The genesis of Pride FilmFest, which opens tonight (June 3) with a glitz-and-glam gala at the Broward County Main Library Auditorium, has the same breezy inevitability as one of those "let's-put-on-a-show" movies starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
"Two years ago I went up to the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Tampa with some friends," recalls PrideFest chairperson Bruce Darcy. "On the way back in the car, we were talking about all the great movies we had seen and suddenly thought, 'Why do we have to go all the way to Tampa for this kind of event? Why can't we have the same kind of festival in Fort Lauderdale?' -- which, after all, is a more beautiful and gay-friendly place."
Well, there is the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. But with their obvious location biases in tow, Darcy and some pals spoke with Pride South Florida about starting a gay film fest in Fort Lauderdale. Pride is a nonprofit organization that hosts gay and bisexual events (gay-pride parades, AIDS candlelight vigils) through which it raises money for the community. Darcy proposed the festival as another fundraiser, and just as in the movies, the idea avalanched. The Pride board approved the concept, nine local gay and lesbian groups threw in their support, and the first festival was held last year. The event raised $3200 through ticket sales; it also raised community awareness, albeit incalculably.
"FilmFest exposes members of the gay community to movies they wouldn't ordinarily see," says Darcy. "It's also nice for people outside the community who just might have an interest in watching a film with a gay theme. We think of it as an outreach program."
The growing festival also reached out for more financial support, this year snaring three more sponsors: the People With Aids Coalition, the Gay Men's Chorus, and the Lambda Chorale. Darcy and crew also got help from the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, which assisted in securing new opening-night offerings when the original choices became unavailable because of conflicts with other festivals.
"There's intense competition between all the different film festivals, and most of them happen at the same time -- in June and October," explains Darcy. "Since there are a limited number of 35-millimeter copies available for screenings, it can become a logistical nightmare not only trying to get a copy but also to get it on to the next festival in time."
Logistics haven't dampened this year's selections, though. Opening-night films include Homo Heights, a queer, campy comedy written and directed by Sara Moore, who will be in attendance tonight. Pop Tarts, a sexy short, and Head On, a feature about coming of age and coming out, complete the gala lineup. Other choices include the short Boot Camp, the intercultural Gay Cuba, and the amusing send-up Karen Black Like Me.
Pride FilmFest works with the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival to avoid selection overlaps. Another possible conflict was turned into a plus. Because Gay Days at Disney World takes place in Orlando the weekend after the gala, additional screenings won't be held until the following weekend, so that those who go out of town won't miss anything. And who knows, says Darcy, a little advertising in Orlando could swell crowds for the film festival.
"This year we decided to spread the festival out," he says. "We're showing films for four weekends in a row to give everyone the opportunity to see something. Call it the South Florida style of film festival."
-- D.B. Tipmore
Pride FilmFest takes place at the Broward County Main Library Auditorium, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tonight's reception (7 p.m.) and screenings costs $25. Subsequent screenings ($6) are shown on varying weekend nights through June. For a complete schedule, see "Film" listings next issue. Call 954-563-9500.