Jim Brunzell III is not one to sit still. There are many hats he wears: a writer for various outlets (the film website Hammer to Nail being one of his current gigs), lead programmer for the rightly celebrated Sound Unseen Festival in Minneapolis, and a pedigree for programming for the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, but the hat he wears most frequently these days is multicolored, as festival director for aGLIFF, the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival. He began the job as a film programmer, happening on the job listing during Sundance 2014, when elevation sickness had him holed up in his hotel room, a laptop his only companion. Since then, he's had other sleepless nights, but those are more from jet lag from traveling to Berlin, Tribeca, Montclair, and Frameline, searching for films for his festival. "One of my main goals at aGLIFF is to give the viewer a chance to explore films you would never see."
Besides the coup of premiering local luminary PJ Raval's Call Her Ganda (see "The Murder of Beauty," at right, for more on that), Brunzell also has another celebrated Austinite in the mix, filmmaker Yen Tan, who will receive the festival's inaugural tribute award. There will also be an encore screening of his Eighties AIDS drama 1985, which debuted this year at SXSW, plus a 10th anniversary screening of his second feature, Ciao. "It's great to be able to highlight local talent in the backyard, in the Austin film community," Brunzell said. There are also some locals in the Shorts program; Lisa Donato's two-step comedy "Foxy Trot" has its Austin premiere, as does her dramatic short "There You Are." There's also David Lykes Keenan's "Bodies of Water," starring Ellar Coltrane of Richard Linklater's Boyhood fame and a premiere by Taylor Mansmann, whose "Spacecars n' Babes" features locals the Qzars, a "Tridimensional, Neurosexual, Tantalosapien drag band from space." Count us in.
Brunzell well knows the balance that comes with overseeing a film festival in a town that seems to have one every week. He says, "running an LGBTQ fest in Austin, it's always great when you can have local films that you can show, as there is so much talent in this town, and to have them want to premiere with us when there is so much competition is an honor." That doesn't mean the national scene isn't represented, most notably with closing night film Mapplethorpe, about the famed New York City photographer (played by a very un-Doctor Who Matt Smith) rising to fame, and his relationship with iconic musician Patti Smith (newcomer Marianne Rendón).
In this increasingly contentious (and often violent) climate of sexual politics, the idea of an inclusive community and safe space for all is paramount. Brunzell has seen an uptick in one area. He says, "When I started in 2014, there was very little trans content, and I think year by year, we're seeing more and more content being submitted, not only from the States, but from all over the world. In some countries, you can go to jail for being trans, so to have a festival to give them a platform and promote their work is something that is really important, to share that with our community."
Speaking of community, this year, the festival made a bit of an alteration to those letters in its name. Previously known as the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, it has now been rebranded as the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival, a move that board director Ashley Marshall calls a major milestone. She said, "We've come a long way in the last three decades and, as our programming grows increasingly diverse in our efforts to showcase the broad spectrum of queer experiences in art, our name has evolved to reflect that inclusivity."
aGLIFF, the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival, Sept. 6-9, Alamo South Lamar. Tickets and info at www.agliff.org. For reviews and news from the festival, visit www.austinchronicle.com/agliff.
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