FLIFF Features LGBT Documentaries, Features and Shorts

James “The Amazing” Randi, subject of the documentary, “An Honest Liar.” Submitted photo.

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival opens this weekend and once again features outstanding LGBT-themed shorts, documentaries and features among the hundreds of films to be screened Nov. 7 – 23 in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Sunrise and Miramar. Most individual screenings range from $6 – 10 per ticket. A complete schedule is available at FLIFF.com.

SFGN had the opportunity to take an advance look at these LGBT-themed films prior to the festival opening:

Documentaries and Features

“An Honest Liar”
Justin Weinstein and Tyler Meason, Dir.
USA-Canada-Spain, Italy-UK, 2014, Florida Premiere
English, 92 min.
Saturday, Nov. 8, 2 p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood
Sunday, Nov. 9, 1 p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Fort Lauderdale
Special Guests: James “The Amazing” Randi and the directors

“An Honest Liar” is about the life of world-famous magician, escape artist and master skeptic, James “The Amazing” Randi. The film brings to life Randi’s intricate investigations that publicly exposed psychics, faith healers and con artists with quasi-religious fervor. A master deceiver who came out of the closet at the age of 81, Randi created fictional characters, fake psychics, and even turned his partner of 25 years, the artist Jose Alvarez, into a sham guru named Carlos. But, when a shocking revelation in Randi’s personal life is discovered, it isn’t clear whether Randi is still the deceiver – or the deceived.

SFGN: “An Honest Liar” is, hands down, one of the most compelling documentaries of the year. Thanks to an incredible amount of archival footage, insightful interviews and Randi’s own forthright stories, Weinstein and Meason compiled an amazing portrait of the longtime Fort Lauderdale resident who travelled the world amazing the masses with his acts of magic. But that’s before Randi’s partner, Alvarez, was detained by the FBI and INS during filming for illegal immigration, identity theft and forging passport documents. After a lifetime boldly defying death and challenging frauds, Randi reveals a vulnerable side never seen before.

“The Imitation Game”
Morten Tyldum, Dir.
UK, 2014, Florida Premiere
English, 114 min.
Wednesday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 8pm, Cinema Paradiso – Fort Lauderdale

Award-winning Norwegian film director, Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, Buddy), makes his English-language debut with “The Imitation Game.” During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of ‘gross indecency’, an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality – little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern day computing.

SFGN: A screening copy was not made available to SFGN because the film is going into wide release next month, but any movie featuring dreamy Benedict Cumberbatch is bound to be a hit.

Janice Villarosa, Dir.
Philippines, 2014, Southeast Premiere
Tagalog with English subtitles, 70 min.
Sunday, Nov. 9, 9 p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Fort Lauderdale
Thursday, Nov. 13, 9p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood
Q&A with the director following the screenings

Determined to not surrender to the homophobia surrounding them, these Philippine male-to-female transsexuals change their appearance to become the "perfect” women. Amidst a beauty contest and sexy performances are private confessions that bring out the painful moments of rejection and violence experienced amongst them.

SFGN: As residents of a region where drag performers and transsexuals are a very public face of the LGBT community, it’s easy to forget that these people face a much tougher existence in other countries, especially those with strict religious and cultural morays. This film provides an important look at the day-to-day challenges and brutal violence these women face just to survive in the dark back alleys of the Philippines, a perfect festival selection for Transgender Awareness Month.

Short Films

Frank Meli, Dir.
USA, 2014, Florida Premiere
English, 25 min.
Tuesday, Nov. 18, Cinema Paradiso ­– Hollywood (Under Cover Shorts)

Barry Bostwick (“Rocky Horror Picture Show”) stars in “Dragula,” a coming of age musical about a high school senior who eliminates his self-esteem issues after attending Bostwick’s amazing drag show performance.

SFGN: This film, which also features Carmen Electra and Cheyenne Jackson in surprising cameos, is a lot of fun. In just 25 minutes, there’s not much time to genuinely explore the issues of sexual identity and cross-dressing, but it’s worth the price of admission for the campy musical numbers choreographed by Adam Shankman (“So You Think You Can Dance”) and performed by Bostwick and August Roads.

Drew Stephens, Dir.
Philippines, 2014, East Coast Premiere
English, 12 min.
Monday, Nov. 10, 5 p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood (Blessed Are the Children Shorts)

A Filipino-American father tells a Singkil folk tale to his children to calm them after a small earthquake; however, his young boy seems to identify more with the princess in the myth than the prince.

SFGN: This short film explores gender and sexual orientation types through the lens of a young Filipino-American father and the son who only wants to be like his mother. By the end, it’s the innocence of the boy that opens the eyes of a father to his own cultural limitations. The story is accentuated with colorful graphics and traditional music and was completed thanks to a hugely successful crowd funding campaign.

“Tom in America”
Flavio Alves, Dir.
USA/Brazil, 2014, Florida Premiere
English, 17 min.
Tuesday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m., Cinema Paradiso – Fort Lauderdale
Friday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m., Cinema Paradiso – Fort Lauderdale (Gimme a Break Shorts)
Q&A with the director follows the screenings

For 50 years, Michael (Burt Young) and Betty (Sally Kirkland) have been united by one guiding principle: no secrets. But, when a provocative Tom of Finland doll triggers Michael's long-buried desires, Betty discovers that secrets have been part of their lives all along.

SFGN: As LGBT youth find it easier to come out, we tend to forget those who never had that opportunity (take the case of The Amazing Randi, above). Whether societal pressures or fear of physical harm kept them in the closet, generations of gays and lesbians never experienced the full range of emotional and sexual love. This is a particularly moving film, its short 17 minutes packed with intimate, emotional realizations of regret and betrayal, love and loss from both Young and Kirkland.

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