Out and About

13th Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival

There was a time -- not too long ago -- when gay movies only played at gay festivals. Not anymore. Gay culture boasts its own sitcom (Will & Grace), cult figures (Xena), pop singers (Melissa Etheridge), and film heroes, like the dashing Rupert Everett, who narrates Paragraph 175, only one of the movies screening at the 13th annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival that is bound to have a long, prosperous life. So when alternative lifestyles become less and less alternative, do we still need a gay and lesbian festival? Of course, says Scott Dinger, who runs the show along with executive director Sandra Martinez. "We bring people together in a way other things can't." That's especially important in Austin, which lacks any centralized gay area like San Francisco's Castro or Dallas' Oak Lawn. "I think that film, in general, excites people," Dinger explains. "And people may look into us in a way that they won't look into other organizations." That's why aGLIFF is taking the opportunity to form partnerships with more nonprofits, who can use this two-week film festival as a springboard to distribute their message to the community. Yes, movies about gay life are more visible these days, but aGLIFF has always been about more than just movies.

But then again, we are here to talk about the movies. In an interesting trend, three films examine the gay experience during World War II -- Aimée & Jaguar, Paragraph 175 (see "Also Recommended") and ... But I Was a Girl, a documentary about musician Frieda Belinfante, who hid from the Nazis by hiding as a man. Read Amy Smith's interview with Helen Cohen, the executive producer of That's a Family, to learn about the other programming trend -- documentaries, features, and shorts on the gay baby boom. Dinger also promises more films -- "stronger films" -- for women. In fact, there's just more variety all around, from Patrik-Ian Polk's Punks, centering on a group of gay black men in Los Angeles, to Two Brides and a Scalpel, a documentary about the unlikely love story between a lesbian and a transsexual. In an attempt to accommodate more moviegoers, the festival has moved its home base from the Dobie to the Arbor, increasing capacity by about 50%. However, the festival's biggest bashes, like the Friday opening night screening of Sordid Lives at the Paramount and the outdoor screening at Fourth and Guadalupe, remain off-site. To help you navigate through the 140 titles, we highlight three films in the following pages -- a documentary about hustlers in Santa Monica, a documentary about children in various kinds of families, and a feature about an Indian lesbian who agrees to be a surrogate mother -- and along the way, you'll find tidbits on other films worth your while, running the gamut from a sweet coming-of-age tale (Swimming) to a clever French psychodrama (Water Drops on Burning Rocks). At a lucky 13 years old, aGLIFF is still going strong, and regardless of your sexual orientation, we hope you come out.

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