Atlanta Film Festival brings on the gays

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When the Atlanta Film Festival opens Friday for a 10-day run, several LGBT films are in the mix. Here’s a rundown, including three competing for the Pink Peach Award, given annually to the best LGBT film.

“The Grove” (trailer above): One of the films competing for the award is Andy Abrahams Wilson’s documentary looking at the National AIDS Memorial Grove, a grove in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. It’s a treasure that flies under the radar. After opening up an international contest to re-do the garden and bump up its visibility, the board question whether they really want it. What transforms “The Grove” from other films of its nature is the backstage drama.
Sunday, March 25 at 2:30 p.m. at Midtown Art Cinema

“Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads” (top photo): Another contender for the Pink Peach is Michael Schiralli’s mockumentary starring entertainer/drag goddess Varla Jean Merman, aka Jeffery Roberson, who plays herself changing careers and deciding to host a local children’s television show. Watch the trailer.
Saturday, March 24 at 4:45 p.m. at Midtown Art Cinema

“Glitterboys and Ganglands” (second photo): The final entry for the Pink Peach prize is Lauren Beukes’ film about a drag competition in South Africa. The movie focuses on three contestants – Princess Glamour girl Kat, MechanicEva, and Kayden, a pre-op Cirque Du Soleil contortionist. Watch the trailer.
Thursday, March 29 at 9:30 p.m. at the Midtown Art Cinema

“American Translation” Described as a “Bonnie and Clyde” for the younger generation, this film features a bisexual, often naked Frenchman at its center.
Sunday, March 25 at 11 pm at Midtown Art Cinema

“Cloudburst” (third photo): Shown out of competition, this feature film stars Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a lesbian couple hoping to officially get married in Nova Scotia. Expected to attend is director Thom Fitzgerald, who made the gay-themed “The Hanging Garden.” Watch the trailer.
Monday, March 26 at 7 pm at the Midtown Art Cinema

Pink Peach Shorts include a category for narratives and one for documentaries. Among them are narrative “Half Share” – about a 30ish man who vacations to Fire Island get his mind off other things – and the documentary “What Do You Know?,” in which grade school students share their thoughts on gay issues.
Narrative Shorts Sunday, March 25 at 4 p.m. followed by Documentary Shorts at 6:15 p.m. at Midtown Art Cinema

“The Men’s Room” (fourth photo): Among the Narrative Shorts is this world premiere of by former Atlantan Jane Pickett. Read our preview and watch the trailer. It finds a young man lured into a bathroom to cruise with unexpected results. Pickett was born in DeKalb County, went to Woodward Academy and now lives in Los Angeles. She got the idea when seeing two guys in the park. “It seemed to be a cruising moment; they were checking each other out,” she says. “There were furtive looks.” Pickett hasn’t shown the film yet to an audience and realizes some will be surprised that a woman directed it. Her goal was to make a short that was truly a short – not the basis for a feature film later on. She says shorts better cover more controversial, difficult material.
Pickett will be in attendance for the March 25 shorts screening at 4 p.m. at Midtown Art Cinema

“That’s What She Said” Another film to look for is this feature directed by the wonderful Carrie Preston (born in Macon) of “True Blood” fame. It stars Ellen’s ex Anne Heche as one in a trio of single women in New York.
Friday, March 30 at 7 p.m. at Midtown Art Cinema

“AKA Blondie” (bottom photo): Although it’s not part of the Pink Peach track of entries, Jon Watts’ documentary is a don’t-miss offering at this year’s festival. The film is an affectionate look at legendary Atlanta stripper Blondie, aka Anita Rae Strange, who has disrobed at the Clermont Lounge for decades. Blondie has had relations with women and fallen in love with gay men. She is an LGBT favorite, referring to herself as the community’s version of Tina Tuner. She’s witty and just huggable – but don’t cross her, or she might crush you like a beer can between her two heaving breasts, which she is known to do during her lounge act.
Sunday, March 25 at 9 p.m. at Plaza Theatre.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film LGBT film festival.

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