Once a regional event serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is now the largest such event on the East Coast, organizers say.
The 13th annual edition, offered now through July 24, brings a deliciously varied program of 82 features and 72 shorts from a deliriously varied number of locales: Argentina and Brazil, Germany, France, Hungary and Romania, not to mention the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.
Fest organizer Ray Murray, who said advance tickes sales were up 30 percent from last year, expects the fest will draw up to 29,000 viewers, compared to last year's 26,500.
With an eye on films with cross-over appeal, the festival will feature more mainstream fare than before, including Kiss the Bride, starring Tori Spelling and James O'Shea; and Hairspray, the John Travolta-starring adaptation of the smash Broadway musical hit, which originated in 1988 in the hands of that evil genius of kitsch, John Waters.
As in past years, the festival also will feature plenty of special events, including post-screening parties, outdoor screenings of camp classics such as Mommie Dearest, and panels.
Aside from having the most gnarly title in the festival, the itty bitty, naughty Itty Bitty Titty Committee is a romantic comedy directed by Jamie Babbit of But I'm a Cheerleader fame. It's about a troupe of anarchist-punk lesbians fresh out of high school who rebel against The Man - when not busy frolicking with new girlfriends. It stars an ensemble of fresh faces, including Melonie Diaz (Raising Victor Vargas) and Nicole Vicius (Half Nelson).
The Philly-made 2 Minutes Later, by Open Cam helmer Robert Gaston, part of the festival's Danger After Dark category, is a noir thriller about a lesbian private eye who helps a guy locate his missing twin brother, a photographer whose lurid photos - not to mention his abusive bedside manner with his models - may have gotten him killed.
Best-known for his challenging, experimental features AKA and Method, director Duncan Roy gives Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray its most experimental and most explicitly gay film telling. Set in the 1980s cocaine- and cash-soaked New York art scene, the film, which stars David Gallagher and Noah Segan, uses AKA's split-screen techniques to tell the story of a decadent man's Faustian pact to stay young.
While the romantic comedies, thrillers and family dramas might get the most press, the festival retains gravitas with powerful activist films that tackle some of the LGBT community's biggest political and social concerns.
Shelly Prevost builds upon work done by The Brandon Teena Story and Boys Don't Cry with the documentary Trained in the Ways of Men, which follows the trials of four men who beat and strangled to death 17-year-old trans female Gwen Araujo when they discovered she was a biological male.
Gender identity is at the center of Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother, a documentary that follows Never Met Picasso actor Alexis Arquette - brother of actors Rosanna, Patricia and David - as he goes through the process of sex-reassignment surgery.
Argentine-born director and journalist Sebastian Cordoba, who previously explored gay teenage suicide in Living Proof, tackles immigration in Through Thick and Thin, which profiles gay and lesbian couples of mixed nationalities who are affected by new immigration laws.
Gay marriage, which remains a headline-grabber, is the subject of In Sickness and in Health, a documentary by first-time director Pilar Prassas that profiles Haddonfield couple Diane Marini and Marilyn Maneely, activists known for their efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
This is an extraordinary year for documentaries about artists. Anger Me, by Elio Gelmini, is a biography of notorious filmmaker and Hollywood Babylon author Kenneth Anger. James Crump's Black White + Gray zooms in on the artistic, and romantic, partnership between Sam Wagstaff and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. And Life of Reilly by Barry Poltermann and Frank L. Anderson is a tribute to the recently deceased Charles Nelson Reilly that captures his last performance of his one-man show, Save It for the Stage.
If these portraits of various artists capture the nonfiction side of the festival, one feature, The Bubble, represents its range and diversity. Made by director Eytan Fox and his partner, screenwriter Gal Uchovsky, who previously teamed up for Yossi & Jagger, this remarkable Israeli production is a moving story about a secret gay romance between an Israeli and a Palestinian set in Tel Aviv.
When the Israeli boy, Naom, is drafted into the army for his mandatory service, things get violent.
Talk about a love that dares not speak its name.
For complete coverage of the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, go to http://go.philly.com/movies
The 13th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, now through July 24.
Information and Schedule: 267-765-9700, www.phillyfests.com
Cost: Single screenings, $10 (excluding special events). Multishow passes available.
Tickets: 267-765-9700, Ext. 4; visit the Web site; or go to TLA Video stores (11 a.m.-10 p.m.) at 1520 Locust St.; 517 S. Fourth St.; 1808 Spring Garden St.; 7630 Germantown Ave.; and 761 Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr.
Venues: Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St.; Prince Music Theater and Black Box at the Prince, 1412 Chestnut St.; Jamaican Jerk Hut, 1436 South St. (outdoor screenings); Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard and Chestnut Street (outdoor screenings); and Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. (midnight show, Rocky Horror Picture Show). Venue box offices are open 30 minutes before the first screening until a half hour after the last screening.
Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.