Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: Five Can't-Miss Movies and Parties Galore

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In its 14th year (God, where did the time go?), the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (MGLFF) has become one of the top LGBT film festivals in the country.

And it's no wonder why. This year's festival will run for 10 days and feature 65 films from 15 different countries. You can get your gay cinema on from April 27 to May 6 throughout several venues in South Beach and Coral Gables.

MGLFF is also one of the first LGBT festivals on the national calendar, so many of the documentaries, shorts, and features are world premieres. In the spirit of inclusivity, the MGLFF also offers some free screenings and family-oriented films.

And of course, it just wouldn't be a gay film festival without some fabulous parties. Franc Castro, the director of both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian film festivals, says, "Parties are back with a vengeance. Not only are plans in the works for rocking opening, spotlight, and closing parties, but there are additional after-parties in the works in which filmmakers and talent will be present, and they are looking forward to mingling with the film audiences."

What cinephile doesn't love mingling with the talent? Castro explains just how enthusiastic the filmmakers are to circulate amongst we commoners as well. "We do have a budget to bring in some filmmakers, but there are many that are coming on their own expense because they realize the importance of our festival and the importance of connecting with our South Florida audience." Plus, it is Miami, not Peoria -- that's gotta be a selling point.

So besides fierce parties and rubbing elbows with directors, screenwriters, and actors, what else can we expect from MGLFF this year? For one thing, Castro has noticed two trends. "We have several films which bring to the screen LGBTQ handicapped people. Habana Muda features a bisexual deaf mute, Austin Unbound features a female-to-male transgender deaf mute, and Morgan features a young gay man that is in a wheelchair."

The second trend Castro mentions proves that maybe our country is finally headed in the right direction. "Some of our films feature LGBT prominently in the film; however the story of the film goes beyond the characters' sexual orientation. I find this extremely exciting because while sexual orientation is an important part, it is not the defining characteristic." Yes, America. LGBT people are just like you -- only gayer.

Here are five must-see films in this year's program:

North Sea, Texas
This film tells the story of Pim, a teenage boy who lives with his ex-beauty queen mom and is experiencing something almost all LGBT people are familiar with at one point in their lives -- crushing on a heterosexual. Gino, the boy next door, is the object of Pim's affections, and although it seems destined to end in disappointment, the conclusion might surprise audiences.

Elliot Loves
Dominican-American Elliot Ayende is revealed to us as both a 9-year-old boy with a "barely-keeping-it-together single mom" and as a 21-year-old looking for love in New York City. This dramedy is sure to be an audience favorite.

Mosquita y Mari
Set in Los Angeles, this story is about two 15-year-old Chicanas set on very different paths. One is a serious student with her eyes set on college and the other is mired in the everyday hustle of helping support her undocumented family. Although seemingly total opposites, the girls find themselves discovering a friendship that neither one anticipated.

UNFIT: Ward vs. Ward
Probably one of the most anticipated films in the program, UNFIT documents the true story of the Florida custody case that shocked many. In 1995, a Pensacola judge awarded custody to a convicted killer rather than the child's mother -- because she was a lesbian.

Girl Trash: All Night Long and Naked As We Came
These two works-in-progress are severely hyped, and we are anxiously awaiting the screenings. Girl Trash: All Night Long depicts one epic night in the lives of five girls -- expect the requisite sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Literally -- it's a rom-com musical.

In Naked As We Came, Laura and her brother Elliot receive an unexpected phone call which causes them to rush to their family's country estate where they find their mother gravely ill and living with a handsome young stranger. Their discovery sets the two on a path of realization in which they explore several life issues such as love, life, and hope.

This year's program promises to be the most diverse yet. So how do the judges choose what films to include? "Our mission is to entertain, educate, and inspire our community through the power of film. So when a film is chosen as part of our program we hope that it will at least reach one of our core mission objectives," says Castro.

We are so excited that we can barely keep our Spanx on.

The festival opens Friday with a reception, an awards presentation, and a screening of Kawa at the Colony Theater (1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach). For more information, the festival program, and to purchase tickets, visit mglff.com.

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