By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
Tampa Bay's longest-running cinema showcase returns Friday, when the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival celebrates 24 years.
Opening the festival at Tampa Theatre is The Happy Sad, examining bisexual curiosity among two Manhattan couples, one white and straight and the other black and gay. Stan (Cameron Scoggins) and Annie (Sorel Carradine, daughter of Keith Carradine) pursue romance elsewhere: he with Marcus (Leroy McClain) — who's in an open relationship with Aaron (Charlie Barnett) — and she with her teaching colleague Mandy (Maria Dizzia). The story's legit stage roots (adapted by Ken Urban from his play) constantly show, but the performances are ever-watchable.
For the first time ever, the festival's opening night screening offers free admission, thanks to sponsorship by Reeves Import Motorcars and the Alan Ira Dusowitz endowment fund, established in 2009 after the festival patron's death. The movie begins at 8 p.m., but the festivities begin at 7 on the orange carpet leading into Tampa Theatre, hosted by fashion designer and online personality Jorge Alvarado.
Also free of charge is Saturday's first offering, Fit (10:30 a.m.), a youth-centered dance revolution against homophobic bullying in schools. All other festival screenings cost $10 for nonpass holders, with a $2 discount for students with proper ID.
Other Saturday highlights are Continental (5:30 p.m.), a documentary of the historic Continental Baths, where gay men gathered in the 1960s; and Reaching for the Moon (7:30), which dramatizes the romance between Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares and Pulitzer poet Elizabeth Bishop. And no other festival title is more succinct than Hot Guys With Guns (9:45), a crime comedy directed by Doug Spearman (TV's Noah's Arc).
Sunday's lineup includes collections of short films aimed at women (2 p.m.) and men (4 p.m.), Free Fall (8:15), a German drama likened to Brokeback Mountain with police badges, and I'm a Porn Star (10:15), a peek at a multibillion-dollar industry.
Weekday screenings continue at Tampa Theatre, and also head across the bay to St. Petersburg's BayWalk 20 for two movies each night.
BayWalk's lineup includes James Franco's re-imagining of the 1980 shocker Cruising titled Interior. Leather. Bar. (8:45 p.m. Monday), the Cannes festival prize winner Stranger by the Lake (8:30 p.m. Tuesday), and The Geography Club (6:45 p.m. Wednesday), a refuge for coming-out high school classmates.
Tampa Theatre's weekday schedule includes the musical farce Southern Baptist Sissies (8:15 p.m. Monday), the AIDS research chronicle The Battle of AMFAR (8:30 p.m. Tuesday) and Before You Know It (6:30 p.m. Wednesday), about three aging gay men.
Films continue through Oct. 12. Check next Thursday's Weekend for highlights, or visit tiglff.com.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.