With more gay films and filmmakers than ever before, the Boston LGBT Film Festival, celebrating its 29th year Thursday through May 12, has the daunting task of programming an event that’s vibrant, surprising, and representative of LGBT films from around the world.
“It would be easy to spotlight films about, say, gay people in New York City. We try to give voice to other segments of LGBT life,” says Patrick Faloon, who took over this year as the head of programming.
The lineup has more than 100 fiction features, documentaries, and shorts screening at six local venues: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Brattle Theatre, the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Theater 1 at the Revere Hotel, and the Paramount Center. Several films deal with LGBT history or offer transgender characters. A particularly notable offering in the latter group is “Laurence Anyways” (May 5 at 7 p.m., MFA), Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s third feature, which won the Queer Palm Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
“It is a dramatic feature about a man’s desire to become a woman and the consequences of revealing this to his loved ones,” says Faloon. “It’s a beautiful film and it makes the topic more approachable to people that might not ordinarily be interested in it.”
Faloon also cites two powerful documentaries that reveal gay life in unexpected places. “Seventh Gay Adventists” (May 6 at 8:15 p.m., Brattle Theatre) looks at gay people struggling with their devotion to a religious sect that’s anti-gay. “Born This Way” (May 7 at 8:15 p.m., Brattle) is about gays and lesbians in Cameroon, a country where homosexual relations can draw sentences of up to five years in prison, and where it is almost impossible to come out to your own family for fear of reprisals.
Director Jeffrey Schwarz’s “I Am Divine” (May 4 at 7 p.m., MFA) is a biographical portrait of Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. Divine, who met John Waters during high school in Baltimore and became his friend, collaborator, and cult superstar. Schwarz, who directed the 2011 documentary “Vito,” about “The Celluloid Closet” author and activist Vito Russo, weaves movie clips, rare home movies and photos, television appearances and live performance footage of Divine with new interviews with Waters, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, and others including Frances Milstead, Divine’s mother who died just before the film was completed. Stole, who starred in other Waters films, will attend the screening along with Schwarz.
The LGBT past is also explored in “Continental” (May 11 at 7:30 p.m., Revere Hotel), director Malcolm Ingram’s valentine to New York in 1968, when the notorious Continental Baths opened its doors and staged weekly cabaret shows that launched the careers of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow.
The opening-night film is “Bye Bye Blondie” (8:15 p.m., ICA), Virginie Despentes’s drama about two middle-aged women struggling to rekindle their teenage romance. Next up is “G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend)” (May 3 at 7:30 p.m., MFA), Darren Stein’s comedy about a group of popular high school girls who compete for the ultimate trendy accessory: the school’s first openly gay male student.
The festival’s featured guest is Oscar-winning “Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who’ll be on hand to receive the director’s award for his contributions to LGBT Cinema on May 5 at 6 p.m. at the ICA.
Also attending the fest is director Travis Matthews, who has two films in this year’s lineup. “Interior Leather Bar,” which Matthews directed with actor James Franco, is a 60-minute film-within-a-film about S&M footage that was rumored to have been cut from the 1980 film “Cruising.” Also screening is Matthews’s third installment, shot in London and running 32 minutes, of his intimate “In Their Room” series of portraits of men in their personal spaces. Both films screen on May 10 at 9 p.m. at the Brattle.
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Three Boston Jewish cultural groups — the New Center for Arts and Culture, the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and the Boston Jewish Music Festival — join to present an event centered around the 1918 silent cinema classic “The Yellow Ticket.” It takes place Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The film, starring actress Pola Negri, depicts a woman’s struggle to overcome adversity after being forced into a life of prostitution in Czarist Russia. It features a new score by violinist and acclaimed klezmer fiddler Alicia Svigals, who will perform alongside piano virtuoso Marilyn Lerner. A panel discussion follows the screening.
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Filmmaker and Boston College professor John Michalczyk, director of the university’s film studies program, has co-produced with his wife, Susan Michalczyk, who is also a professor at BC, a documentary about the survivors of clergy sexual abuse. “Who Takes Away the Sins . . . Witnesses to Clergy Abuse” presents firsthand accounts from survivors, clergy, advocates, and journalists including Walter Robinson of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team that broke open the Boston story in 2002. The film premieres Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the MFA followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.
John Lurie, the artist, musician, composer, and actor best known for his starring roles in three films directed by Jim Jarmusch (not to overlook his work in Wim Wenders’s “Paris, Texas,” David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart,” or Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”), pays a visit to the Coolidge Corner Theatre on May 13 at 7 p.m. Lurie will present three episodes of his cult-hit TV show, “Fishing With John,” which he wrote, directed, and starred in. The six-episode series aired on IFC and Bravo and is now part of the Criterion Collection. In the episodes being shown at the Coolidge, Lurie goes ice fishing with Willem Dafoe at Maine’s northernmost point, searches for the elusive giant squid with Dennis Hopper in Thailand, and takes Tom Waits to Jamaica. The event also includes a short video about Lurie’s paintings and a discussion with the audience.
Loren King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.