The 2014 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is expected to be the strongest in years, promises organizers.

The annual 10-day event, held this year May 2 – 11, will feature 60 feature, documentary and short films, said board chair and interim executive director Mark Gilbert, and the quality of submissions is exceptional.

“Our program is the best we’ve offered in a long, long time,” he said. “We can only show the films that are submitted in a given year and it’s apparent filmmakers really want to be a part of our festival.”

The Miami festival has long been a popular draw not only among Miami-Dade residents, but also attracting film buffs from throughout the southeastern United States.

“As a community, as we get older, we look for places where we can come together in a wonderful environment, meet people and make friends, cultivate relationships….that’s what the festival is about,” Gilbert explained. “Our model is to entertain, educate, inspire and connect people through film.”

As usual, parties play a big role in the festivities and this year is no exception. The festival features opening, centerpiece and closing night parties, a “high heel” party following the premiere of “South Beach on Heels” at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on Friday, and the traditional awards brunch, hosted this year on Mother’s Day at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

Steve Rothaus, LGBT beat reporter for “The Miami Herald” and a producer of the PBS documentary “The Day it Snowed in Miami,” will be presented with the festival’s Angel Award at the opening night gala on Friday, May 2 at the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road in South Beach.

“Not only has Steve supported and fought for the rights of our community but he has also been personally and actively involved in one of his other passions, the film industry,” Gilbert explained.

Rothaus will be joined during the festival by several filmmakers, actors and industry executives at the screenings, which will be held at multiple venues, including the Colony Theater, Miami Beach Cinematheque, Botanical Gardens and Convention Center, and O Cinema in Miami Shores.

Ticket prices range from $7 – 12 and are available, along with the complete festival schedule, at

Here’s a quick look at some of the highlights of the 2014 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival:

“The Way He Looks” (“Hoje eu Quero Voltar Sozinho”)
Daniel Ribiero, Director
(Brazil, 2014, Portuguese with English Subtitles, 95 min.)
North American Premiere
Friday, May 2, 8 p.m., Colony Theater

Leonardo is a blind teenager dealing with an overprotective mother while trying to live a more independent life. To the disappointment of his best friend, Giovana, he plans to go on an exchange program abroad. When Gabriel, a cute new student in town, arrives at their classroom, new feelings blossom in Leonardo, making him question his plans.

SFGN: Director Daniel Ribiero presents a beautifully filmed tale about burgeoning young love that conquers the most challenging physical obstacles. This is definitely not the usual, clichéd gay and lesbian film festival “coming out” movie.

“The 10 Year Plan”
J.C. Calciano, Director
(USA, 2014, English, 94 min.)
Southeast Premiere
Saturday, May 3, 5 p.m. Colony Theater

Myles, a handsome and successful lawyer, as well as a hopeless romantic, wants nothing more than to find the man of his dreams to share his life. His best friend Brody, a hunky and hot Los Angeles police officer, sleeps with every man he meets in an attempt to avoid feeling unloved. Fearing what will become of themselves when they get older, the two friends make a pact: to become a couple in 10 years if neither one has found true love.

SFGN: You’ve seen this movie before. Sure, it probably starred Jennifer Aniston and was about a straight couple, but somehow the jokes are better when you’re watching two hot guys stew over this silly dilemma. And Jack Turner and Michael Adam Hamilton are certainly easy on the eyes, too.

“Burning Blue”
D.M.W. Greer, Director
(USA, 2013, English, 96 min.)
Florida Premiere
Saturday, May 3, 9:30 p.m., Colony Theater

Since enlisting in the Navy, movie-star handsome elite aircraft pilots Daniel and William have been the best of friends. A friendship tested following two fatal accidents aboard their aircraft carrier. A government agent is placed aboard the ship to determine what may have been at the root of the mishaps. But his investigation abruptly changes direction when a sailor reports seeing Daniel cavorting with another fighter pilot, the headstrong, muscle-bound Matthew, in a gay club.

SFGN: Three words: Gay Top Gun. It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer first inspired pubescent wet dreams with their film about hotdog Navy fighter pilots. A remake is rumored to be in the works, but don’t wait for that movie, because this is the right film to rekindle those youthful fantasies.

“To Be Takei”
Jennifer M. Kroot, Director
(USA, 2014, English, 90 min.)
Florida Premiere
Sunday, May 4, 5:45 p.m., O Cinema, Miami Shores

Over seven decades, actor and activist George Takei boldly journeyed from a WWII internment camp, to the helm of the starship Enterprise, to the daily news feeds of five million Facebook fans where he and husband, Brad, have become the poster couple for marriage equality. Join George and Brad on this star's playful and profound trek for life, liberty, and love as Takei proves time and again why his presence in popular culture remains as fresh and necessary as ever.

SFGN: Aside from a handful of Star Trek movie sequels, George Takei’s career had been on hold for decades—that is, until he accidentally discovered Facebook. In addition to the wry humor Takei shares with his millions of social media followers, this fascinating documentary provides deep insight into the actor’s personal fight against discrimination.

“Snails in the Rain” (“Shablulim Bageshem”)
Yariv Mozer, Director
(Israel, 2013, Hebrew with English Subtitles, 82 min.)
Florida Premiere
Tuesday, May 6, 9 p.m., O Cinema, Miami Shores

In this intelligent and emotional Israeli film set in 1989 Tel Aviv, Boaz is a linguistics student committed to his loving girlfriend, Noa. But soon Boaz is questioning his life when he begins receiving a series of obsessive love letters from another man. They expose the inner world of their author, who is deeply closeted and knows plenty about him, including Boaz's past attraction to other men.

SFGN: Some of the best LGBT films of late are coming out of Israel (“Out in the Dark,” “Eyes Wide Open”). These films, “Snails in the Rain” included, offer complex characters trapped in nuanced relationships shaded by religion, culture and race. Yoav Reuveni is incredibly sexy and offers an especially appealing performance as Boaz, the conflicted protagonist.

“My Straight Son”
Miguel Ferrari, Director
(Venezuela, 2013, Spanish with English Subtitles, 110 min.)
Wednesday, May 7, 8:30 p.m., O Cinema, Miami Shores

Diego, a young and successful photographer, lives in the glamorous but shallow and excessive world of fashion. A tragic accident turns his world upside down; his partner Fabrizio is now in a coma. Unexpectedly, and right at this inopportune time, Diego's estranged son Armando shows up. Now, both of them have to adapt to each other—Armando to the unknown homosexual world of his father and Diego to the closed attitude of his teenage son.

SFGN: Gay men who have children as the result of a previous straight relationship may have some issues with this film, but “My Straight Son” also isn’t “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (the story of a campy drag queen who is confronted with knowledge of the son he fathered), either. The tension between father and son, fueled by the Hispanic blood they share, drives the film.

“Tru Love”
Kate Johnson and Shauna MacDonald, Directors
(Canada, 2013, English, 87 min.)
Southeastern Premiere
Friday, May 9, 7 p.m., Colony Theater

Tru, 37, is a serial bed-hopping lesbian who cannot commit to a relationship, until she meets Alice, 60, a beautiful widow, in town to visit her daughter, Suzanne, 35, a too-busy corporate lawyer and Tru's friend. Alice and Tru begin to forge an unlikely friendship...and more. Suzanne, has a deeply conflicted relationship with her mother and a complicated past with Tru, becomes increasingly alarmed at the growing bond between Tru and her mother and tries to sabotage the budding romance, but it backfires, as true love is hard to contain.

SFGN: May/September romances are certainly not unique to either the straight or gay communities, but having known several such lesbian couples, I found this film intriguing on several levels. One viewing may not be enough to dissect the complex, interwoven onscreen emotions between these three women.

“Such Good People”
Stewart Wade, Director
(USA, 2014, English, 97 min.)
World Premiere
Friday, May 9, 9:15 p.m., Colony Theater

A contemporary screwball comedy about a young gay couple, Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty”) and Randy Harrison (“Queer As Folk”), who discover a secret room filled with cash while house-sitting for wealthy friends who die while out of the country doing missionary work to the children of Bhutan. Our characters want what everyone wants: success, family and a fabulous house in LA. But first they've got to work through many issues, including greed, jealousy, real estate, sibling rivalry, greyhounds, labradoodles, porpoises, a million dollars, and the aforementioned orphans of Bhutan.

SFGN: According to the religious right, gay couples are hopelessly obsessed with debauchery and sodomy. Not this couple! The plot is silly—and there’s plenty of gay humor—but in the end, these guys fall victim to the same human vices as their straight counterparts.

“Boys” (“Jongens”)
Mischa Kamp, Director
(Netherlands, 2014, Dutch with English Subtitles, 78 min.)
Southeast Premiere
Saturday, May 10, 3 p.m., Miami Beach Convention Center

In this beautiful and uplifting gay romance, two teen track stars discover first love. Chiseled Sieger, is a thoughtful 15-year-old who grapples mightily with his emerging gayness. His love interest is the equally handsome, free-spirited and outgoing Marc. The romance between them unfolds with a palpable sense of longing and an aching sequence of heartache as Sieger tries to fight the inevitable.

SFGN: Major hot twink alert! If this weren’t a Dutch film, it would definitely qualify as that clichéd, gay and lesbian film festival “coming out” movie we’ve seen over and over. This film is full of the kind of scenes we wish were in the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, but were just too gay for public consumption. As if that was possible!

“Boys Meets Girl”
Eric Schaeffer, Director
(USA, 2014, English, 94 min.)
Florida Premiere
Sunday, May 11, 7 p.m., Miami Beach Cinematheque

“Boy Meets Girl” is a sexy, romantic coming of age comedy about three 20-year-olds living in Kentucky. Robby and Ricky, a gorgeous transgender woman and childhood friend, have never dated. Lamenting the lack of bachelors, Ricky considers dating a girl. In walks Francesca, a beautiful woman waiting for her Marine fiance to return from the war. Ricky and Francesca strike up a friendship, and maybe a little more, which forces Robby to face his true feelings for Ricky.

SFGN: I’m not going to pretend to grasp the broad concepts of sexuality held by many in the millennial generation (pansexuality, anyone?), but this film also dwells on the complicated sexual identity of a young transgendered person trying to find love in that liberal Southern bastion, Kentucky. It’s pretty deep stuff, conveniently packaged in a sweet story with a lot of heart.