LGBTQ Filmmakers Hit High Seas on Pride of the Ocean Film Festival

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More than 60 LGBTQ filmmakers, directors, writers and cinema fans from across the country departed Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 25 aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas on the 11th annual Pride of the Ocean Film Festival.

Founded by Emmy Award-winning documentarian John Scagliotti (“Before Stonewall,” “In the Life”), Pride of the Ocean featured LGBTQ-produced shorts, documentaries and features, along with intimate discussions and workshops with the filmmakers.

A focus of the program was the importance of preserving LGBTQ history through film. Scagliotti created “In the Life,” the first LGBTQ-themed television newsmagazine that premiered in 1992 and was broadcast for two decades on PBS. His film, “Before Stonewall” was one of the first to document gay history before 1969.

“We’re here to discover together what we can do as artists to preserve our history,” Scagliotti told the audience at the first screening, “and we’re especially fortunate to collaborate with the leaders of three preeminent LGBTQ libraries and archives.”

The executive directors of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, University of Southern California ONE Archives and GLBT Historical Society of San Francisco are all onboard to participate in panel discussions about the wide range of historical resources available for filmmakers, including film and tape, photographs, oral histories and documents.

Chris Rudisill, executive director of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives said, “Our work really goes hand in hand. Everything in our archives has a story and working with filmmakers offers an opportunity to explore those stories.”

In partnership with the Center for Independent Documentary, “CineSLAM” workshops offered filmmakers the opportunity to pitch future projects and receive critical feedback on their sizzle reels and rough cuts from producers, funders and critics. Executive director Susi Walsh moderated the workshops.

“Many of the shorts that are workshopped are often excerpts from longer films that are being developed. The feedback from our workshops help filmmakers clarify their subject matter with both potential audiences and the funding community,” said Walsh. “Past participants have even met funders for their projects on the cruise.”

Sam Berliner, an independent filmmaker and director of Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival, led discussions about the historical appearance and evolution of transgender characters in film, assisted by Sam Feder (“Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger”) and pioneering trans scholar and filmmaker Susan Stryker (“Screaming Queens”).

While the ship was docked in Jamaica, an island infamous for bloody anti-gay violence, participants remained onboard for two screenings: Scagliotti’s “Dangerous Living,” which explored the daily perils of life for LGBTQ people in Third World countries, and Bahamian filmmaker Kareem J. Mortimer’s moving 2011 drama, “Children of God,” set in his own country where homophobia still remains rampant.

“It’s changing slowly, but unfortunately, murderers still get off because of ‘gay panic’ defenses,” Mortimer said. “A close friend of mine was killed violently (during filming) and I knew I had to confront that in the film.”

Next year, Pride of the Ocean will sail from New York City, June 8 – 15, just days before the city celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, considered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. In addition to screenings and workshops, the program will also delve into the stories of LGBTQ veterans and first responders.

For more information, go to PrideOfTheOcean.com.


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