click to enlarge HE WAS GIANT: Dean Preston stars in The Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean.

HE WAS GIANT: Dean Preston stars in The Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean.

Reel Love 

TIGLFF 2012 is a filmfest for lovers of women, men, and — most of all — movies.

Whether you’re a serious cinephile or simply interested in supporting indie filmmakers and the LGBT community, the 23rd annual Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival has something for every moviegoer. With 35 full-length feature films and nearly 39 shorts from 16 countries — Germany, Uganda, Japan, Iran and more — the festival truly has a global feel. The films touch upon a wide range of themes and issues, from the lighthearted to the serious, offering a variety of options for any taste.

This year’s TIGLFF boasts an especially strong roster of documentaries, making them some of the must-see movies at the festival. You’ll recognize stories from recent headlines, while others are less familiar but just as engaging and timely.

With marriage equality such a hot-button issue, especially this election season, Married & Counting (Oct. 10, Muvico Baywalk) couldn’t be more topical. Together 25 years, Stephen and Pat decide to use their love to make a political statement, traveling to get married in every jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal.

And in the wake of a rash of suicides by LGBT teens due to bullying over the past two years, TIGLFF has organized “Let’s Get Real on Bullying” (Oct. 13, Tampa Theatre). This event features a free youth-oriented panel, screenings of Let’s Get Real and various viral videos, and a discussion focused on bullying in schools and the workplace.

Uganda’s brutal anti-gay climate often makes international headlines, as it did last year when long-time gay advocate David Kato was beaten to death in his home. At the time of his murder, a documentary, Call Me Kuchu (Oct. 11, Muvico Baywalk), was being made about Kato’s crusade, and the filmmakers continued to interview his friends about his fight for freedom after his death.

See reviews this page for two other strong documentary offerings: Love Free or Die, about the openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and Unfit: Ward vs. Ward, a report on a startling custody case in Pensacola. One of the festival’s most fascinating figures, the transgender jazz bassist Jennifer Leitham, is the subject of the documentary I Stand Corrected (Check out my interview with Leitham here.).

Maybe documentaries aren’t your thing, and you’re more interested in drama or comedy. Don’t miss Cloudburst (reviewed this page), a favorite when TIGLFF screened it earlier this year. Other films of particular interest to women include The Perfect Ending (Oct. 10, Tampa Theatre), about a bored middle-aged housewife who has an affair with a much younger woman, and Kiss Me (Oct. 9, Muvico Baywalk), a Swedish movie about an engaged woman who falls for her future stepsister. Two films that were of particular interest to our reviewers were the festival opener, Elliot Loves, a charming coming-of-age tale from writer/director Gary Terracino, and Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean, which delves into the career and sexuality of the iconic screen legend.

As usual, there’s more to the festival than just films. Opening night festivities on Oct. 5 include a food truck rally outside Tampa Theatre and a free opening night after-party at Liquid Tampa, with a meet-and-greet with Elliot Loves director Terracino and actor Monte Bezell. The closing night party on Sat. Oct. 13, Wrapture, will take place at Czar, featuring music from Halcyon, DJ Jalil Z, and DJ Irene.

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