The MiFo LGBT Film Festival opens its 19th season in Miami this weekend with two world, seven North American, six East Coast and 12 Southeast premieres.
“We view ourselves as not only the largest cultural event each year in South Florida, but as an important festival that introduces films and artists to the LGBT film community,” festival executive director Victor Gimenez said. “We’re really at the vanguard.
The festival kicks off on April 21 at the historic Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on the Miami River with “Handsome Devil,” followed by the official opening night party, featuring filmmakers and talent. MiFo will also honor 2017 Angel Award recipients Carol Coombes and Jaie Laplante at the event.
Ally Award winners Gloria and Emilio Estefan will be recognized at a special “Made in Miami” screening of “A Change of Heart,” featuring SNL alumni Jim Belushi, on Saturday, April 22 at the Regal Cinemas Miami Beach, where most of the festival screenings will be held.
SFGN got a sneak peek at several of the featured films during the first week of the festival and here are our picks:
Friday, April 21, 8 p.m.
Scottish Rite Temple
John Butler, dir.
Ireland, 95 min., 2016
In this sweet story, Ned, the loner, and Conor, the jock, are forced to share a dorm room at their rugby-mad boarding school. The pair form an unlikely friendship that forces them to reckon with questions of friendship, loyalty and self-interest.
SFGN: These kinds of coming-of-age films are standard fare for LGBT film festivals, but “Handsome Devil” is fresh and reflects the changing attitudes and sensibilities of millennials and Gen Z youth toward homosexuality.
“A Change of Heart”
Saturday, April 22, 4:45 p.m.
Kenny Ortega, dir.
U.S.A., 105 min., 2017
After suffering a heart attack, a conservative Central Florida man (Jim Belushi) is saved by a transplant—but will his body accept a donation from a Puerto Rican drag queen? Ally Award recipients Gloria and Emilio Estefan will be honored.
SFGN: This “Made in Miami” film also made the cut for the Miami Film Festival. Former SNL funnyman Jim Belushi offers a wrenching performance as an “everyman” who must confront his fears and prejudices, especially when his life hangs in the balance.
Saturday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.
Jennifer Reeder, dir.
U.S.A., 80 min., 2017
English and Urdu with English subtitles
Zaynab is a beautiful thirty-something, Pakistani Muslim lesbian living in Chicago. She takes care of her recently widowed, TV-obsessed mother who is desperate to find her daughter a husband. Then, Zaynab meets Alma, a strong Chicana woman. Who will win?
SFGN: We LOVE this film! Quirky and fresh, funny and authentic, “Signature Move” is a true 21st century LGBTQ love story. Fawzia Mirza and Sari Sanchez have real chemistry and Shabana Azmi comes close to stealing the show as Zynab’s determined mom. Best of the fest, so far.
Saturday, April 22, 9:45 p.m.
George Bamber, dir.
U.S.A., 90 min. 2017
Interior designer and reality show star Farleigh Knock has a knack for keeping beautiful things around his home— like Dennis. So, when Fairleigh gives him an ultimatum on his 30th birthday to get a job or get out, Dennis goes from kept boy to lost man.
SFGN: Poor, aging boytoy Dennis is finally going to need to earn his keep or lose his Porsche and Saks charge card. For a “comedy,” the humor in “Kept Boy” is never quite laugh out loud funny, but mostly of the schadenfreude variety. In the end, he gets what he deserves.
North American Premiere
Sunday, April 23, 3 p.m.
Daniel Grasskamp, dir.
U.K., 97 min., 2017
Seventeen-year-old Cat is a shy and troubled photography student. Her life is illuminated when her voyeuristic nature behind the camera lens sparks a chance encounter with a beautiful music student named April.
SFGN: To say this girl has issues is an understatement! Apparently, sexually-frustrated young lesbians pleasure themselves just as much as gay men. “Catty” observations aside, Jodie Hirst gives an especially nuanced, compelling performance as Cat.
“Boys in Trees”
Sunday, April 23, 9:15 p.m.
Nicholas Verso, dir.
Australia, 112 min., 2016
It’s Halloween 1997 - the last night of high school for Corey, Jango and their skater gang. When Corey encounters Jonah, a childhood friend now victimized by Jango, Corey takes pity on him and agrees to walk him home for old time’s sake.
SFGN: We weren’t able to screen this film in advance, but we’re going to go out on a limb and recommend it. Not only do we love Australian boys with their accents, the entire LGBTQ thriller genre has made great strides in recent years. Check out the trailer at MiFoFilm.com.
Monday, April 24, 9:15 p.m.
Tom E. Brown, dir.
U.S.A., 108 min., 2016
The words AIDS and comedy are rarely used together. HIV positive writer and bouncer Dan Schauble struggles to refill his drug prescriptions after a bureaucratic snafu drops him from his health plan.
SFGN: We loved this film last fall at the MiFo Fort Lauderdale festival and encourage Miami audiences—especially those who may be coping with the chronic inconvenience of HIV/AIDS—to check out this smart and darkly funny feature.
“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”
Tuesday, April 25, 7 p.m.
Jennifer Kroot, dir.
U.S.A., 90 min., 2017
This documentary examines the life and work of one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose “Tales of the City” novels inspired millions to claim their own truth.
SFGN: If you remember the groundbreaking 1994 “Tales of the City” miniseries on PBS, then you really need to see this documentary about the intriguing novelist who introduced an entire generation to the days when San Francisco was a mecca for gay men.
“Rebels On Pointe”
East Coast Premiere
Wednesday, April 26, 7 p.m.
Regal Cinemas South Beach
Bobbi Jo Hart, dir.
Canada, 90 min., 2016
Exploring universal themes of identity, dreams, family and love, this documentary celebrates the famous Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male, comic ballet company founded on the heels of the Stonewall riots.
SFGN: The biggest misconception about the “Trocks,” is that they are a bunch of drag queens in tutus. No, these are serious artists, just with a little gender-bending twist incorporated into their clever performances. FYI – Some interviews and performances were filmed during performances at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse.
For a complete list of film screenings, festival parties and events and to purchase tickets, go to MiFoFilm.com.