Everybody's Talkin' aGLIFF
Austin's favorite LGBTQ fest returns
At 29 years in, aGLIFF is one of the longest-running film festivals in Austin, and its dialogue-sparking films have shaped an entire community. Program director Jim Brunzell explains, "I talked to board members who have lived in Austin for a very long time, before the digital era kicked in, before the internet, Facebook, iPhones, and VOD. For a lot of them, aGLIFF was their resource. There wasn't online dating in the Nineties. If you wanted to meet other gay men, gay women, you went to the movies. You went to aGLIFF to have that connection and meet other people, to find a partner or make new friends. A lot of connections have been made just standing in line, talking about what they've seen, or should see, what their plans are. It's a community experience and it's a great way to meet people. That's why that lobby [at host venue Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar] is great for us."
Last year, everybody was talking about transgender issues and marriage equality, and while those topics are certainly still relevant, Brunzell geared this year's program theme toward other glaring matters. "I wanted to make sure we had a fair amount of female-driven stories, but also female filmmakers represented in our program. I wanted to be sure we had different topics, that not all the films were about white old gay men or white old European women. I wanted to be sure we had diversity and that many ethnicities were covered in our program. That's something that I'm really proud of this year," Brunzell says.
With 30 feature films and 47 shorts, the range of represented perspectives is remarkable, and at least two have direct ties to our third coast. Bright Shadow, a documentary about Austin Music Award-winning folk country musician Ana Egge, focuses the early part of the film on her time here. Director Jesse Lyda and Austinite producer Jason Wehling will be in attendance with Egge. Another, The Big Raincheck, is one of the more complicated films on the schedule. In 1981, a group of filmmakers set out to create a film with Austin-based actors, filming around town. Production ceased when the money ran out, until director/producer Walter Reuben picked it back up in 2015. Part of the cast died as a result of the Eighties AIDS epidemic, so this rather experimental docudrama combines original footage with new scenes to weave the tale. "I have the toughest time explaining this one. It's having its world premiere, and it features a lot of people in Austin's film scene, including The Austin Chronicle's Louis Black. I'll be curious to see how it's received because it's not your typical movie that's got a straight-line narrative. It bounces around, shifts in time, has multiple characters and actors talking about different periods. But it's really exciting, and I think people will be surprised," says Brunzell.
Around 65 visiting filmmakers are joining, and the retrospective film slate features some particularly star-studded names. "I didn't want to go too avant-garde or off the radar; I wanted recognizable films. There's a whole generation of people who haven't seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and reintroducing these films to a whole new audience is an important aspect of our festival," Brunzell says. In its 15th year, John Cameron Mitchell's runaway success was a shoo-in, and became a package deal with his 2006 film Shortbus. Brunzell also tapped a 20th anniversary screening of Cheryl Dunye's The Watermelon Woman. "I know how important that film is, but I don't know how many people know about it, let alone saw it when it originally came out," he explains. Mitchell happily jumped onboard with PJ DeBoy and Paul Dawson, and on top of what's sure to be a rousing Q&A, the trio is hosting the aGLIFF closing night dance party at Cheer Up Charlies.
The closing night Marquee film, Sara Jordenö's Kiki, also has a special place in Brunzell's heart after a rousing screening at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco: "Seeing it with a packed audience rejuvenated me. This is why people go to the movies! It's entertaining and it's going to challenge the audience emotionally and give them a different perspective on how others live. It's an experience."
The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival runs Sept. 8-11, at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. For more info, and to purchase badges and passes, visit www.agliff.org.