LGBT film festival wrapped up 25th year

This year’s festival ran from Oct. 3 – 11. ORACLE PHOTO / Quincy J. Walters

This year’s festival ran from Oct. 3 – 11. ORACLE PHOTO / Quincy J. Walters

A bruised and bloodied man is sitting, tied up with rope, while a knife-wielding pirate demands that he call his wife and ask for ransom. If the pirate doesn’t get what he wants, the prisoner will go overboard.

That was a scene from “Safe Word,” a short film screened last week as part of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The festival, which ended Saturday, celebrated its 25th year. For a quarter of a century, the festival has entertained and inspired the bay area through films made by and about the LGBT community.

Margaret Murray, executive director for the festival, said that over the years, the films have evolved.

“Ten to fifteen years ago, there were a lot of films about partying and fun,” she said. “Today I think the priorities have changed to where we have a lot more films about relationships, marriage, adoption and family.”

The only aspect of the festival that has endured for twenty-five years is that they still show movies, she said.

Most other things have changed.

“The audience has changed — equally divided between gay and straight — and what’s going on in the outside world has changed,” she said. “There’s this constant flux that has allowed the festival to become more mainstream — to become recognized for its cultural and artistic merits, instead of being just some event for one group of people.”

KJ Mohr, the director of programing for the festival, feels that LGBT films becoming mainstream is both a blessing and a curse.

“People feel that since these films are becoming mainstream there will eventually be no need for LGBT film festivals,” she said. “But becoming mainstream doesn’t mean we should abandon these film festivals, because it’s really about community.”

As programing director, she watches the hundreds of submissions every year and, like Murray, she has seen the evolution of the films created for the festival.

“Kus Me Zachtjes (Kiss Me Softly),” a Belgium short film that screened Tuesday night, had many a poignant scene. In one, the main character sat in class and the teacher talked about Shakespeare. He talked about how, “courtly love was forbidden love.”

“There were a lot of coming-out stories, but now we see a lot more trans- and gender- queer movies,” she said. “But most are about regular people living their lives.”

Murray said that beginning this year, people 18 years or younger were admitted into the festival free of charge.

“People — especially young people — need a safe and affirming space,” Murray said.  “And by showing these films, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Rafael Aidar won the Alan Ira Dusowitz Emerging Filmmaker Award for a Short Film for “The Package (O Pactoe)” and Chris Mason Johnson won the Emerging Filmmaker Award for a Feature Film for “Test.”