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The Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival October 21, 2011

Posted by homolog88 in film festivals, Pittsburgh Gay and Lesbian FF.

They claim it’s the fifth or sixth oldest in the country, and at 26 years, they might be right. And it’s a long one, stretching over 10 days. It gets all the big films populating the film festival circuit this year (Gun Hill Road for the men; Hannah & the Hasbian for the women). It benefits from good business support, a cadre of dedicated volunteers and the tireless leadership of its president and programming chair, Mitchell Leib. Also, its printed program is worthy of an A-list festival, glossy and beautifully produced.


And yet, the PILGFF is second-rate, as Mitch ruefully confessed during our first conversation. There is no expectation that filmmakers will come, and when they do, not much is made of that. Unlike Rochester, a smaller town by far, the film festival draws only middling crowds, provides no accommodations to visiting filmmakers, and its film festival events seem to be limited. (I was only in attendance from Monday thru Wednesday, so can’t really judge the quality of the parties.) The film festival trailer preceding each showing was lackluster (Rochester’s, by contrast, was fabulous—in both the superlative and queer sense).


As I’ve frequently remarked, film festivals provide a reflection of their respective communities, and if Rochester, though small, bespeaks a remarkable intersection of homosexual community and film fandom, I’m not sure what the PILGFF says about Pittsburgh. Perhaps that the place is big enough to provide money and resources but that the centrifugal demands of a fast-paced urban life (so much to do! so little time!) have fragmented the community. The venue provides a spacial metaphor. Southside Works Cinema is a gleaming, new multiplex in a soulless, renovated section of Pittsburgh’s  gentrifying south side. The audience watches the films in the 21st-century comfort of large screens and stadium seating, yet upon exiting the screening room, the generically Hollywood setting—eye-popping carpets, attractive posters of current attractions at the 9 other screening rooms, brilliantly huge concession counter—obliterates any sense of individuality or community the films might have created. One becomes, has always been, a pampered consumer.


(Once again, by contrast, the Rochester film festival took place in two characteristic venues: the quirky downtown art theater, small and unrenovated; and the large modern screening room connected to the George Eastman house.)


“T’A’in’t Nobody’s Bizness” showed with an eclectic mix of other shorts in Wednesday night. Around 65 men and women scattered themselves around the large screening room—really a respectable number for a week night. The Q&A was lively, a good 2/3 of the audience stayed for that, and, as usual, I fielded most of the questions. The reaction to the short was quite positive. (But, of course, anybody with a negative opinion would keep it to themselves.)


Another filmmaker was present, a New York graduate of Hunter College who made a personal documentary about his small-town family’s slow move toward accepting the presence of his long-term partner. The documentary was so-so—a good subject amateurishly handled (he said loftily)—but the filmmaker was excited to be there, and I ended up having a fascinating discussion with his partner as we sat in a bar afterwards. (Scott was pretty much a white guy who had been adopted by middle-class Black parents, so you know I found his story way more interesting than the one that had been told on screen.)


I was in attendance with my “nephew” (actually a cousin), Jeremy Philipson, who is in his last year at Carnegie Mellon Institute. He had persuaded three of his classmates to go as well, so I was part of a student pod, great fun. Since they were straight, shorts that I found tiresome in their “please-accept-us-we’re-human-too” message struck home with them. Good! I think LGBT film festivals should sponsor “bring a breeder night” with special programming, free admission for straight companions, and raffle prize copies of Loving Someone Gay.



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