With less than a week to go before opening night, festival director and programmer for the Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Roberto Appicciafoco admits it’s “a little nerve-wracking” waiting for the numerous film prints to arrive, scheduling travel for special guests and organizing a host of parties—one in a venue so new it has yet to get its flooring laid. Nonetheless, the 2009 SWGLFF is off to an impressive start.
The 2008 film festival came at the height of America’s economic crisis, leading to a marked downturn in ticket sales. But this year appears to be on a major upswing. Online ticket sales are finally kicking in and, Appicciafoco reports, “We’re 100 percent above where we were last year.” He chalks the development up to “karma.”
The week-long film festival confidently enters its seventh year this Friday with an opening night film (Ella Lemhagen’s Swedish adoption drama Patrik, age 1.5) and a gala kickoff party (at the recently opened Cosmo Tapas in East Nob Hill). Over the course of the next seven days, films will be screened at a quartet of venues, filmmakers will be saluted, cocktails will be quaffed and the now-legendary “Queer Brunch” will be packed with hungry (possibly hungover) attendees.
More than 400 short and feature-length films were submitted to this year’s festival. Of those, 79 will be screened—including features, shorts and documentaries from Iceland, Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, New Zealand and the U.K. The festival has even teamed up with the Consulate of Israel this year to help spotlight that country’s growing LGBT film community with the “Way Out! Israel” short film program.
The increasingly expansive LGBT film community and the resulting crush of submissions means this is the first year that Appicciafoco has brought in additional programmers. UNM instructor and Experiments in Cinema film festival founder Bryan Konefsky has curated SWGLFF’s first-ever “Queer X” experimental short film program. Gina Diaz, visual art curator for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, has put together the “Women of Color” shorts program. The addition of those two particular shorts programs, Appicciofoco hopes, will highlight the “variety that now exists” in LGBT film.
Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center has added its name to the list of venues this year, further enhancing claims of diversity and variety. Among the international showcase films screening at the NHCC’s Bank of America Theatre is the Spanish film Little Ashes, about the lives and loves of several Spanish icons: artist Salvador Dali, filmmaker Luis Buñuel and writer Federico García Lorca. Red-hot actor Robert Pattinson (Twilight) stars as the surrealistic painter Dalí. Appicciafoco calls the period drama “very lush, very beautiful.”
Also screening at NHCC is the New Mexico Showcase film The War Boys, which was shot right here in Albuquerque. The film, which stars Peter Gallagher, deals primarily with immigration and border issues. Appicciafoco watched it being filmed “just down the street from my house at Golden Crown Panadería.” The War Boys isn’t the only locally shot film, either. Two local shorts will be included in the popular “Gender Fabulous” programming block.
This year’s closing night film is Stuck!, a tribute to classic WIP films (that’s women-in-prison, for those less than literate in B-movie lingo). Among the cult film-heavy cast are John Waters regular Mink Stole (Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, Hairspray) and former Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin—both of whom will be in town for a post-film Q&A at the KiMo Theatre with Alibi Film Editor Devin D. O’Leary (yeah, me).
Wiedlin, speaking for her home in Wisconson, says of her role, “I play the part of Princess, a mentally challenged woman who is on death row as a result of killing her own baby.” Wiedlin sees Princess as a victim of the system. “She is a sweet person, but is just not quite all there.” Wiedlin, who once took on the role of Joan of Arc in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, is looking forward to her new film’s SWGLFF debut. “I’m glad that the GL community is supporting its artists with festivals such as this one,” she says. “I am proud to be a part of it, and a part of the GLBT family in general.”
Given that he didn’t program every single movie in this year’s festival, the festival’s overworked director might actually have the luxury of sitting down and enjoying some movies with his audience. “I’m looking forward to the queer experimental shorts. Hopefully, I’ll make it,” says Appicciafoco with a great deal of enthusiasm, but not a lot of confidence. There’s a lot for him to do, even after the festival starts. “It’s like your party, where you’re the host. I like to pop my head in [to venues] and see if the audience is laughing or enjoying themselves.” Odds are good they will be.