LGBT Film/Video Festival turns 30, offers 33 programs

The Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival – a cultural mainstay of Milwaukee’s film-going and LGBT communities and one of the oldest such festivals in the nation – celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Opening night festivities begin with a 7:30 p.m. Thursday showing of “From This Day Forward” at the Oriental Theatre.

The festival’s lineup has evolved over the years to reflect wider interests of an increasingly diverse LGBT community, said festival director and lecturer Carl Bogner of the Peck School of the Art’s Department of Film, Video, Animation and New Genres. Festival screenings at the Oriental Theatre and the Union Cinema total 33 programs: narrative features, documentaries, short films and experimental work. A number of the artists will be on hand to talk about their works.

“’Coming out’ films used to be the staple of LGBT festivals, but in today’s films you can see all of these different representations of life – stories about queer youth, faith journeys, intersections of race and sexual identity,” Bogner explained.

An example is the film’s opening-night selection. In her documentary, “From This Day Forward,” filmmaker Sharon Shattuck chronicles her family’s embrace of her father’s gender transition.

“It’s really a film about the complicated relationships within a family. It’s in no way melodramatic, but a story about a pretty remarkable family,” said Bogner, who added that Shattuck and her father will be at the opening.

Films that get Milwaukee talking

For decades, the annual Milwaukee event was the only LGBT film festival in Wisconsin, and it has become a major event for the local LGBT community.

“We’ve always had a lot of support from the university, local business and people in the community, including this year’s $6,000 challenge grant from the Cream City Foundation,” Bogner said.

Audience support is key, as well. The festival regularly draws crowds who have come to expect from it something different from what they might see in big-box movie theaters. But what’s “different” to some mainstream moviegoers is everyday life to others, and Bogner said representation and conversation are two positive outcomes of the festival – in addition to its eclectic lineup.

“Does the festival change people’s attitudes?” Bogner asked. “I guess I see it being about visibility. Historically, you might not have seen two men exchanging a kiss on the big screen in mainstream theatres.”

The festival is also a chance to see beautiful films that might not make it to many local theatres, he added.

Festival favorites for 2015 include …

To find the best films for the annual festival, Bogner and his team check out other LGBT festivals, search out reviews and scour the Internet.

A few of their favorites for this year reflect the broader portraits that filmmakers are painting of LGBT life.

  • “The Summer of Sangailé,” from Lithuania, is about a 17-year-old girl who wants to be a pilot. “It’s visually beautiful and whimsical,” said Bogner. There is a romance, he noted, but the resolution isn’t just about having the heroine be part of a couple, but more about overcoming her doubts to realize her dream. It is screening at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 21, at the Oriental Theatre.
  • The title characters in “Naz and Maalik” are two African American boys, also Muslim, whose growing attraction plays out against the background of the streets of Brooklyn. It is showing at 5 p.m., Oct. 17, in the Union Cinema.
  • “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party,” by filmmaker Stephen Cone, focuses on a teen uncertain about his sexual identity, growing up in an evangelical Christian household. The film explores the people around the young man at his 17th birthday party and the effects of their own secrets. It screens on the festival’s final night, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Union Cinema.

For more information about the film festival and schedules, go to http://uwm.edu/lgbtfilm.

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