Tampa Bay's third annual Lesbian and Gay Film Festival begins Wednesday, promising to stir as much controversy within the gay and lesbian community as the straight.
Among this year's selections are The Living End, a film about two HIV-positives on the lam, and Swoon, a super-stylish recounting of the celebrated 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case that launched a wave of anti-gay and anti-Semitic hysteria in America.
Both movies have been criticized by factions within the gay community for their potential to reinforce homophobic fears among an increasingly hostile society.
"I won't be surprised if we get criticism from the gay and lesbian community," said festival committee member Patricia Pettijohn. "Swoon deals with gay child molesters, kidnappers and murderers. The Living End is HIV-positive men on a crime spree.
"But that's what makes it an exciting film festival. We haven't made comfortable choices," Pettijohn said.
In the meantime, David E. Caton, state director of the American Family Association of Florida, has voiced his opposition to the use of $10,000 in Hillsborough County tourist tax grant funds to publicize an event that shows movies he says may be pornographic. Caton has charged that the festival was timed to coincide with the Nov. 3 ballot calling for the repeal of Tampa's sexual orientation ordinance.
"This is an artistic event that in no way is related to the November ballot," said film committee member Mark Puig. "We're proud of the films we've selected and the number of Florida premieres. We'll let the audience and the critics judge the artistic merit of the festival."
The Pride Film Festival opens at 8 p.m. Wednesday with Culture Comes Out, five gay and lesbian themed one-act plays performed by the One in Ten Players at the Jaeb Theater in the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The program, starring gay and lesbian artists, is sponsored by the Metropolitan Community church. Tickets are $12.50.
The film portion of the festival begins Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Tampa Theater, 711 Franklin Street Mall. Tickets are $4 in advance and $5 at the door. They can be purchased at the Tampa Theater box office (223-8981, Tampa).
Film festival highlights include Thursday's Changing Our Minds, the story of the landmark research by Dr. Evelyn Hooker that helped destroy the stigma of illness surrounding homosexuality, and Sunday's The Hours and Times, the critically acclaimed account of what might have happened during a lost weekend in Barcelona shared by John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
Showing on Friday is Claire of the Moon, a new feature celebrating a lesbian relationship between unlikely lovers during a retreat at a writer's camp.
"In the past, gay film has tended to back away from sexuality. What Swoon, The Living End and, to some extent, Claire of the Moon do is represent gay and lesbian filmmakers as filmmakers _ not as gay people," Pettijohn noted.
The festival will close on Sunday, National Coming Out Day, with a celebration that includes a street festival, a tea dance, an art show and live performances and speeches by leaders of the Tampa Bay gay and lesbian community.
All events will talk place along Franklin Street Mall, in front of the Tampa Theater, including a 4 p.m. concert by the Tampa Bay Womyn's Chorus and the Tampa Bay Men's Chorus and Crescendo.
In addition to single admission tickets, a festival pass for eight film events and the Sunday 4:30 p.m. tea dance is $24 (individual dance tickets are $3).
A private film festival buffet ($5) will be offered by Chavez on the Mall directly in front of the Tampa Theater. Food will be served Friday evening and continuously Saturday and Sunday.
FILM FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Third Annual Pride Film Festival
THURSDAY: 7:30 p.m. Changing Our Minds, U.S.A., 75 minutes, Florida premiere. The showing will be preceded by What Can I Do With a Male Nude? and Storme: The Lady of the Jewel Box.
FRIDAY: 7:30 p.m., Salut Victor, Canada, 84 minutes, French with English subtitles. Preceded by Caught Looking.
10 p.m., Claire of the Moon, U.S.A., 90 minutes, Florida premiere.
Midnight, Desert Hearts, U.S.A., 97 minutes.
SATURDAY: 2 p.m. Swoon, U.S.A., 92 minutes, Florida premiere. Preceded by Elevation.
5 p.m. Strangers in Good Company, Canada, 100 minutes. Preceded by Transportations.
7:30 p.m. Domestic Blues and A Certain Grace, Great Britain, 52 minutes. A Certain Grace, U.S.A., 40 minutes.
10 p.m., The Living End, U.S.A., 85 minutes, Florida premiere. Preceded by Beauties Without a Cause.
Midnight, The Hunger, U.S.A., 94 minutes.
SUNDAY: Noon, Claire of the Moon.
2 p.m. The Hours and Times, U.S.A., 58 minutes. Preceded by Ten Cents a Dance and First Comes Love.
5 p.m. Because the Dawn, U.S.A., 40 minutes; and Common Threads, U.S.A., 75 minutes.
7:30 p.m. Before Stonewall and Changing Our Minds.