Polari: Unabashedly Queer
Gays descend on Downtown for Polari's opening night
By Sarah Marloff, 9:10AM, Thu. Oct. 17
Lights, camera, action! Opening night of Polari (the film festival formerly known as aGLIFF) lit up the State Theater last night to honor queer film, Austin's queer community, and the film festival founder, Scott Dinger.
Polari's interim executive director, Aaron Yeats, welcomed the crowd with a quick speech and an invitation to be "unabashedly ourselves." In one fell swoop, Yeats took his own advice and utilized his pulpit, playing on the age-old tradition of gay film fests being great markets for new boyfriends: Apparently, the charming Yeats' is single and come Monday, he informed the crowd, will be ready to mingle.
The most touching moment of the night full of touching moments came when artistic director, Curran Nault, teared up while re-gifting Dinger the original aGLIFF sign that once marked the festival's former 51st Street office. Nault also announced that the Audience Award would be renamed in Dinger's honor.
Polari board member and Austin performer, Paul Soileau (Rebecca Havemeyer, Christeene), made the brilliant point that if Texas cities were siblings, Austin would be the bad seed, commending Dinger as an upstart voice that has contributed to making Austin the blue sheep in a big red family. Soileau also introduced a touchingly old-fashioned slide show loving culled by gay fest stalwart Bobette Mathis and dedicated to the life and times of Scott Dinger, founder of aGLIFF.
After a standing ovation, the forever effacing Dinger gave a humble acceptance speech where he pointed out the rest of the "backstage cast" that had huge parts in creating and growing the festival. A specific and personal nod – and request to stand up and be recognized – was given to former partner-in-crime, Sandra Martinez.
The biggest and best takeaway from Polari's 26th opening night was the feeling of community. The wave of love – "chosen family" kinda love – and heritage that swept the State Theater last night is what we mean when we talk about the QILTBAG community. By night's end it was perfectly clear; Dinger was on target when he said, "[Polari] is an outlet for people to come together and see all the different facets of this community."
The Polari Film Festival runs Oct. 16-20 at the Stateside at the Paramount, Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, the Marchesa Hall Theatre, Studio 4D at UT, and Violet Crown Cinema, plus installation screenings at the Polari offices on the weekend. See www.polarifest.com for full schedule and ticket info, and read our full Polari preview here.