“It’s amazing how much we’ve grown,” marvels Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Director Roberto Appicciafoco. The festival he helped found is entering its fifth year, and a glance through the list of films and events for 2007 shows a schedule bursting at the seams. This is both a sign of good, organic growth and an indication that the folks behind the festival are throwing themselves one fabuloso birthday party.
This year, it’s expanded from three venues to five (the SouthWest Film Center at UNM, the KiMo Theatre Downtown, the Guild Cinema in Nob Hill, the UA Highridge in the Heights and the UA Devargas in Santa Fe). Over the course of the festival’s seven days (Friday, Sept. 28, through Thursday, Oct. 4), a whopping 76 films from 18 different countries will be showcased—everything from an Israeli-based forbidden love story (The Bubble) to an Argentine coming-of-age tale (Glue) to a nostalgic look at lesbian porn (Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation) to a hairy homo documentary (Bears).
Aside from the films, festival attendees are encouraged to join in the celebration at the five gala parties—not counting the return of the ever-popular “Queer Brunch.” Only Monday and Tuesday are party-free this year—although the festival’s director doesn’t rule out the possibility that “we may even do something impromptu on those nights.”
Among the big attractions for this fifth go-around is a sizable bump in the number of celebrity guests. Openly gay actor Chad Allen, star of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” three-time Advocate magazine cover boy and catalyst behind the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis (seriously, look it up on Wikipedia), will be in attendance to promote his role in the new drama Save Me. According to Appicciafoco, the film is “the only feature, full-length queer film shot in New Mexico ... to my knowledge.” The story tells of a sex-
Another major guest this year is Guinevere Turner. “Guinevere is just huge in the lesbian community ever since she came out in Go Fish,” notes Appicciafoco. After writing, producing and starring in that groundbreaking 1994 lesbian romance, the multihyphenate beauty went on to act in genre hallmarks like Kiss Me, Guido and The Fluffer and write scripts for such diverse films as American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page and BloodRayne. A multi-episode stint on Showtime’s “The L Word” cemented her reputation in the lesbian community. Her newest film, the feminist comedy Itty Bitty Titty Committee, will screen at the festival on Wednesday night.
Of course, Allen and Turner are just the tip of the iceberg. Various other filmmakers and actors will be in attendance this year. “For us, that’s great,” says Appicciafoco. “With the support of sponsors, we’ve gotten to the point where we can become more of a community of filmmakers.” Appicciafoco credits contributors like the Albuquerque Film Office and the festival’s first national sponsor, Skyy Vodka, for helping the 2007 outing “step it up a notch in any way we can.”
Last year, between 100 and 150 films were submitted for possible inclusion in the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. This year, programmers saw a “100 percent increase.” More than 300 films flooded in. Appicciafoco chalks this up to an exponential increase in the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered films being made. “I’d say 400 or 500 GLBT films are produced every year now. Going over to the digital medium has really helped,” says Appicciafoco. “It’s like a floodgate.”
Of course, the increased profile of the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival hasn’t hurt submissions either. “Definitely, when I got to L.A. or San Francisco, to those festivals, people recognize the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival,” says Appicciafoco. “We try to market outside the state as much as we can.” The festival’s stylish and info-packed website (www.closetcinema.org) has also contributed immensely to the festival’s “cool kid” image. Posters designed by Alibi graphic designer Jeff Drew have done their part as well. “Jeff Drew designed a great poster,” admits Appicciafoco. “Every time we put them up in Santa Fe, people are stealing them.”
With guests flooding in and online ticket sales soaring, the 2007 Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is already looking like a major success. “This year really puts us on the map,” calculates Appicciafoco. “It’s always a five-year market for film festivals to see if they can make it. We’ve definitely blossomed through the years.”