The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, hosted at Tampa Theatre, enters its 12th year today.
Forty-three films will be shown during the 11-day festival with entries coming from Iceland to Zimbabwe to Hong Kong.
The festival’s previous highlights include an appearance by director John Waters and the premiere of Gods and Monsters. This year the writer/director/star of Metrosexuality will make an appearance on the final Sunday evening and the controversial film, L.I.E., is among the showings.
Margaret Murray, festival director, said this year’s breakout movie could be Big Eden.
“It’s getting harder to introduce a film like Gods and Monsters with the festival,” Murray said. “Mainstream theaters are showing gay films more and more these days.”
Big Eden follows the journey of a New York artist who returns to his hometown in Montana and finds love.
“It appeals to everyone,” Murray said. “It doesn’t matter if you are man or woman, straight or gay. It’s about family.”
Along with feature length films, the festival also screens documentaries, video-clip presentations and short film programs.
“Shorts give people a chance to touch on topics that people won’t fund a feature film on,” she said. “You can offer amazing glimpses that other people won’t present.”
The first Saturday will feature I Know What Girls Like, a shorts program comprised of eight short films, each running five to 10 minutes in length, dedicated to the lesbian lifestyle.
The lesbian lifestyle is also the focus of a video-clip presentation called, Lesbian Porn 101, and is presented by sex educator Laura Weide.
“She presents porn as women will see it rather than a man,” Murray said. “So many times you’ll see a sex scene between two women but it doesn’t ring true with women because a man is filming it.”
Other issues that are presented at the festival deal with the gay influence in traditionally straight organizations.The documentary, Scout’s Honor, shows the efforts of activists to overturn Boy Scouts of America’s policy of excluding gays from membership. Murray said it is important for the gay and lesbian community to get these kinds of stories out.
“If you read a newspaper story, the average person will have an opinion,” she said.
“But film serves as a great tool to educate the public about these issues.”
Murray said the most controversial film of the festival may be the NC-17-rated L.I.E. In the film, New York’s Long Island Expressway serves as a metaphor for the story of a 50-year-old man who has sex with confused teenage boys. Murray added that while the film is receiving critical acclaim, it still deals with a touchy topic.
“The filmmakers are testing the waters with Tampa audiences to see if it will open here,” she said. “The film festival is a resource for film as much as it is for entertainment for the audience.”
Mary Southerland, a junior majoring in mass communications, attended the festival last year and said it brought a lot of people together.
“It was a very comfortable and friendly atmosphere,” Southerland said.
“I’m not gay, but I really enjoyed being there because it’s good for a group of people to come together and accept their differences. I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there. I would definitely go again.”
Rich Cruz, a junior majoring in accounting, also attended last year’s festival and said it promotes understanding that homosexuals are not just sexual deviants.
“Some people believe the lifestyle is full of drugs and sin,” Cruz said. “But the festival reminds you that they are just normal people like you and me.”
Murray said people come from all walks of life, and her main goal is to make sure they are all entertained.
“We want the festival to take people away,” Murray said. “We want people to enter someone else’s world for two hours, especially now. And I think we succeeded in that aspect this year.”
The festival opens today and goes until Oct. 14. For more information about tickets and pricing, log onto .