by Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times –
Starting today, and running for 10 fabulous days and nights, the 2013 Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, presented by Three Dollar Bill Cinema, is taking over screens at four of the city’s most notable venues, two of which are here on our beloved Hill. Harvard Exit Theatre and Northwest Film Forum will play host to a variety of features, shorts and special events, with the other half of the festival heading downtown to run at AMC Pacific Place and the Seattle Cinerama Theater. This is the 18th year for the SLGFF, and there’s a lot on the docket from filmmakers close to home and far beyond Seattle’s borders.
This year’s program has been divided into several themes that capture the essence of many aspects of today’s queer cinema scene. The category to open the festival is Bold Provocateurs, a series of documentaries highlighting real-life figures of progress, controversy and shock-into-thought throughout modern LGBT history. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cinerama, Jeffrey Schwarz’s new documentary “I Am Divine” will open the festival. The film chronicles the life, art and struggles of Harris Glenn Milstead, better known by his drag persona, “Divine.” Other films in the Bold Provocateurs series include “Mr. Angel,” a documentary about porn pioneer and transgender advocate Buck Angel, and “Al Nisa: Black Muslim Women in Atlanta’s Gay Mecca” by Red Summer.
During the week, Harvard Exit Theater will open its doors for a series of low-cost afternoon films for the youth audience. The Afterschool Specials lineup includes Darren Stein’s dramedy “G.B.F.,” the high school drama “Geography Club,” by Gary Entin, Cindy L. Abel’s political documentary “Breaking Through,” and the Jennifer Betchel drama “Scary Normal” about the enlightenment of a teen when she befriends a young man kicked out of his home because of his sexual identity.
Putting the spotlight on some of today’s top emerging filmmakers, Strong Queer Visions gives a choice selection of directors the chance to reach a wider audience here in Seattle. This challenging program makes room for films like Spanish director Marcal Fores’s bizarre but endearing “Animals,” and the ambitious anthology project “Valencia” that sees 20 directors and fresh casts tackling 20 chapters from the memoir by Michelle Tea.
For grownups, the Sexy Selections program spans the globe to present erotically-charged features for late-night screenings. Fans of gay erotica pioneer Wakefield Poole will have two chances to engage with the director’s work, including a screening of his 1972 masterpiece “Bijou,” and Tim Tushinski’s documentary “I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole.” The festival also makes a stop in the blossoming film industry of Thailand to screen Sarunya Noithai’s 2012 romance “She: Their Love Story.”
The Way We Were series gets nostalgic with a look back on the history of LGBT culture and politics. It stretches back to the transformative days of New York in the 1970s with Malcolm Ingram’s documentary “Continental,” the ensuing wave of late-20th century feminism in “Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution” by Quebecoise Myriam Fougere, and it gives viewers a look inside how the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s affected gay culture in Chris Mason Johnson’s drama, “Test.”
The Inspiring Lives series makes documentaries about social justice its stock and trade. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason presents “Bridegroom,” the story of a man whose loss and marginalization following the death of his partner drove him to fight for equal rights for same-sex couples. The Dutch documentary “Gay Champions” finds a team of directors following the defiance and tragedy of the 2012 Gay Pride Parade in the Ukraine, while “Born This Way” examines similar struggles against cultural oppression in Cameroon through the lens of average people and outspoken activists.
For something a little more lighthearted, the Live. Laugh. Love series is a showcase for comedies like Ringo Le’s dressing-down of the intimidating Los Angeles social scene in “Big Gay Love” and the delightfully silly movie-within-a-movie “Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?” There’s also plenty of fun to be had over at the Arts World program, including a recording of the live musical “Southern Baptist Sissies” and a collection of moneymaker-shaking shorts called “Dance It Out.”
Lastly, hometown heroes get center stage at Local Connections. The series gives the screen over to Seattle filmmakers like Jon Garcia in “The Falls: Testament of Love,” and the fresh perspectives of the Reel Grrls in shorts collected as “Reel Queer Youth.”
There are also a variety of parties, happy hour specials and live performances scheduled for this year’s Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. For complete listings, visit ThreeDollarBillCinema.org.