On Thursday, the Boston LGBT Film Festival returns for its 31st year, bringing with it a rather dizzying lineup of feature-length films and shorts spread out across 11 days and four theaters.
“We had almost 1,500 films to choose from. It’s a little daunting,” says festival executive director James A. Nadeau. Narrowing down the selection can be tricky. “My own agenda is—and it’s always sort of the conundrum of running a gay festival—how queer can you make it?” he says. For Boston audiences, there’s an opportunity to push the envelope. “We’ve had gay marriage for over a decade. People are a bit more intellectual about what they see.”
This year’s lineup offers a little something for everyone—the films run the gamut from comedy romps to gritty documentaries. The question is: What are you in the mood for? Here’s our guide for what to watch.
IF YOU LIKE: Romantic dramedies with sci-fi cameos
GO SEE: Eat with Me
The Boston LGBT Film Festival kicks off with director David Au’s Eat with Me, in which Elliot (Teddy Chen Culver), a young gay restaurateur, clashes with a surprise roommate: his newly divorced mother (Sharon Omi). While Elliot struggles with dating, his mom struggles to adjust to single life. Together, they work through their strained family relationship and bond over Chinese cooking. If you’re looking for a date-night movie, this might be your jam—it’s one of the fest’s few rom-coms. And keep your eyes peeled for a George Takei cameo.
April 2, 8 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org.
Also check out: Appropriate Behaviour.
IF YOU LIKE: Heartstring-tugging historical dramas
GO SEE: Pride
Director Matthew Warchus treats us to a tale of unlikely bedfellows in Margaret Thatcher’s Great Britain. When a band of London-based gay activists heads to a small Welsh village to support the National Union of Mineworkers strike in 1984, hilarity, tension, and grudging tolerance ensue. As far-fetched as it sounds, it’s based on an entirely true story.
April 7, 7 p.m., Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8000, artsemerson.org.
Also check out: The Imitation Game.
IF YOU LIKE: Watching local talent on the big screen
GO SEE: Day of Youth
Who can resist “a halfway-romantic comedy about brain damage and life after college”? Boston filmmaker Jared Vincenti, creator of Allston Xmas, is premiering his debut feature. In Day of Youth, Rhee (Ally Tully) wakes up from a bike accident with amnesia, while her ex-girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend attempt to play tug-of-war with her heart.
April 4, 5 p.m., Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston.
Also check out: The Year We Thought About Love.
IF YOU LIKE: Literary intrigue
GO SEE: The Cult of JT Leroy
Spoiler alert: This story has already been thoroughly spoiled. Back in the late ‘90s, transgender former teen prostitute JT Leroy made a splash in the literary world. “With his notoriety rising, I was contacted by a friend inviting me to begin a documentary about him,” director Marjorie Sturm tells us, so she started filming the throng of celebs and acolytes who swarmed JT and his handlers. But in fact, there was no JT—he was a persona invented by writer Laura Albert, who’d enlisted a willing accomplice to play the part of the young ex-hustler. As you might imagine, this rabbit hole goes deep. “It’s so fascinating, how the wool was pulled over all these people’s eyes,” says Nadeau. “And the film’s chock-full of all the famous people that gathered around this figure, who ended up being completely fictional. She had started to make this documentary about JT, and then all of a sudden it became a documentary about something very different.”
April 11, 2 p.m., Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8000, artsemerson.org.
Also check out: Welcome to This House: A Film on Elizabeth Bishop.
IF YOU LIKE: Hollywood confessionals
If the promo blurbage for this documentary on gay porn pioneer Chuck Holmes doesn’t grab your attention, we don’t know what will: “Videographer Chuck Holmes almost singlehandedly took gay porn from the back alleys to the mainstream with his legendary Falcon Studios, building a worldwide empire of flesh and fantasy and contributing mightily to gay pride along the way. But when he attempted to use his fortune to fund the growing gay rights movement, he was dealt a much harsher reality.” Boogie Nights, this is not.
April 10, 7 p.m., Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8000, artsemerson.org.
Also check out: Tab Hunter Confidential.
IF YOU LIKE: Sports documentaries
GO SEE: Out to Win
Sundance darling Malcolm Ingram has given the filmgoing public a glimpse into hidden worlds they might never see otherwise: Small Town Gay Bar, for instance, or Continental, a look at the infamous gay bathhouse in the basement of NYC’s Ansonia Hotel. Now Ingram’s back with a documentary that examines the lives of gay and lesbian athletes, getting firsthand accounts from such trailblazers as tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, Boston Celtics player Jason Collins, the WNBA’s Brittney Griner, and MLB’s Billy Bean. Ingram’s doc is well-timed. In the same year that Michael Sam became the NFL’s first openly self-acknowledged gay player, the filmmaker commented, “The closet has been a complicated burden for so many throughout the history of professional sports, so it has been a privilege to speak with these athletes and have them share their powerful and fascinating stories with me.”
April 11, 7 p.m., Remis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.
Also check out: Back on Board.
IF YOU LIKE: Horror and suspense
GO SEE: Lyle
This year’s festival has its fair share of nerve-shredding chillers. But there’s only one out-and-out full-length horror film, and that honor goes to Lyle. Here, an expecting lesbian couple move into a spacious apartment full of dark secrets. Think of it as “Rosemary’s Baby Has Two Mommies.” Taking the Mia Farrow role here is Gaby Hoffmann, whom you’ll recognize from Transparent and as Adam Sackler’s manic sister on Girls.
April 11, 9 p.m., Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8000, artsemerson.org.
Also check out: Drown.
IF YOU LIKE: Languid, contemplative arthouse fare
GO SEE: Hide and Seek
In British filmmaker Joanna Coates’s Hide and Seek, four young Londoners cast off the shackles of convention, flee to the countryside, and form their own polyamorous commune—only to have their idyll threatened by a fifth wheel. “We are the first gay festival to play this film,” says Nadeau. Considering the movie’s portrayal of nontraditional couplings, he thinks it might play well here. “Being in Boston, we have a pretty large poly community.”
April 3, 7:30 p.m., Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8000, artsemerson.org.
IF YOU LIKE: Geektastic travelogues
GO SEE: Nerdgasm
Fans of all things Whedonesque, take note: In Nerdgasm, actor Tom Lenk—noted for his roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cabin in the Woods, and Much Ado About Nothing—heads for the moors and attempts to perform his own one-man show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Billing itself as a “dorkumentary,” this film follows Lenk on his quest to “satisfy his own personal Scotland-centric geeky cravings for Harry Potter, underground cities, Loch Ness mythology, and delicious sausage rolls.”
April 4, 2:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6838, brattlefilm.org.
IF YOU LIKE: Tales of urban life
Before there were the Stonewall riots, there was the Starlite Lounge, a queer black bar in Crown Heights. After 50 years in business, the Starlite closed, no longer able to afford to stay open in a neighborhood suddenly overrun by hipsters—whose ranks include filmmaker Sasha Wortzel herself. In addition to being a tribute to the Starlite’s legacy as a gay refuge, “it’s this complicated story about what happens when you’re the force of gentrification,” says Nadeau.
April 7, 8:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-876-6838, brattlefilm.org.
Also check out: Out in the Night.
IF YOU LIKE: A little bit of everything
With its lineup culled from more than a thousand submissions, the Shorts Program, in its own way, best represents the true spirit of the fest. “I’m a big fan of showing the short films, because that’s where you find all the emerging filmmakers and interesting narratives. People are much more daring,” says Nadeau.
And after making such a splash last year, the drag shorts are returning: “Last year, we did the drag program for the first time, and it was so successful, we’re doing it again this year.”
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