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Desperado LGBT Film Festival offers emotion, wide range of films

Sharlene Celeskey, Contemporary Culture Editor, Puma Press

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What a wonderfully warm feeling it was to see our loyal returning festival-goers as well as meeting new people who were there for the first time,” said Ted Kirby, the social media manager of the 8th Annual Desperado Film Festival.

Kirby was spot on about what made the 8th Annual Desperado Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Film Festival successful and special. The festival that spanned three days from Jan. 27 – 29 offered a wide variety of highly attended films, an artist meet and greet and a jazz band. The newest addition was: the sale of hot pizza. This year, attendees were able to choose from a variety of pizzas fresh out of the oven or a delicious green salad. PVCC’s dietetic students were on hand to cook and serve it. Desperado’s MC and Sponsor, Maryanne Marttini said, “We offered pizza for sale between films, which I think was a great success. It keep people at the theater between films.”

Desperado had over 1,300 attendees over the three days.  “A Million Happy Nows,” “Fair Haven” and “Heartland” had the highest attendance. All movies had good attendance and the audience rated the film. The award winners were:

Best Feature = “A Million Happy Nows”

Best Doc = “Strike A Pose”

Best Short Film = “Happy F’ing Valentine’s Day”

Best Student Short Film = “Walk For Me”

David Limon was a fan of the best documentary winner, “Strike a Pose.” He liked the topics the film dealt with. He said, “The part of the film that I really loved and overwhelmed me with tears of happiness was when all the dancers got together at the restaurant. It shows they reunited to bring this film to the screen. It made me personally feel that I was part of something.” It is now one of his favorite films. He said, “Many topics the film dealt with I have experienced growing up. I saw a reflection of my life in it, good and bad, LIFE in general.”

Organizer Alan East thought this festival was successful due to the wide range of films shown. He said, “The film lineup was broad ranging and emotional. For years, we had a lot of comedy films, but that’s been changing. Dramatic LGBTQ narratives have become much more prevalent, and Desperado 2017 was able highlight the best of 2016-2017.”

Marttini agreed and said, “This year we had several tearjerker films, and because of all the negative political news, I opened three films with some levity which I think added to the festival.” 

Viewers had the option to sit outside and watch free films projected onto the wall of the Center of the Performing Arts (CPA) building while eating pizza. Jeff Riddle, committee member, believed the free outdoor films projected on the side of the CPA were a big hit. Dale Heuser, organizer, agreed that the outdoor films were well received and well attended.

Each year, Desperado screens at least one or more foreign films. Marttini was surprised at the increased attendance for this year’s two foreign films (Jonathan and El Canto Del Colibrí).

One of the foreign films, “El Canto Del Colibrí,” is a documentary on how Latino men dealt with discovering their child is gay. This stirring film showed their transformation as they moved into acceptance and formed stronger relationships with their children. A very powerful and emotional panel discussion, “Latino Fathers and their LGBTQ Children,” followed and was led by Alberto Olivas: former director of MCCCD Center for Civic Participation. The panel consisted of Lerman Montoya, Jessica X, Lorena Austin and Phil Austin who shared their personal experiences that were very touching.

 Desperado is more than just a film festival, and this year included a jazz band performance on Sunday and an artist workshop on Saturday.  Both events, Heuser said, “were a hit!”

Holly Pyle, singer with band House of Stairs, enjoyed her experience at the festival. She said, “It was really fun, and you could be yourself. I feel we were well received.”

Tricky Burns, who conducted the artist workshop and painting demonstration, had a wonderful experience at the festival. She exhibited nine of her paintings, and four of Burns photographs are in the lobby of the CPA. She said, “Alan East, helped make setting up my exhibit a seamless experience.”

Marttini noticed that there were more first time attendees this year. One of these first time festival goers was David Limon who stated he had always wanted to attend. He and two good friends attended “Strike a Pose” or as Limon said, “Truth or Dare, 25 years later, without Madonna.” 

Why does Desperado continue to be successful? Kirby explained why the festival thrives, and he said, “We simply cannot do this Festival without the continued support of individuals who love to be part of entertainment alternatives, incorporating LGBT film at the Desperado Film Festival. It is a refreshing event for people to get together to talk about film and especially network.”

One Desperado patron, Sara Bonifig regularly attends the Diversity Leadership Alliance Workshop on Friday mornings but missed it this year because she was traveling. She came on Sunday when she was back in town and watched, “Heartland.” “I enjoyed the film I did see, and I appreciate that we have a festival like the Desperado. I also love that it has a home at the college as that makes it very convenient for me.” She also thought the music outdoors was a nice addition in between films.

Limon liked the way the festival was both advertised and organized. He found the volunteers helpful and friendly. He said, “Attending this year’s Desperado Film Festival has been a great experience that I won’t forget. I will be looking forward to next year’s film festival and make it a habit to attend the event yearly.“

The importance of Desperado and how it benefits the community is summed up by PVCC Communication & Humanities Division Chair and committee member Dr. Marilyn Cristiano as she said, “The 2017 LGBT Desperado Film Festival gave the LGBTQIA community a rare opportunity to see the joys, sorrows and challenges of their lives on the big screen with an accepting audience. The films screened presented thought provoking themes that educated the audience while entertaining them at the same time.”

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Desperado LGBT Film Festival offers emotion, wide range of films