Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Director Franc Castro Top Five Picks for Must-See Films

For many of its 61 years, Fort Lauderdale's

Classic Gateway Theater

has carved a niche for itself as a haven for alternative cinema -- especially of the LGBT sort. So it's only natural that the Gateway house the Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, a scrappy but significant fest celebrating its third year in Broward County. And frankly, after two years of incongruously screening films in the decadent Wilton Manors nightclub The Manor, it's about time the festival had a legitimate movie theater to present the nearly 40 features, documentaries and shorts, screening this year from October 4 through 7. 

"I think that being at the Gateway has had a beneficial impact for the festival, since tickets sales are already dramatically ahead of where we were at the same time last year," says Franc Castro, executive director of the festival. "I also feel that being in a theater has brought more legitimacy to our festival, as we have 18 filmmakers and actors attending our young festival in support of our work and to further promote their respective films."

Moviegoers could easily spend the entire weekend huddled in dark Gateway auditoriums, with screenings beginning around 2 p.m. and ending around midnight. Not all will be masterpieces, but most will entertain, provoke, and challenge. To help you navigate the festival, Castro counts down five of its must-see films.

1. Cloudburst, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4.

Castro says of this 2011 film with an unlikely, famous lesbian couple: "Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker are incredible in their roles as 'roommates' over a 30-year period... Or so a granddaughter thinks. If anyone wonders why marriage equality is important, then this film provides the answers. 

"The audience will leave this film touched because it is a universal story about love, relationships, family, and how the law can affect our lives in unimaginable ways. In addition, for the Cloudburst after-party at Revolution Live, She Rocks is going to be a night that will not be forgotten. Our DJ for the evening is DJ Citizen Jane, and there will be live performances by lady rockers Beach Day and Chick Habit."

2. Gayby, 10 p.m. Oct. 5.
Castro notes: "This is a classic example of how a short film can eventually find its way back to the big screen as a full-length feature. Gayby has been a film festival favorite this season. I love the New York-style quick wit and extremely lovable characters. Gayby redefines the definition of family and answers the question, 'What would have happened if Will and Grace tried to conceive?'"

3. I Do, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6.
At least one of the filmmakers will be at the theater, Castro relates: "David W. Ross, who is a writer, producer, and actor in the film, will be joining our audience for this screening for a Q&A immediately following. This script was developed over an eight-year period, and it is evident, as this film tackles very important issues of immigration, marriage inequality and how it relates from a state-to-federal level. The performances in I Do are on-point, and David is fantastic in the role of the best gay uncle in the world."

4. The Crown Jewels, 5 p.m. Oct. 6. 
"This film is coming to us from the Swedish Film Institute and will be our only film screened in 35mm," Castro says. "This film world premiered at Berlinale and is beautifully shot, with scenes of vivid colors that contrast with scenes of pale grays. Filmmaker Ella Lemhagen is the film director that brought us Patrick 1.5, and staying true to form, she brings a story about family that borders between fantasy and reality."

5. I Stand Corrected, 3 p.m. Oct. 7. 
"Jennifer Leitham is an accomplished jazz bassist who has played with jazz greats like Mel Torme and Doc Severinsen," Castro points out about the performer. "If people don't recognize the name, it could be because Jennifer was John Leitham when she played with these jazz greats. Jennifer led a double life for many years until she finally decided to live an honest life and thereby began her transformation into Jennifer. Our jazz brunch begins at 11 a.m. Oct. 7 at Dapur and features bottomless mimosas and a solo performance by Jennifer. The brunch also includes a ticket to I Stand Corrected."

Gay and Lesbian Film Festival takes place from October 4 through 7 at the Classic Gateway Theater, 1820 East Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $7 to $12, depending on showtime and membership, and the opening- and closing-night films and parties are $20 to $30. For a complete schedule, visit


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