It's aGLIFF Time Again
The 27th annual fest of LGBTQ films begins
Some behind-the-scenes squabbles among Austin LGBTQI arts organizations have provided something of a distraction during this past year, but the end result finds aGLIFF in a stronger position than ever. Celebrating its 27th year, the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival is the longest-running arts organization of its kind in Austin. Opening Wednesday, Sept. 10, and continuing through Sunday, Sept. 14, aGLIFF 2014 presents one of its most diverse and compelling lineups in the film fest's history. Programmer Jim Brunzell, imported to Austin from Minneapolis, has outdone himself with this year's selections, with an array of films whose artistic values complement their sociological content.
Says Brunzell: "I tried to voice my own opinion and wanted to put my own stamp on this as well, but I know we have a lot of different audiences. It's important to have films that speak to transexual and bisexual and gay audiences – and even have some films that don't identify with one of these groups."
Actually, the festival begins on Tuesday, Sept. 9, with a VIP reception with Judy and Dennis Shepard of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, as well as the director Michele Josue, whose film Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, opens the festival on Wednesday. "The closing night film, Appropriate Behavior, is bisexual," says Brunzell. "It premiered at Sundance and was just picked up for distribution in early 2015. Because of that film, its writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan got cast on Girls with Lena Dunham. So she's definitely someone to watch out for. It's a really terrific first feature, and a really distinctive voice."
A lot of international films are included in the lineup. "That was conscious," notes Brunzell. "We are an international film festival. I wish there were more countries represented. I was surprised to find that we ended up with, I want to say, four films from the Netherlands. Who knows? Screening fees, especially for international films, have completely skyrocketed. There were a lot of films we had to turn down."
A fan of secret screenings, that was another thing Brunzell added to this year's program. "It kind of sells itself, although some people aren't willing to take that chance, not knowing what they're going to see. But I think we do that with every film beforehand, too. Maybe you read about it and see a trailer, but you're still essentially taking a chance. But in this case, you just don't know what it is. The secret screening is a really terrific film. Honestly, I think it is a film people will be talking about at the end of the year." For this year's Family Film screening, Brunzell also picked a curiosity: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. "It's a really bizarre film, I'm not going to lie," states Brunzell. "But the fact that it's Dr. Seuss, and because I think it fits in the theme of rediscovery [other retrospective screenings include Mysterious Skin and a 20th anniversary rewind of Ed Wood] that I think is appropriate for the family, well ahead of its time. On its initial release, it was blasted and reviewed poorly. Now after all these years, it's a cult favorite.
"Something I made a conscious effort to change from years past were the shorts programs," Brunzell observes. In the past, aGLIFF always grouped shorts in programs "for the guys" and "for the girls." "I don't know, I think that's offensive," he continues. "So I grouped them by category. There are all different types of content in there. [Otherwise] you're splitting your audience and, to me, that just doesn't make any sense. 'For the ladies' – so only women can go see that program? It feels like segregation. I didn't want to separate our audiences. If you like late-night and sexy shorts, if you're into suspense or you want to see something more risqué, and you're a man or woman, you should come. It doesn't need to be designated as one or the other. So we have documentary shorts, experimental shorts, comedy shorts, and late-night shorts. I didn't want to separate it out by gender or sexual orientation. Also, there won't be a ton of shorts screening before features."
Another first for aGLIFF is that it will be the first film festival to use the newly renovated and reopened Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar location. For the complete lineup and ticket information, see www.agliff.org.