Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Kicks Off in Miami

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Miami’s beaches and nightclubs have long been a draw for celebrities, but this weekend, movie fans at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will have their own encounter with one of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars.

Actor, writer and director James Franco will receive the HBO Latin America Ally Award at the festival, which runs April 26 through May 5 at venues in Miami and Miami Beach.

Franco has long been an LGBT ally, tackling gay film roles and promoting projects that raised awareness of the community. He starred alongside Sean Penn in Gus Van Sant’s critically-acclaimed film, Milk, and portrayed gay poet Allen Ginsburg in Howl.

“We are thrilled to host an actor of James Franco’s caliber at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival,” said Franc Castro, executive director of MGLFF. “His multi-faceted talents coupled with his contributions to LGBT film both in front of the camera and behind the scenes have helped shine the spotlight on LGBT cinema and a filmmaker’s right to free expression.”

The award will be presented to Franco, Travis Mathews, David W. Ross and Heather Winters at the Olympia Theatre in the Gusman Center in downtown Miami on Saturday, April 27, immediately preceding the screening of Out in the Dark at 9:15 p.m.

Franco’s most recent project, Interior. Leather Bar., co-directed with Mathews, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and will receive its regional premiere at MGLFF. The film sought to recreate 40 minutes of S&M footage rumored to have been cut and destroyed from the controversial 1980 film, Cruising, in order to avoid an “X” rating. The film will be screened on Sunday, April 28 at 8:30 p.m. at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

In addition to the award presentation and premiere of Franco’s film, festival organizers winnowed down hundreds of submissions to finalize a diverse program of more than 65 LGBT themed films screened at venues in Miami, Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Miami Shores.

The festival also offers many opportunities for fans to meet filmmakers and actors with a series of “Meet the Cast” parties, receptions and other events.

Some highlights of the festival line-up include:

G.B.F., Southeast Premiere

Friday, April 26, 8:30 p.m., Gusman Theatre

Director Darren Stein, actors Andrea Bowen, Michael Willet, Xosha Roquemore and producer Stephen Israel will attend.

The fight for supremacy between a school’s most popular girls takes an unexpected turn when Tanner (Michael J. Willett) becomes its first openly gay student. As they race to bag the big trend in fashion accessories, the Gay Best Friend, Tanner, must choose between skyrocketing popularity and the friends he is leaving behind. Darren Stein (Jawbreaker) returns with another comic send-up of high school clique culture, including memorable cameos by Megan Mullally and Natasha Lyonne.

Who’s Afraid Of Vagina Wolf, A Work In Progress

Saturday, April 27, 6 p.m., Olympia Theatre at Gusman Center

Director Anna Margarita Albelo will be attending with actress Guinevere Turner.

The day after her 40th birthday, Anna, a filmmaker who sacrificed her love life for her film career, realizes she has neither and decides to get them both by adapting an all-female version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?

Stud Life

Sunday, April 28, 8 p.m., Miami Beach Cinematheque

London’s urban scene is explored through the eyes of J.J., a hot British stud and her gay best friend, Seb. As J.J. falls for a provocative diva, her friendship with Seb is challenged. A story of friendship, love and betrayal, Stud Life balances it all against the backdrop of the gritty city.

I Do

Wednesday, May 1, 8 p.m., O Cinema, Miami Shores

Writer, producer and lead actor David W. Ross and producer Stephen Igrad will attend the screening.

Jack, a British photographer, is a surrogate father to his deceased brother’s daughter, Tara. He picks her up from school, helps with homework, and is there for the occasional emergency room visit. Jack is suddenly informed his work visa will not be renewed and, desperate to stay in the U.S., he marries his lesbian best friend, Ali. The ruse does not last, as they feel pressure from Immigration, as well as Jack’s increasingly serious relationship with Mano, a sexy Spaniard.

Geography Club

Thursday, May 2, 9:30 p.m., O Cinema, Miami Shores

Directed by South Florida native Gary Entin, this is a story about contemporary teenagers as they discover their sexual identities, dreams and values. Sixteen-year-old Russell is still going on dates with girls while having a secret relationship with football quarterback Kevin, who will do anything to prevent his teammates from finding out. Min and Terese tell everyone that they're just really good friends, and then there's Ike, who can't figure out who he is or who he wants to be. Finding the truth, that is all too hard to hide, they decide to form the Geography Club, thinking nobody in their right mind would ever want to join. However, their secrets may soon be discovered and they could have to face difficult choices.

Continental, Southeast Premiere

Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m., O Cinema, Miami Shores

Malcolm Ingram's lively new documentary Continental takes viewers back in time to the sexually charged New York of 1968, when the notorious ‘Continental Baths’ opened its doors. This groundbreaking den of debauchery — advertised as a place “for sophisticated men only” — came to transcend sexual identities and became a cultural beacon to the hip, beautiful and infamous. Not only the host to newly empowered gay men of all shapes and sizes, eager to take full advantage of their sexual freedoms at a lavish venue, the ‘Continental’ brought culture to the bathhouse's stage week after week, becoming instrumental in the careers of ‘60s and ‘70s icons like Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Patti LaBelle, and Peter Allen.

For a complete schedule, movie synopses and ticket information, go to JW Arnold