The past 25 years brought an abundance of change for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities worldwide. Yet in Tampa Bay one thing remained constant: A celebration of cinema reflecting LGBT lives, dreams and desires, a quarter century of pride through projector lenses.
Starting Friday, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival celebrates its silver anniversary, updating a past slogan, that's 25 straight years of queer cinema.
"It's humbling," said executive director Margaret Murray, a festival supporter since 1993, "but I've also been thinking about the people who started this event, and how all of them are still active in the gay community here, still doing things to make it good."
The celebration begins Friday with a gift for everyone, free admission to the opening night film at Tampa Theatre, and a party in TECO Plaza afterward.
The movie is Patrik-Ian Polk's Blackbird, starring Oscar winner Mo'nique, and based on Larry Duplechan's book, considered the first African-American coming out novel. The party is in the hands of DJ Phoenyx Von Black. Or else, head back inside the theater for a 10:30 screening of the German dramedy I Feel Like Disco.
Saturday's lineup begins at 10 a.m. with a free screening of G.B.F., a high school comedy with post-show discussion, part of the festival's Queer Youth Program. Anyone age 18 and under is admitted free to all age-appropriate Tampa Theatre screenings, workshops and lectures.
"There are still kids coming out, who should have the opportunity to see these films," Murray said. "There are so many people that these topics can touch."
Other Saturday highlights include filmmaker-author John Waters discussing This Filthy World: Filthier & Dirtier at 6:30 p.m., followed by a screening at 9 of Del Shores: Naked. Sordid. Reality., with a live appearance by the standup comedian. Outside on TECO Plaza, Waters will autograph his book Carsick, at the Mondo Trasho street party.
Sunday brings a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL to Tampa Theatre, and a documentary about her transgender life. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story (12:45 p.m.) may be accompanied by its subject, a 20-year veteran of three wars formerly known as Chris Beck.
That's one of seven globe-spanning movies scheduled Sunday, including Letter to Anita (2:45 p.m.), a look back at the galvanizing homophobia of former Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant. The lineup also explores gay life in Morocco, England, Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands.
Weekday screenings at Tampa Theatre begin at 5 p.m.; three screening sessions per night. The festival rainbow also stretches to St. Petersburg, with weekday movies at Freefall Theatre Company, 6099 Central Ave. Show time is 7:30 p.m. each night through Oct. 9. Monday's movie is The Circle, Switzerland's entry in the Academy Awards' foreign language film competition.
Also on Oct. 9, St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE, will present the documentaries Regarding Susan Sontag (6:30 p.m.) and Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (8:30).
The festival continues through Oct. 11, when director Rob Williams presents Out to Kill (6 p.m.), a mystery filmed around Tampa Bay in 2013. Williams will join Tampa film commissioner Dale Gordon and director JC Calciano (The 10 Year Plan) for a 9:30 a.m. discussion of the production.
Finally, there's Eat With Me, the closing night selection directed by David Au, who is expected to introduce the 9 p.m. showing.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.