Speaking from his overburdened office less than a week before the start of the Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, festival director Roberto Appicciafoco sounds weary but enthusiastic. He admits that ticket sales for this year have “kind of blown up.” That’s an understatement. According to Appicciafoco, online sales have jumped some 500 percent from this time last year. That’s ample evidence to suspect many of the festival’s film screenings will sell out and the multitude of parties (including a brand-new opening night soiree at Bailey’s on the Beach) will be packed with happy celebrants.
With 23 feature films and countless shorts screening at three venues, prospective festivalgoers may be at something of a loss to choose their views. So we asked Appicciafoco to single out his own personal top-five pics of the festival.
Gun Hill Road
Gun Hill Road
This Hispanic family drama got snapped up in a seven-figure deal at the Sundance Film Festival in January and now anchors SWGLFF as the opening-night film. Esai Morales (Mi Familia, “NYPD Blue”) stars as a father who returns home after a rough, three-year prison stint. Once out, he finds himself unprepared for the changes that have arisen during his absence—including a son who’s in the process of transitioning to a woman. Appicciafoco has been wrangling hard to get Morales here for the screening, but the possibility remains “hit and miss.” (Friday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m., Guild Cinema)
German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) explores a little alternative sexuality in this Berlin-set drama about a bored, fortysomething husband and wife who—completely independently of one another—fall in love with the same bisexual man. Dreamy, visually potent, sprinkled with ethical discussions and occasionally quite humorous, Tykwer’s film finds a way to put a unique Germanic spin on the old ménage à trois. It also serves as the festival’s closing-night film and will be followed by a party at Nob Hill’s Brasserie La Provence. (Thursday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m., Guild Cinema)
This Middle Eastern musical is based on the songs of Israeli pop legend Svika Pick and has been compared to American stage/screen sensation Mamma Mia! Celebrated director Eytan Fox (The Bubble, Yossi & Jagger) spins this tune-filled tale of a homosexual high schooler who goes on a quest to find his long-lost mother. Along the way, he takes up with a drag troupe and follows in his mother’s music-loving footsteps. (Tuesday, Oct. 11, 8:15 p.m., Guild Cinema)
As festival director, Appicciafoco is responsible for nearly all the selections in the annual showcase, traveling to film festivals around the country and sampling countless potential programming choices. This year, he’s especially enthusiastic about SWGLFF’s Latin American showcase film, the Argentine thriller Absent (Ausente). In this Hitchcock-like drama, a high school gym teacher named Sebastián finds his tidy life upended by a manipulative, sexually obsessed teenager. As the young boy insinuates himself into Sebastián’s life, our protagonist starts to question his own sexuality. (Monday, Oct. 10, 7 p.m., NHCC’s Bank of America Theatre)
Stand-up comedienne Margaret Cho is a longtime favorite of gay and lesbian audiences. In this, her sixth concert film, Cho delivers her own patented brand of politically and sexually charged comedy. In addition to the raunchy jokes, Cho manages to incorporate several new songs—with special accompaniment by the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus. This one should make a fine palate cleanser to some of the festival's darker and more dramatic fare. (Saturday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m., Guild Cinema)
The ninth annual Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Friday, Oct. 7, through Thursday, Oc.t 13 Venues: Guild Cinema, UNM’s Southwest Film Center and the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Bank of America Theatre Visit closetcinema.org for full featival schedules, tickets and passes.