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Image Out–The Rochester Lesbian and Gay Film Festival October 10, 2011

Posted by homolog88 in film festivals, ImageOut (Rochester LGBT), Uncategorized.

My posse at the Image Out screening

It’s a good one, really one of the best I’ve attended. The prestigious LGBT film festivals—Frameline (San Francisco), Outfest (Los Angeles), New Fest (New York)—are associated with big cities, but ImageOut of Rochester, NY lasts 10 days and boasts the same line-up. Of course it doesn’t have the big names (Chaz Bono of Becoming Chaz showed up for the screening of his documentary at Frameline) nor do the programmers of other film festivals attend to see what they might solicit for their own, but the programming is top-notch, the community support, unparalleled, and the vibe is wonderfully hospitable. (The film festival put me up in the downtown Radisson for a couple of nights.) A 10-day festival is no joke to put on, and ImageOut does so with the help of over 100 volunteers. The excellence of the programming is due to the hard work and enthusiasm of its programming co-chair, Micahel Gamilla, a charming and seemingly tireless film buff. Other board members work hard at their functions AND hold down full-time jobs. The end result is an upbeat and well-run event, one that everyone seems delighted to be involved with. I got a fair amount of love and respect as a film maker, but the work I put into my short pales in comparison to the efforts of ImageOut’s principal movers. Over and over I said, “I’ve been to a lot of film festivals, and this is one of the better ones”—and it was nothing but the truth. And it surprises me that I have been to a lot of film festivals. How did this happen? I still don’t think of myself as a film maker.

I might have to revise this opinion given the success that “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” has met with. People at ImageOut loved the short. The woman photographing the event for the festival asked me to autograph her program—a first. In fact, I was taken aback. Having published two books, I’ve autographed before but never for a film.

The screening took place at 11:00 a.m. on an unseasonably warm and beautiful Saturday morning. I joked with my nephew Joe, his girlfriend and roommate that we might be the only four people who showed, but in fact there were around 50 who forewent an Indian summer day (all the more precious because of the long, frigid winter that is inexorably on its way) to sit in the large theater attached to the historic George Eastman (Kodak) mansion.  “TNB” screened first, and then I was called up for a Q&A session. The audience seemed genuinely interested in the subject matter (no Blacks in attendance as the main attraction to follow had  no racial content) and asked good questions about the historical context and its possible distribution. I was pleased. Michael Gamilla moderated, and he’s a witty guy. He said he liked to listen to the blues when he was doing his nails. I countered that I listened to the blues while combing my silken locks. “When they’re on the stand?” he asked. The photographer caught my laugh.

The laugh

The film that followed was an hour-length documentary called The Tents, about the New York fashion week shows that took place in Bryant Park for a period of about 20 years. The Tents was made with money and access to famous people—Diane von Furstenburg, Isaac Mizrahi, and Tommy Hilfiger—and also benefited from good cinematography and dynamic editing. But . . . it lost its story arc and ultimately, its audience. Too many digressions. It needed to be cut by at least 20 minutes. Joe and his roommate Christian left the theater before the end. And, as one of the film goers said to me afterwards, “The Tents needed to be shorter and yours needed to be longer.” “I can’t tell you how many guys have told me that,” I replied, going for the easy laugh.

Although I was only at the festival for its first 3 days, it was a packed 3 days. There were films I’d missed at Frameline that I wanted to see at Image Out. The festival put on a great opening night party—no music but excellent food (good priorities)—where I hobnobbed with real film makers (a gay couple screening their fourth feature film) and newbies (a straight couple flushed with the prospect of their first screening ever).

Film festivals reflect the character of their communities, and this seemed to be true of Rochester as well. Upstate New York—Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca, Rochester—are bastions of liberalism. I tend to associate small towns and cities with more conservative attitudes, but upstate New York has deep roots in the abolition movements (Frederick Douglass published The North Star from Rochester), women’s liberation (Seneca Falls), and Progressivism. Rochester’s lesbian and gay community is strong and visible. Their newspaper, The Empty Closet, is the longest continuously published print newspaper in America. ImageOut is the centerpiece of gay life in Rochester (there are only two gays bars in a town full of bars), and it holds pride of place. The gay and lesbian community loves and supports its film festival, and rightfully so. As the festival’s board chairman remarked, “Culturally, Rochester punches above its weight.”



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