LGBT-themed films are quickly coming into the mainstream. This is a wonderful thing – as homosexuality becomes more accepted among the masses, progress towards complete gay rights marches forward. I remember the furor over Brokeback Mountain in 2005, in which two well-known heterosexual actors portrayed two men caught in a forbidden love. Notable examples since then include Gus Van Sant’s Milk, Lisa Chodolenko’s The Kids Are All Right, and the exquisitely beautiful A Single Man – all of which received prominent Oscar nominations, which ensured their exposure to society.
This past weekend witnessed a celebration of gay film with the second annual Louisville LGBT Film Festival. I spoke with Travis Myles, one of the founders of the festival and this year’s chairman. Neither Travis nor any of the other founders had had any prior experience in festival curation, but after attending several LGBT Film Fests (specifically one in Bloomington, Indiana) they decided they wanted to make it happen here in Louisville. Now in its second year, the festival has expanded notably since the beginning: last year 75 films were submitted and around 30 were screened, while this year over 100 submissions were received and an extra day had to be added to the festival to accommodate the 48 films selected. When asked about prospects for next year’s festival, Myles informed me that they had already received many screener DVDs from hopeful participants.
I was also able to speak with actor Tyler Ross (who starred in two films at the festival: The Wise Kids and Nate & Margaret) about the concept of “LGBT Film” and whether it is a viable genre label, considering there is often much more going on than just gay issues. On the topic of The Wise Kids, for example, he said, “I don’t know that I would call it an LGBT film. It’s about so much more than that.”
It’s true: The Wise Kids takes place in the summer between high school and the start of college for three youths – Brea (Molly Kunz), Tim (Ross), and Laura (Allison Torem) – and their relationship with each other. While the main conflict seems to center around Tim coming to terms with his homosexuality (a struggle shared by a married church leader), the story is just as much about Brea dealing with the impending loss of her faith in God and Laura’s attempts to deal with the double shock of her best friends being gay and atheistic, respectively. While there are LGBT themes, the film is ultimately about what it means to question your most cherished beliefs in the confusing time between adolescence and adulthood.
However, many of the films were, in fact, LGBT-specific. Take, for example, the German film Romeos, which tells the story of a boy named Lukas and his romance with the sexy Fabio. However, Lukas is not your typical male – he was born female and is in the process of switching gender. Desperate to be on the outside what he is on the inside, Lukas tries desperately to keep his secret from emerging. It is not a conflict many can relate to personally, but it is still a very powerful story. After all, everybody struggles for acceptance – but some roads are harder than others.