Olympia Dukakis is excited her film "Cloudburst" is one of the featured screenings at "The 23rd Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival." She says her role in the film is one of the best characters she has played in her long and honored career.
"I believe the work I did in 'Steel Magnolias' or 'Moonstruck' might be better but this character is so rich. After I saw the film, I was very shocked by what I saw in myself," Dukakis says.
The Oscar-winning actress stars with Brenda Fricker as a lesbian couple who, after being together for 31 years, travel to Canada to get married.
"Cloudburst" is just one of the featured films at the five-day festival that runs tonight through Sunday and showcases movies with gay, lesbian and transgender stories. Along with the movie screenings, there are receptions, parties and appearances by filmmakers and stars. It is the sixth oldest gay and lesbian film festival in America.
This year's more than 50 feature and short films will be shown in three venues: the Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.; the Starline Lounge, 831 E. Fern; and The Voice Shop, 1296 N. Wishon Ave.
"Cloudburst" plays Sunday at the Tower Theatre to close the festival.
Stella, the character Dukakis plays, is a little shocking, especially when it comes to what she will say.
Not only is Stella more than willing to speak her mind, she often accents what she says with colorful language. Dukakis laughs at the mention of Stella's dirty mouth and says that was the easy part of the movie because, when necessary, she can speak in quite colorful terms.
Dukakis got involved in the film through writer/director Thom Fitzgerald, who originally penned "Cloudburst" as a stage production. It was the director who talked Dukakis through some of her concerns about the role, such as playing the character too feminine or fully showing the price Stella has to pay because of her rebellious nature.
"Thom stayed on me about these concerns. I totally trusted him and in the end, it really worked," Dukakis says.
Dukakis is proud the film is part of the festival, but she hopes it will attract a larger audience because of its universal story of love and commitment. No matter the gender, all couples deal with the familiarity that comes with being together for a long time, the little things about each other that are annoying and the support they give each other.
If there's one thing Dukakis understands, that's long-term commitments. She and husband Louis Zorich are about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Reel Pride opens at 7:30 p.m. today with "Struck By Lightning," a film written by and starring Clovis East graduate Chris Colfer.
Go here for more information on the film festival or call (559) 999-7971.
Reel Pride schedule
7:30 p.m.: "Struck by Lightning" (Tower): Black comedy written by and starring Chris Colfer.
5:30 p.m.: "Facing Mirrors" (Tower): First narrative film from Iran with a transgender main character.
7:30 p.m.: "Call Me Kuchu (Tower): Documentary of Uganda's first openly gay man who publicly protests state-sanctioned homophobia.
7:30 p.m.: "Elliot Loves" (Voice Shop): A look at Elliot as a 10-year-old and as a 21-year-old.
9:30 p.m.: "North Sea Texas" (Tower): Discovery of first love in a small town on the Belgian coast in the late 1960s.
5:30 p.m.: "Let My People Go" (Tower): Nicolas Maury and Jarkko Niemi star in the romantic comedy that brings together Jewish and gay cultures.
6 p.m.: "I Stand Corrected" (Voice Shop): Documentary on a transwoman who is a jazz musician.
8 p.m.: "My Best Day" (Tower): A woman finds more than she expected when she tracks down her long-lost father.
10 p.m.: "I Want Your Love" (Tower): Life in San Francisco ends for a young man and he must move back to his Midwestern roots.
12:30 p.m.: "Fun in Girls Shorts" (Tower): Includes eight short films.
12:30 p.m.: "Mississippi I Am" (Starline): Inspiration in Action-Youth Program that examines the battle to bring gay civil rights out in the open.
2:30 p.m.: "Fun in Boys Shorts" (Tower): Includes seven short films.
2:30 p.m.: "Mother Tongue" (Starline): Spanish film about a woman who discovers her daughter and "friend" are lesbians.
4:30 p.m.: "TRANS - The Movie" (Tower): Documentary on a Buchanan graduate who ended her life.
4:30 p.m.: "The Invisible Men" (Voice Shop): Documentary about persecuted gay Palestinians who are in hiding.
7 p.m.: "A Perfect Ending" (Tower): A woman turns to a call girl for sexual satisfaction.
7 p.m.: "Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads" (Voice Shop): Mockumentary about ill-conceived effort to create a children's television show.
9:30 p.m.: "BearCity 2: The Proposal" (Tower): Gang of pals head for Provincetown for Bear Week.
Noon: "Jobriath A.D." (Voice Shop): A look at the influence of the first openly gay rock star, Jobriath.
1 p.m. : "Love Free or Die" (Tower): The first openly gay bishop sparks an international debate.
2:30 p.m.: "Morgan" (Voice Shop): A daredevil's determination to re-enter a race that nearly killed him causes trouble for a couple.
3 p.m.: "Kiss Me (KYSS MIG)" (Tower): Swedish film about a love affair that threatens a new family dynamic.
5 p.m.: "Mosquita y Mari" (Voice Shop): Two women must decide between desires and responsibilities.
5:30 p.m.: "Keep the Lights On" (Tower): Romantic drama that examines the decade-long relationship between two gay men.
8 p.m.; "Cloudburst" (Tower): After 31 years together, a couple head to Canada to get married.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.