to capitalize on cheap laughs. The cast of mostly preteens and teens is phenomenal — from Sydney Park, who plays the jive-talking, booty-popping Tootsie Roll, Spork's first real friend, to Michael William Arnold, in the role of the effeminate Charlie, who has an obsession with Justin Timberlake. A few issues are left unexplained, perhaps intentionally. Although the movie teems with heavy subtext about Charlie's homosexuality, he never "comes out" and instead winds up as Spork's boyfriend. Still, it's hard to hold anything against a flick that includes Dimples Tee and JJ Fad on its soundtrack. 7 p.m. Monday, April 25, at Regal Cinemas South Beach.
This UK film would have utterly failed had the two leads lacked chemistry. Fortunately for writer/director Andrew Haigh, Tom Cullen (Russell) and Chris New (Glen) play off each other like drunken newlyweds. And in a sense, that's what they are. The two meet at a gay bar and Russell takes Glen home, but instead of an awkward sunrise or the walk of shame the next morning, these guys feel there is a reason to stick together — even if it's only for the weekend. Over the next couple of days, they talk about their lives, gay marriage, and the importance of being out — and, charmingly, they tend to disagree on almost everything. The lesson here is that we can agree to disagree about religion, politics, and philosophy and still enjoy drinking, snorting coke, smoking pot, and having sex. The intense affair ends when Glen leaves for a two-year art seminar in Portland, Oregon. Glen's abrupt departure is unfortunate not only for Russell but also for the audience: After watching the two men share ideas and bodily fluids for two hours, we need more than just a weekend. 7 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.
We Have to Stop Now 2
We Have to Stop Now 2 would have served better as a season's worth of TV episodes. And the players are more than aware of this — they call this the "feature cut" of Season 2 of the web series of the same name. Executive producers and codirectors Jill Bennett and Cathy DeBuono play Kit and Dyna, married therapists who wrote a best-selling book titled How to Keep a Marriage Together Without Trying. But now they want a divorce. In order to prevent this potentially sales-killing event, the two ladies engage the services of a couples' therapist — played surprisingly well by lesbian stand-up comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer. Ann Noble's script is clever and often funny, but it would garner more laughs without the weak and obtrusive score. Noble also gives a standout performance as Kit's sister Cindy, a pot-smoking savant who shows off her skills speaking French and kissing. The characters each have a je ne sais quoi that keeps the audience engaged despite the soundtrack. 7 p.m. Sunday, April 24 at Regal Cinemas South Beach.
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Hello My Name Is Lesbian
Apparently the United States isn't the only nation that has made it difficult for homosexuals to live their lives openly. Danish documentarians Haahr Andersen and Minna Grooss have put together historic footage from the past 50 years and interspersed it with current interviews to document the lives of lesbians and the public misconceptions in their home country. Although the film centers on Denmark, the theme is universal, making it easy for most lesbians to identify with the stereotypes and issues discussed. For the most part, Hello My Name Is Lesbian relies on the interview subjects, but some interesting historical tidbits are thrown in, such as a trip to Femo Island, a venue where hippie/militant lesbians would come together in "masturbation groups." It's liberating to see ladies of all ages, including one 84-year-old, discuss their love of women. 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at Regal Cinemas South Beach.
To paraphrase David Spade, I liked this movie better the first time I saw it — when it was called Crash. Just like the 2006 Best Picture Oscar winner, Germany's Shahada explores separate lives in their own state of crisis that intersect in sometimes unexpected ways. The difference is that Crash confronted race relations, while Shahada tackles religion. The steady performances, however, are undermined by Burhan Qurbani's script and direction. Having previously produced only short films, Qurbani should have a good sense of pacing, but here his dialogue and especially the action struggle to keep the viewer involved. And although Qurbani has said he did not want this to be a movie about religion, there is mention of Islam or Allah at every turn, virtually negating any real character development. There is no sense of where the characters come from, what drives them, or who they love and care about. Unfortunately, with characters this unsympathetic, you just don't care to find out. 9:45 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Regal Cinemas South Beach, and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables.