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The “coming out” film has long been a staple of LGBT film festivals. But, just as public opinion about gays and lesbians has evolved, so have the films that find their way onto the festival circuit.

The MiFo LGBT Film Festival, opening this weekend in Miami and running through May 1, hints at a trend that mirrors those changes in society. Many of the feature films are not so much about the turmoil of coming out, but rather feature characters who happen to be LGBTQ and are dealing with a variety of challenges faced by young people regardless of their sexual orientation.

It’s a trend that’s been going on for a few years now,” explained Victor Gimenez, festival executive director. “The flavor of the films [has] changed to reflect the times.”

Production values of LGBT-themed films also continue to improve, Gimenez said, primarily due to new technologies, such as drones that allow filmmakers to capture breathtaking aerial shots.

SFGN screened a sample of upcoming MiFo festival films categorized as “coming of age” and offers the following synopses and mini-reviews:

“Spa Night” – Southeast Premiere

Saturday, April 23, 3:15 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Andrew Ahn, Dir.

USA, 2015

Korean and English with English subtitles

93 min.

David works at the family restaurant, but business is slow and the restaurant is forced to close as tension builds at home. David takes a job at a Korean spa to help his family make ends meet. At the spa, he discovers an underground world of gay sex that both scares and excites him.

SFGN: “Spa Night” is not so much a coming out story as it is a fascinating look at a cultural mash-up as seen through the eyes of a first generation Korean-American. While the plot is predictable, writer director Ahn devotes a significant amount of time to character development, especially the young man, David, who must reconcile his culture with emerging physical and emotional urges.



Saturday, April 23, 5:30 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Brian O’Donnell and Sasha King, Dir.

USA, 2015

88 min.

Benny and Christopher, 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Akron, meet at a football game, exchange phone numbers and quite rapidly fall for each other. Love is in the air until a tragic event from the past comes to light and threatens to tear them and their families apart.

SFGN: Stars Matthew Frias (Benny) and Edmund Donovan (Christopher) are hot, hot, hot and have more than enough chemistry to propel this story of young love on a Midwestern college campus. The impending conflict their characters face is predictable, thanks to foreshadowing in the opening scenes. This is a perfect example of the new genre of “coming of age” films.


“Arianna” – Southeast Premiere

Saturday, April 23, 7 p.m.

Miami Beach Cinematheque

Carlo Lavagna, dir.

Italy, 2015

Italian with English subtitles

84 min.

Nineteen-year-old Arianna struggles with her body, sexuality and identity. Despite her age, her breasts still aren’t developed, she has never had her period, and sex is unknown territory. Arianna sets out to answer fundamental questions about the life that she has been living.

SFGN: It’s a difficult task to discuss this sensitive film without revealing a major spoiler. “Arianna” is one of the first films to explore the implications for a young woman who represents one of the letters only occasionally included in the LGBTQI “alphabet soup.” Ultimately, Carlo Lavagna’s film is tender and thought-provoking with a strong performance by Ondina Quadri.


“Closet Monster” – Southeast Premiere

Saturday, April 23, 10 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Steven Dunn, dir.

Canada, 2016

90 min.

Oscar is a creative and driven teenager who hovers on the brink of adulthood. Destabilized by his dysfunctional parents, unsure of his sexuality and haunted by horrific images of a tragic gay bashing he witnessed as a child, Oscar dreams of escaping the family and town he feels is suffocating him.

SFGN: Writer/director Stephen Dunn’s film is a bit contrived and just plain weird, but we loved, loved, loved adorable Connor Jessup (“Falling Skies,” “American Crime”) as the quirky and disturbed aspiring cinematic make-up artist. The lines between Oscar’s imagination and reality are often blurred, resulting in a story that manages to intrigue from the opening scenes to closing credits.


“I Promise You Anarchy”

Sunday, April 24, 7 p.m.

Miami Beach Cinematheque

Julio Hernández Cordón, dir.

Mexico, 2016

Spanish with English subtitles

88 min.

Best friends and lovers Miguel and Johnny have known each other since childhood. They spend their time skateboarding with their friends in Mexico City, where they sell their own blood and generate income by getting other donors for the black market until Miguel’s mother sends him out of the country.

SFGN: In this film, amazingly well-adjusted gay kids essentially live on the streets of a dark, gritty Mexico City. We were obviously too old to completely appreciate Julio Hernández Cordón’s characters and their situations, but the street talk and relationships ring true, especially the later struggle by Miguel (Diego Calva Hernández) to assimilate into a new life without his boyfriend.


“First Girl I Loved”

Sunday, April 24, 7:30 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Kerem Sanga, dir.

USA, 2016

91 min.

Anne, 17, is a headstrong, cool nerd. While covering a softball game for the high school yearbook, she becomes infatuated with the star of the team, Sasha. When Anne excitedly shares her newfound attraction with her best friend, Cliff, he reveals his feelings for Anne and lashes out in unanticipated ways.

SFGN: Writer/director Kerem Sanga’s film is perhaps the most conventional of the series. Substitute a nerdy band jock for Anne’s character and the high school quarterback for Sasha and, well, we’ve all seen this film a few times at least. But, as told from the perspective of a young woman, “First Girl I Loved” still seems fresh and highlights the challenges of coming out as a lesbian.


“Daddy’s Boy” – East Coast Premiere

Monday, April 25, 9 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Daniel Armando, dir.

USA, 2016

75 min.

Four young men leave boyhood behind and shed more than just their clothes and inhibitions in writer/director Daniel Armando’s new film, “Daddy’s Boy.” When the worlds of these four men collide, they explore the depths of their sexuality and find their lives changed forever.

SFGN: Filmed in black and white, Daniel Armando’s self-indulgent series of moody montages at times feels more like a Madonna video than a feature film. The men are hot, we must admit, but we still have issues with steamy bearded hunks dancing burlesque in hot pants and heels. In the end, the eye candy always wins out, though.


Departure” – Southeast Premiere

Tuesday, April 26, 7 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Andrew Steggall, dir.

UK/France, 2015

109 min.

An English family prepares the sale of their holiday home in the South of France. The teenage son wrestles with his sexuality while his mother confronts the end of her marriage to his father. When an enigmatic local boy enters their lives, mother and son compete with each other and their awakening desires.

SFGN: Again, a fairly typical coming out film, this time set in the exotic locale of a country hamlet in France. Well, typical, until both mother and son find themselves attracted to the same boy. That’s a plot twist we haven’t quite seen before. Of course, we’d be drooling, too, over Clément (Phénix Brossard), the handsome French bad boy, who captures their imaginations.

In addition to the 39 features and 31 shorts being screened over the next two weeks, the festival schedule includes 14 documentaries. Among the noteworthy documentaries being shown this week are:


“The Tchaikovsky Files” – World Premiere

Saturday, April 23, 3 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Ralf Pleger, dir.

Germany, 2015

German with English subtitles

52 min.

Peter Tchaikovsky is regarded as Russia's most famous composer, celebrated as a national hero even though he was gay. This film radically brings Tchaikovsky into the present, using his own words and powerful images to draw a beautiful and emotional psychological portrait.

SFGN: LGBT activists continue to speculate about the sexual orientation of many historical figures, but there is no question about composer Tchaikovsky who betrays his urges in his own writings. Director Ralf Pleger’s documentary is a fast-paced, modern music video—think VH1 “Behind the Music”—that proves his feelings ring true more than a century after his death.



Monday, April 25, 7 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

William Fairman and Max Gogarty, dir.

UK, 2015

83 min.

“Chemsex” is a documentary that frankly and intimately exposes a dark side to modern gay life in hidden basements, bedrooms and bars across London. Traversing an underworld of drug use and sex parties, the film follows several men struggling to make it out of 'the scene' alive.

SFGN: As residents of South Florida, a region of the country with both the highest rate of new HIV infections AND rampant party drug use, we have been preached to about the dangers of drug use and unsafe sex for decades. Ultimately, this documentary breaks no new ground, but it is interesting to view this self-destructive behavior through the eyes of Brits living in London.


“Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride” – World Premiere

Wednesday, April 27, 7 p.m.

Regal Cinemas South Beach

Robyn Symon, dir.

USA, 2016

75 min.

A perfect example of a true life "only in Florida" story, this darkly funny documentary tells the tale of Butch, an older, macho owner of an auto wrecking company who goes on the lam from the law during a nasty divorce, only to discover her true self in the process.

SFGN: If you see only one film during the festival, get down to Regal Cinemas for “Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride.” Uncle Gloria fascinates, not only in her dangerous decision to pursue gender reassignment surgery, but as a senior member of our community. Director Robyn Symon and her film subject will both participate in a Q&A after the film.

The MiFo LGBT Film Festival runs April 22 – May 1 in Miami Beach. For a complete schedule of film screenings, tickets and theater venues, as well as tickets to parties and special events, go to  HYPERLINK ""