Out of the Celluloid Closet: aGLIFF 24 kicks off in the ATX
It’s not the biggest film festival you’ll see this year, but it’s definitely the gayest. And often the most original.
The Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) is back in town for their 24th year, kicking off the season of film festivals that lead us into the spring with the overwhelmingly massive SXSW. With over 40 films in the week-long festival, there’s plenty of opportunities to see how queer filmmakers are telling the stories you won’t find anywhere else.
Set over the course of one week, aGLIFF has a spectacular array of American and international movies centered around the GLBTQIA experience. (The 'A' stands for “allies,” so you don’t even have to be the least bit gay to appreciate these films. Promise.)
To ease you into the butt-numbing, line-standing, popcorn-stuffing festival mentality, the Festival kicks off tonight with a moving story of friendship called The Lulu Sessions. The film follows the relationship between Louise “Lulu” Nutter and director S. Casper Wong during the last 15 month’s of Lulu’s battle against cancer. Heavy stuff, but filled with laughter and transcendence. Afterward, join aGLIFF over at Gibson Bar for a free food and drink kickoff party.
The Lulu Sessions is a great way to introduce the variety of movies present at the Festival this year. There are a number of other promising documentaries in the schedule, like Lost in the Crowd, which captures the silent struggles of a few queer youth that moved to New York City due to homophobia and danger in their hometowns. It’s a bleak backdrop, but it’s a powerful call for reform toward queer youth in our country.
On a lighter note, documentarian John Lavin presents Hollywood to Dollywood, the true story of twin brothers Gary and Larry making a cross-country trip to meet Dolly Parton. Along the way, they meet a succession of interesting characters who share their experiences being gay in the deep South. And yes, eventually, they make it to Dollywood for the 25th anniversary festivities of the Backwoods Barbie’s theme park.
Speaking of divas, ballroom dancer Melanie LaPatin plays an awesomely over-the-top stage mom Sheri in the coming-of-age/dance movie, Leading Ladies. Toni (Laurel Vail) is Sheri’s daughter, the quiet wind beneath her sister Tasi’s wings, who doesn’t find her own identity until Tasi’s dance partner (played by So You Think You Can Dance winner Benji Schwimmer!) takes her to a club where she meets Mona (Nicole Dionne). Even if you hate the romance, there are enough fabulous dance moves to hold you over until Mary Murphy gets back to screeching on SYTYCD.
On Friday, you won’t want to miss out on the special event screening of Mangus at the Paramount Theatre. Telling the story of a tragic(ally funny) high school student who will do anything to play Jesus in his school’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, this film stars Heather Matarazzo, Leslie Jordan, Jennifer Coolidge and even a cameo by John Waters as Jesus. After this majestic comedy finishes, the Paramount is going to be transformed into a big ol’ dance party emceed by aGLIFF special guest, Tom Lenk, who you might remember from a little show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Lenk will also be doing his comedic one-person show Nerdgasm on Thursday at the Highball. This award-winning musical comedy show collects anecdotes from Lenk’s experiences always being cast as the prototypical nerd in film and television as well as on stage. Hopefully he’ll have plenty to say about getting punched by Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Also included in the schedule are family-friendly movie classics like The Muppet Movie, the 1979 origin story of those lovable puppets that changed the way we felt about being green. The movie opens with the song “The Rainbow Connection,” which says all you need to say about why it’s included in this film lineup. The screening at the South Lamar Alamo is free to all families that want to attend, but you’ll have to get there early to see Kermit and his friends.
Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bi, trans or none of the above, there are a number of stories you won’t find at any of the upcoming film festivals in Austin. Varying widely in production quality and promotion, it’s often a mixed bag of goodies at aGLIFF. But like most festivals, sometimes the tiniest gems are the most precious. Your best bet is probably to spring for the full badge and get in as many movies as possible.
Just make sure to stand up and stretch every once in a while…