The 2016 Sarasota Film Festival featured some of the strongest LGBT films released. Thanks to a generous grant from Our Sarasota Fund, SFF was able to increase its LGBT programming and host events during the festival.
The good news is, SFF will be doing a lot more of the same in 2017.
The films below are sterling examples of how far LGBT cinema has come, with mainstream releases and mass appeal. They also are excellent! Here are the top films:
Winner of the Teddy Award at this year’s Berline Festival KIKI brings back to the forefront the fierce and fabulous world of vogue battles 25 years after PARIS IS BURNING took the world by storm. First-time director Sara Jordeno takes us on an enthralling journey behind the scenes and asks penetrating questions about the LGBTQ culture making KIKI an intriguing character study. The contrast between glamor and ecstasy of the voguing contests and the often challenging circumstances of their everyday life not only makes for good cinema, it makes for cogent social commentary. And once the beat stars and the dancers start voguing, just try to stay in your seat!
This film is still on a worldwide festival circuit. Keep your eyes peeled for a theatrical release.
They say the clothes make the man, right? But what if your body isn’t shaped like other men’s? What if you’re transgender? Don’t you deserve to have suits made that ift you, too? The man behind Bindle & Keep, Daniel Friedman provides just those suits for just that community. Originally, he had planned to aim his business model at high-flying Wall Street executives, but a transgender assistant convinced him that he could do well by doing good for an under-served community, and so he has. Produced by Lena Dunham (whose sibling is highlighted in the film), SUITED is a fascinating profile of the artisans tailored to service those who otherwise wouldn’t fit and a look into the hopes, dreams and fears of their clients.
Currently streaming on HBO Now.
#3. First Girl I Loved
Karem Sanga’s debut feature about a high school girl’s painful coming out is so authentic, so universal, that somehow you’ll feel it’s your story, too. It taps into the feeling we all have at some point in middle or high school of not fitting in, of confused identity-building, of feeling different and not even knowing how to articulate it. One of the most powerful elements is that there really are no bad guys in this film, just well-meaning people getting in their own way. And you read it here first — Dylan Gelula is going to be a big, big star. Winner of the Audience Award, NEXT section, Sundance Film Festival 2016.
Available for rent on Google Play Movies & TV, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Video and Vudu
New Zealand journalist David Farrier specializes in exploring the bizarre stories of fringe internet communities. In TICKLED, Farrier finds online ads seeking contestants for a Tickling Endurance Competition. Upon further investigation, he’s met with fierce opposition, including blistering attacks on his own homosexuality. Intrigued and wondering just what is hiding beneath the initial story, Farrier goes further and further down an increasingly strange rabbit hole that leads to places he could never have expected. It’s hard to believe, but the Tickling Endurance Competition may be the least bizarre part of the whole film.
Available for rent on Amazon Video, Google Play Movies & TV, YouTube, iTunes and Vudu.
And the top LGBT film for 2016 …
#1. Other People
You can’t go home again, we all know, but most of us try at one point or another. Even so, David (Jesse Plemons) is having a more difficult time than most in the dramatic comedy OTHER PEOPLE. David is a gay sitcom comedy writer in New York who journeys back to his childhood home in Sacremento to spend time with his acerbic mother, Joanne (Molly Shannon) who’s dying of cancer. The sharp-tongued, no-holds-barred Joanne refuses to go gently, turning David’s visit into a kind of tortured limbo. While recovering from his recent breakup with a longtime boyfriend, David attempts to find an impasse with his emotionally remote father (Bradley Whitford) and reconnect with his sisters (Madison Beaty, Mauda Apatow) as he hangs out with an old pal (John Early). But things aren’t what they used to be, because he isn’t who he once was — and neither is everyone else. It’s a classic premise handled with audacity and wit by writer-director Chris Kelly, making his debut feature. The well-cast and deeply-felt ensemble includes Paul Dooley and June Squibb as David’s grandparents and is anchored by Plemons (TV’s FARGO and BREAKING BAD) and Shannon, in a turn far from the wacky characters she made her name with on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
By John Secor
John Secor is a former New Yorker and is currently the producer of the Sarasota Film Festival.