Festivals featuring LGBT films across the country have come and gone, but the annual Fresno event — the sixth oldest LGBT film event in America — continues to go strong.
"The 24th Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival" runs Sept. 18-22 and will feature 35 full-length and short features. On the schedule are nightly screenings of feature films, receptions, parties and special appearances by filmmakers and stars in the Tower District.
Jon Carroll, festival programmer, says the continuing success is a careful management of the festival's growth and a commitment to finding the best productions available.
"We have never wanted to expand too quickly. We put our toe in the water last year with a third venue and this year we have added a full-time third venue for showing the films," Carroll says.
Along with the usual venues of the Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave. and The Voice Shop, 1296 N. Wishon Ave., films also will be screened at Severance Dance Studio, 1401 N. Wishon Ave.
It was just as important for the festival organizers to find the right third location as it was to expand.
"With all our venues, you are only a three-to-five minute walk from another location. Because the venues are so close, you never lose that momentum and buzz that comes with this type of community event," Carroll says.
It has gotten a lot easier to secure top films because more movies are being made available digitally. In the past — as recent as 10 years ago — all of the movies were on 33 mm film. It was not unusual for a movie to screen in Denver one night and be shipped to Fresno for a screening the next night.
The other big change is a dramatic decrease in short films. Filmmakers can now — because of digital cameras — shoot a full-length film at the same cost of a short that's on film.
The increase in features has kept Reel Pride organizers busy since the first of the year. Carroll is particularly happy that "G.B.F." will open the festival, both because it stars Clovis West grad Michael J. Willett and it's a fun film.
The lineup this year ranges from fun movies to those — like "Interior. Leather Bar." — that have caused some controversy.
Carroll stresses that one of the purposes of the festival is to get people to step out of their comfort zone whether it be in subject matter of the style of filmmaking.
The festival kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Tower Theatre with "G.B.F." Individual tickets for each movie are $10 or there are festival packages available.
For more information on the film festival, go to reelpride.com or call (559) 999-7971.
"G.B.F." Grade: B-: If you don't know what a G.B.F. is, then you probably need one. A Gay Best Friend is the latest high school fad and no school queen bee is completely worthy of being worshipped until she has one. The only problem is that in this high school no one has come out.
That changes when Tanner (Michael Willett) is outed. He becomes the focus of three high school girls who are convinced having Tanner as a friend will make them a lock to win the Prom Queen title. All he has to do is survive the constant pampering, sexual assaults and waves of questions from a high school that seems to be stuck in the 1950s when it comes to understanding gay people.
Willett, along with Sasha Pieterse as school hottie Fawcett, turn in solid performances. But they often get overpowered by a supporting cast that overacts. The only moments that feel real in the movie are those between Willett and Pieterse, but they're not strong enough to save the movie.
Director Darren Stein continues his assault on the high school practice of selecting a prom queen. His 1999 production, "Jawbreaker," is a dark comedy about what happens when the prom queen gets accidentally killed. "G.B.F." would have benefited from a little of the black humor that made "Jawbreaker" work so well.
— Rick Bentley
"Melting Away." Grade: D: This Israeli film about parents who throw out their teen son after they discover women's clothing under the teen's mattress might have the best intentions, but it's so sappy and implausible that it almost becomes unintentionally funny. Anna (Hen Yanni), the son-turned-daughter, remains estranged from her parents several years later but returns to her father's bedside as he lies dying of cancer without revealing her real identity.
There might have been a semblance of dramatic tension if we didn't know from the start — thanks to Doron Eran's inane direction — that of course the father recognizes his child. Add to that a plot thread about Anna's uncle coming on to her, and the film becomes almost unwatchable. Only Yanni's tender performance, despite the embarrassing script and direction, salvages the film enough to offer some real feeling at the sentimental ending.
— Donald Munro
Reel Pride Film Festival schedule
7:30 p.m. "G.B.F." (Tower Theatre)
5:30 p.m. "Born This Way" (Tower Theatre)
5:30 p.m. "La Partida (The Last Match)" (The Voice Shop)
7:30 p.m. "Melting Away" (Tower Theatre)
7:30 p.m. "Breaking the Girls" (The Voice Shop)
9:30 p.m. "Good As You" (Tower Theatre)
5:30 p.m. "Free Fall" (Tower Theatre)
5:30 p.m. "Before You Know It" (The Voice Shop)
5:30 p.m. "Todo el Mundo Tiene a Alguien Menos Yo" (Everybody's Got Somebody But Me) (Severance Dance Studio)
7:30 p.m. "Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?" (Tower Theatre)
7:30 p.m. "Positivity" (The Voice Shop)
9:30 p.m. "Test" (Tower Theatre)
11 p.m. "Interior. Leather Bar." (Tower Theatre)
12:30 p.m. "Fun In Girls Shorts" (Tower Theatre)
12:30 p.m. "Continental" (The Voice Shop)
2:30 p.m. "Geography Club" (Severance Dance Studio)
2:30 p.m. "Fun In Boys Shorts" (Tower Theatre)
2:30 p.m. "Lesbiana – A Parallel Revolution" (The Voice Shop)
4:30 p.m. "Getting Go, The Go Doc Project" (The Voice Shop)
4:30 p.m. "I Am Divine" (Tower Theatre)
7:30 p.m. "Heterosexual Jill" (Tower Theatre)
7:30 p.m. "In the Name Of" (The Voice Shop)
7:30 p.m. "Out In the Dark" (Severance Dance Studio)
9:30 p.m. "Birthday Cake" (Tower Theatre)
9:30 p.m. "Easy Abby: Every Day Making Love More Difficult" (The Voice Shop)
9:30 p.m. "And You Belong" (Severance Dance Studio)
12:30 p.m. "Valentine Road" (Tower Theatre)
2 p.m. "Come Non Detto" (Tell No One/Not a Word) (The Voice Shop)
2 p.m. "Southern Baptist Sissies" (Severance Dance Studio)
3 p.m. "Reaching for the Moon" (Tower Theatre)
4 p.m. "Transcendent: Shorts Program" (The Voice Shop)
5:30 p.m. "Pit Stop" (Tower Theatre)
6 p.m. "Submerge" (The Voice Shop)
6 p.m. "Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas" (Severance Dance Studio)
8 p.m. "The Happy Sad" (Tower Theatre)
Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Donald Munro can be reached at email@example.com, (559) 441-6373. Read their blogs blog at fresnobeehive.com.