Films about lesbians, drag queens and an Atlanta stripper! Oh my!
The Atlanta Film Festival begins today through April 1 and offers plenty of films sure to be popular with the LGBT community. Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker star in “Cloudburst” as a lesbian couple who hit the road Thelma and Louise-style in an effort
to get married. The documentary “Glitterboys & Ganglands” follows three contestants through the prelim rounds of a drag competition in South Africa. Drag diva Varla Jean Merman attempts to appeal to a younger audience in the mockumentary “Varla Jean & The Mushroomheads.” And, last but not least, “AKA Blondie” tells the intimate story of Atlanta’s famous exotic dancer known for crushing beer cans with her boobs. According to the festival’s web site, online tickets for “AKA Blondie” are sold out, so you’ll have to pull some strings to see it.
We spoke with Atlanta Film Festival Director Christopher Escobar about the week-long film fest and how Atlanta’s gay community plays a part in the film selections.
Fenuxe: How big is the festival this year?
Christopher: We’re playing more films this year than we ever have. We’re playing about 220 films and that has a little bit to do with the fact that we had about 500 more submissions than we’ve had in 36 years. Over 50 of those have local connections, which is also a record number. In addition to the awesome screenings and Q&A’s, there are some terrific parties, receptions and performances for those who are interested in learning more about the industry.
Fenuxe: What do you look for when selecting films for the festival?
Christopher: We’re looking for films and stories that are genuine and different. That can be in the story, the subject or the characters. We’re looking for something that makes us wide-eyed. We’re movie lovers just like the people who we program films for. We’re looking for films that get our attention. Sometimes we’re looking through the eyes of a middle aged mother and sometimes we’re looking through the eyes of a 21-year-old indie rock lover. We have to put different lenses on. We look for films that really strike us and that are new and interesting.
Fenuxe: Does Atlanta’s gay community factor into your film selections?
Christopher: It totally does. We were the original producers of Out on Film. I refer to it as our child that grew up and moved out of the house. We’re a 36-year-old non-profit, and Out on Film has been going on for two decades now and it’s since spun off and become it’s own non-profit. We’re extremely proud to have helped get that launched. We’re even more proud to see all the great programming and the great things that they’re doing. During the Atlanta Film Festival, as part of tradition, we host the Pink Peach Series, which features a number of feature-length LGBT films and shorts. One of the big ones we have is “Cloudburst” with Olympia Dukakis, which is a little bit like the movie “Thelma and Louise” but with lesbians. It’s a really great film, and it’s getting a lot of excitement. It obviously has an Oscar-winning actress in it. So the Pink Peach is a staple and a longtime tradition and will continue to be for the Atlanta Film Festival.
Fenuxe: What can you tell us about some of the LGBT-geared selections?
Christopher: “Glitterboys & Ganglands” focuses on the Princess Glamour girl Kat, and it’s really a character piece on Kat’s life as a cabaret star. It’s very much a bio piece. “AKA Blondie” is sort of similar but with someone who is an Atlanta celebrity. She’s a stripper at Clermont Lounge, and the film talks about her sexual escapades and her lack of luck in relationships and how she’s simultaneously jaded and hopeful. It’s a really interesting piece. You don’t typically see character pieces done on strippers. With “Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads” you sort of think of “Waiting for Guffman” by Christopher Guest but set in a drag show. It’s comedic, and it’s kind of tragic. It’s dramatic. It’s really fun. That’s one that is really edgy, and it pushes the limit a little bit. It’s one everyone would enjoy but I think there are some jokes in there that will have people of the LGBT community laughing a little harder.
Fenuxe: Why do you think it’s important for Atlantans to support the festival?
Christopher: Our year-round mission is to lead Atlanta through cultural discovery through the moving image. We really want to help people discover more about themselves and about each other and about ourselves collectively using cinema, television, short films and all the forms of the moving image to help us understand more. It’s the medium that helps us know more about history, other cultures, ourselves and our relationships. We’ve chosen these different good films that can make you laugh and make you cry and help you learn something and maybe make you angry and make you feel passionate about an issue that’s maybe off your radar. For different reasons we’ve worked extremely hard over the last nine months to put this festival together specifically for the city of Atlanta.
For more information about the Atlanta Film Festival, please visit www.atlantafilmfestival.com. Buy your tickets for the following films below. All shows take place at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema unless otherwise noted. All tickets are $10.
Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads
Saturday, March 24, at 4:45PM
Sunday, March 25, at 9PM
Online tickets sold out, rush line day of only
Pink Peach Narrative Shorts
Sunday, March 25, at 4PM and 5:30PM
Pink Peach Documentary Shorts
Sunday, March 25, at 6:15PM and 7:45 PM
Monday, March 26, at 7PM
Glitterboys & Ganglands
Thursday, March 29, at 9:30PM