By Steve Persall
Times Film Critic
After last year's fabulous 20th anniversary celebration, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has a tough act to follow, and a lineup of films and fun to do it.
From the Thursday night opener Violet Tendencies starring Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life), to James Franco's portrayal of poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl, to closing night's La Mission with Benjamin Bratt, the festival boasts its most star-studded film list in years.
Thirty-seven film events shared by Tampa Theatre and BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg, and five parties in Tampa and Ybor City, make this one of the nation's premier showcases of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender cinema.
"Coming to this festival is more than just seeing films," president John Thomas said. "It's about being in a community space, a healthy and loving space, to share those experiences and identify with one another. It helps them feel more than accepted; it makes them empowered to continue on and be strong."
Thomas, in his seventh year at the helm, says the gender-bending genre improves each year.
"I'm seeing an elevation in the maturity of the content," he said. "It comes from our changing norms around the world that help fuel GLBT films and content.
"We're finding more straight, mainstream filmmakers and actors like James Franco who are looking specifically for GLBT roles and stories. There's a freshness there, a challenge to do something new as norms change."
The festival's website (tiglff.com) offers complete information on movies, parties and tickets.
This weekend's parties
The VIP reception at 6 p.m. Thursday takes over a floor of Skypoint condominiums, one block east of Tampa Theatre. It's open to Diva and Simply Fabulous pass holders, or anyone paying a $50 admission fee.
On Sunday, the annual Business Guild Expo spotlighting gay-friendly companies will be held all day at TECO Plaza across from the Tampa Theatre.
COMING UP... The Surge and Pure Sugar shindigs in Ybor City on Oct. 13, the Taste of Pride Tampa on Oct. 16 outside Tampa Theatre, and more movies. Check next Thursday's Weekend for details.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at tampabay.com/blogs/movies.
Six can't-miss festival movies These are at Tampa Theatre this weekend
1. Violet Tendencies: The opener Thursday is a comedy starring Mindy Cohn as a lovelorn woman assisted by gay friends to find romance. Director Casper Andreas and actor Jesse Archer will attend the 7 p.m. screening.
2. The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister: (Friday, 7 p.m.) The film is preceded by a tribute to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, a stalwart supporter of the festival.
3. The Man Who Loved Yngve: (Friday, 9 p.m.) A Norwegian coming of age tale set to a 1980s pop soundtrack.
4. A Marine Story: (Saturday, 7 p.m.) "Don't ask, don't tell" leads to problems for a lesbian (Dreya Weber).
5. Role/Play: (Saturday, 9 p.m.) Stars Matthew Montgomery as an outed soap opera star bonding with a gay marriage activist (Steve Callahan). Montgomery, Callahan and writer-director Rob Williams will attend.
6. The Owls: (Sunday, 5 p.m.) The latest work by director Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman) is a thriller about four middle-aged lesbians covering up an accidental death.
Don't forget that BayWalk 20 gets into the action Monday through Thursday, including an Oct. 13 showing of Howl at 7:30 p.m. — its only appearance at the festival.