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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Reel Q Pittsburgh International LGBT Film Festival

Unveiling its new Reel Q moniker, the 27th annual Pittsburgh International LGBT Film Festival kicks off on Friday, October 12th at the Harris Theater, with a special screening of the 2012 feature film Cloudburst, followed by the event's signature opening night benefit bash.

An annual celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered writers, directors, actors and their original work, Reel Q boasts 32 films, including 20 screenings, three programs of shorts, engaging Q&A and discussion programs, and plenty of after-parties at local venues, such as 5801 Video Lounge in Shadyside, There Ultra Lounge Downtown and Cruze Bar in the Strip District. Showcasing and celebrating LGBT culture while supporting appreciation, awareness and visibility via film media, Reel Q runs Oct. 12-21.

The festival's diverse roster of titles includes comedies, dramas, shorts, and documentaries. This year's lineup reflects a broad diversity of cultures, ages and subject matter, with films from Iran, Israel, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, France, Australia, the UK, and the US.

"We always try to have a good blend as far as the whole community, comedies versus drams, and also ethnically. This year we have a lot of international films and the festival is very ethnically diverse," says Mitchel Leib, with Reel Q. "The films themselves need to have LGBT content or be made by LGBT artists. We prefer the content, because we feel that you can go to any theater anywhere to see films with non-LGBT content."

Mitchell, along with an eight-member programming committee, reviews film submissions and also travels to international festivals such as San Francisco's Frameline International LGBT Film Festival, and Indside Out in Canada, to select titles. Film subjects range from the coming-of-age story Mosquita y Mari about a Latina couple in East L.A., to the trials and tribulations of two friends--a gay man and a straight woman--who decide to have a baby together "the old fashioned way" in the movie Gayby.

LGBT stories on screen

Don't miss Reel Q's opening night fundraiser, which will feature a screening of the 2012 Canadian film, Cloudburst, starring Olympia Dukakis as wild woman trucker Stella.

"This is the first film she's starring in--she's always been a supporting actress or in an ensemble film. Olympia has a special place in the gay community. With her work in "Tales of the City," and the films she's done, she has been a real supporter in the LGBT community," says Leib, who describes Dukakis' character in Cloudburst as a "foul mouthed lesbian."

Made by American-Canadian writer and director Thom Fitzgerald, Cloudburst follows Stella (Dukakis) and the blind serene Dot (Brender Fricker)--a seemingly mismatched yet loving couple, who have been together for three decades. Their lives are suddenly derailed when Dot's well-meaning but oblivious granddaughter puts her in a nursing home. Cloudburst follows the determined loyal couple as they break Dot out of the home and set off on a Thelma and Louise-style road trip to Nova Scotia to get married. Equal parts farcical and heartwarming, the rom-com features scenic cinematography shot in Canada.

Negar Azarbayjani's 2012 Iranian film, Facing Mirrors, tells the story of Adineh, who young woman is waiting to get a passport so that she can travel to Germany to have gender reassignment surgery. Meanwhile, her disapproving father attempts to marry her off to a male cousin, and a female taxi driver offers to help. Winner of the Frameline Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature, Facing Mirrors stars Iranian actress Shayesteh Irani.

Set along a picturesque Belgian coastline, North Sea Texas is a coming-of-age story about two young boys, Pim and Gino, that takes place during the 1970s. Recipient of awards from the Rome International Film Festival, the film is directed by Bavo Dufurne and stars Jelle Florizoone and Mathias Vergels.

Israeli film Mary Lou depicts a young gay man named Meir, whose life is occupied by his search for his missing mother and his feelings of loss. To cope, Meir lies to everyone including himself, by pretending that his mother has taken the stage name "Mary Lou" and is a back-up singer for real-life Israeli pop star Svika Pick. First aired on Israeli television, the 2009 film has been compared to the American hit TV show "Glee."

Festival-goers will enjoy dreamy images of desert landscapes, lush gardens and poolside cocktail parties in Matthew Mishory's 2012 film, Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait Of James Dean, which provides a glimpse into the iconic actor's life just before he becomes famous. The cast includes model, actor and James Dean dead ringer James Preston, as well as Robert Gant from TV's popular "Queer as Folk."

Local LGBT voices will also be represented during Reel Q. The story of Pittsurgh artist Vanessa German, who recently launched her Love Front Porch project in Homewood, is captured in the observational documentary, Tar Baby Jane. The powerful film explores the complexities inherent in German's identity and artistic practice, while also chronicling the public response to her sculpture and performance art and conveying how the creation of art can be a therapeutic, transformative and healing life force. The screening will feature a performance and Q&A with German.

Go beyond the screen

Helping to engage auidences in the issues and stories explored in the films, all documentary screenings during Reel Q will include a public discussion program, and a number of additional films will be accompanied by special Q&A sessions.

Don't miss Youngstown, Ohio native Glenn Gaylord, who will introduce his 2012 film, I Do, on October 20th, at 9:30 p.m. Love, family and personal responsibility converge in this film starring openly gay British actor David W. Ross (who also wrote the screenplay), along with Jamie-Lynn Sigler of "Sopranos" fame and Maurice Compte of current AMC favorite, "Breaking Bad."

On October 14th at 1 p.m., Reel Q turns its lens to a challenging moment in recent LGBT history, when a newly opened gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas called the Rainbow Lounge was raided by authorities on the 40th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots. Narrated by Emmy Award nominated actress Meredith Baxter, the compelling new documentary Raid on the Rainbow Lounge features eyewitness accounts by activists and politicians, and details both the events of June 28, 2009, and the aftermath--as Fort Worth undertook a long challenging journey that ultimately saw the city emerge as a leader in LGBT rights. Directed by Robert L. Camina, the powerful film will be followed by a discussion led by the ACLU.

Get Reel Q

This year's festival also debut its new identity and name, a decision that gets to the heart of the organization's mission, audience and programming.

"We changed the name to be more inclusive. It was a long process which started in 2009," says Leib, who has been with the festival since 2002. "We have always been very diverse with our films, which over the years have become more diverse themselves, but our name did not indicate that. We are really happy about the new name." Leib also says that Reel Q is reaching out to college audiences in new ways, and has seen its attendance by non-LGBT audiences increase.

View a complete Reel Q schedule and download a 2012 program.

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