Only 6 years old, the Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is feeling quite grown up and planning a sophisticated opening-night party Friday at the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale.
“We’re doing an absolutely amazing opening night that will be the biggest in the 17 years of our festival,” said Mark Gilbert, board chairman of both the Fort Lauderdale event and its older sibling, the well-established Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
“We know that Miami has proven how important it is to have a local cultural event like our film festival,” Gilbert said. “We know that Broward has a fabulous community that is also desirous of having a top-notch film festival.”
To make that happen, the Fort Lauderdale festival has grown to seven days across two weekends. “We’re showing 50 percent more films,” Gilbert said. “We’re screening in three venues, in what used to be one.”
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The festival now boasts 33 films and 11 major events, said Noelle P. Stevenson, Film & Entertainment commissioner at the Broward Office of Film, Music & Entertainment.
“That in itself is a great accomplishment on many levels,” she said. “Not only does it nurture the community, to entertain and educate and tell people's stories on screen, it also allows us — the CVB film office — to promote it as an international film festival.”
This year’s films include movies from Switzerland (The Circle), Greece (Xenia) and Florida (South Beach on High Heels, first screened in May at the Miami festival).
Gilbert describes the opening night festivities as “a very elegant soiree” featuring an early wine-and-champagne reception with harpist and filmmakers, and a late-night party catered by Grey Goose vodka. A closing-night awards party will be Sunday, Oct. 19, at the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel.
The expanded festival is presented by Merrill Lynch, HBO and Sunny.org, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“We have a very solid community here overall in Broward County. For many years, the community will tell you themselves, they wanted to see their own festival in Broward. Historically, Miami was the hub, the main one. That’s changed now,” said Stevenson, a recent festival board member.
According to Stevenson, Broward residents have long said they didn’t “want to drive to Miami whenever they have an LGBT film festival.”
“We finally have in Broward County a solid LGBT festival,” she said. “In the past, you had to drive somewhere else to do it. … This is a great excuse to come on down and watch some great shows. It’s a tourism booster without a doubt. It was long overdue and that’s what we’re celebrating.”
The festival’s opening is the U.S. premiere of the Mexican film Four Moons, which tells “four stories of love, heartbreak and self-acceptance between men of different generations.”
Michael Adam Hamilton, a straight actor who stars as a gay man looking for a husband in the film Ten Year Plan (being screened Saturday night), will receive the festival’s Ally Award on opening night.
Another straight ally, theater producer-director Seth Greenleaf of Fort Lauderdale, will attend the festival for the world premiere of his new film, F(l)ag Football, a documentary about the National Gay Flag Football League.
“We just finished the film about three or four weeks ago. We finished the final, final cut with all the spit shine and details,” said Greenleaf, whose Broadway credits include last year’s hit revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto, and Disgraced, a 2013 Pulitzer winner that opens Oct. 23 at the Lyceum Theatre.
“I am a football fanatic. I have played my entire life since I was a kid,” said Greenleaf, who years ago stumbled upon a group of burly football players not realizing they were all gay.
Greenleaf ended up playing for the New York Gay Flag Football League. “I went through a huge learning curve with them. The gay friends I have are mostly theater related,” he said. “When you play football, you’re arm in arm, sweating and bleeding together. I had to break my walls down a little bit. I didn’t want to lead anybody on or confuse anybody, or say I was the straight guy.”
Now a Fort Lauderdale resident, Greenleaf plays with the South Florida Gay Flag Football League. Another local player, Jeremy Jones, is helping him promote F(l)ag Football.
“His movie is about breaking down the stereotypes,” said Jones, a South Florida publicist. “It shows masculinity has many faces.”
If you go
The Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival runs Oct. 10-12 and 16-19.
The opening night film, ‘Four Moons’ and party will be 8 p.m. Friday at Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, 1E. Las Olas Blvd. Other films will be screened at the Classic Gateway Theatre, 1820 E. Sunrise Blvd., and Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St.
Individual ticket prices vary. For more information, screening times and venues, visit http://flglff.com.