Olympia Dukakis as a bawdy, butch lesbian; gay Arab men fleeing their homeland in order to live openly; a Jesuit priest who rankled Rome when he declared homosexuality to be compatible with Catholic church teachings; the most famous ’70s rock star no one’s heard of, and more. There’s little that’s generic or PC about the films and subjects in the 28th Boston LGBT Film Festival.
Running Thursday through May 13, the oldest festival of its kind delivers features, documentaries, and shorts from around the world as well as parties, filmmaker visits, and panel talks. To reach out to New England’s diverse audience, screenings will take place at five venues: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Brattle Theatre, the Modern Theatre, the Coolidge Corner Theatre, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, which hosts the festival’s opening-night gala. James Nadeau, the festival’s artistic director, says that the kickoff screening, “Loose Cannons” (May 3, 8:15 p.m., ICA) from Italy, is a film that he’s been “chasing for two years.” Director Ferzan Ozpetek’s dramedy about family obligations, secrets, and repressed desire centers on Tommaso, the gay but closeted youngest son of the well-to-do and ultra-conservative Cantone family. After some unexpected revelations about his brother Antonio, Tommaso reluctantly takes over the family’s pasta factory in Puglia with Alba, the daughter of their new business partner.
Director Aurora Guerrero’s “Mosquita y Mari” (May 4, 7:45 p.m., MFA) is a coming-of-age story about two teenage Chicanas, Yolanda and Mari, facing the complexities of growing up in Huntington Park, Los Angeles.
But it’s not all about pretty young things in this festival. Dukakis’s riotous and poignant Stella faces old age and the threat of separation from Dottie (Brenda Fricker), her partner of 30 years, in the Maine-set “Cloudburst” (May 6, 7 p.m., MFA). Director Thom Fitzgerald will be present for the screening. Besides octogenarian lesbians, the festival offers other films about characters that audiences rarely see: “Leave It on the Floor” (May 5, 7 p.m., MFA), a fictional, musical version of the landmark documentary “Paris Is Burning,” is about young black and Latino gays, ostracized by their biological families, who find surrogate families in the “houses” of the LA underground drag ball scene. Director Sheldon Larry will attend the screening. Yariv M. Mozer’s documentary “The Invisible Men” (May 12, 2 p.m., MFA) follows three gay Palestinian men living illegally in Tel Aviv. They reluctantly apply for amnesty and relocate to Europe, forced to leave the homeland they love in order to live openly.
This year’s festival boasts many other strong documentaries. Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf’s “Wish Me Away” (May 11, 6:30 p.m., Brattle) chronicles the emotionally arduous public coming out of country music star Chely Wright. Director Kieran Turner will be on hand with “Jobriath A.D.” (May 11, 9 p.m., Brattle), a lively look at the late Jobriath’s brief mid-’70s reign as the first openly gay glam-rock star; Joe Fox will present “Question One” (May 5, 3 p.m., ICA), his balanced documentary about the divisive 2009 ballot initiative in Maine that overturned the state’s landmark marriage equality law.
Several documentaries offer revelatory accounts of gay history. Director Brendan Fay will be at the screening of “Taking a Chance on God” (May 6, 2 p.m., MFA), about 86-year-old Jesuit priest John McNeill, cofounder the LGBT Catholic group Dignity NY and author of the book “The Church and the Homosexual.” “Love Free or Die” (May 7, 7 p.m., Brattle), about gay New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson and his struggle for equality in the Episcopal church, will be followed by a discussion with Robinson and the film’s director, Macky Alston. Director Jeffrey Schwarz will introduce “Vito” (May 13, 3:45 p.m., MFA), about the life and times of Vito Russo, activist and author of the seminal 1981 book on Hollywood’s depictions of lesbians and gays, “The Celluloid Closet.”
For a complete schedule and more information, go to www.bostonlgbtfilmfest.org.