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Wednesday July 30th 2014

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Transcending Stereotypes

By Shelby Smithey

The South has often been perceived as being closed-minded and intolerant. Pensacola will have a chance to change that perception when it hosts its first-ever LGBT Film Festival to highlight the artistic contributions both nationally and internationally of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films and filmmakers.

Sara Latshaw, of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida, is one of the organizers of the event. Latshaw said that she hopes the films will transcend stereotypes and build a stronger and more open Pensacola as a result. The LGBT Film Festival runs from Oct. 8 to Oct. 11 and is free and open to the public.

“We are doing this project to try to reduce homophobia and we thought film was the best way to communicate this,” Latshaw said. “I know Pensacola can sometimes be a slightly close-minded town, so we put this festival together as a means to try and communicate with local people.”

The festival will span four days and will be at four separate locations. “Each day is different in what it wants to achieve,” Latshaw said.

The opening reception on Monday will be held at the UWF Conference Center at 6 p.m. and will feature a documentary about a local mother.

“’Unfit: Ward vs. Ward’ is an awesome documentary about a court case in Pensacola about a lesbian mother fighting for custody over her daughter with her ex-husband, who is a convicted murderer,” Latshaw said. “The film shows how a lack of understanding of the LGBT community can have devastating effects on peoples’ lives.”

The film won Jury Award Best Documentary at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Boston LGBT and CNKY LGBT Film festivals.

After the film, a panel discussion with UWF psychology professor Susan Walch, a civil rights lawyer and others will speak and answer questions from the audience.

The second night of the festival will be held at Polanza Bistro at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a series of short films that seek to educate the public about the LGBT community.

“Tuesday night will be dedicated to educating people who maybe are on the fence about it or who need coaching,” Latshaw said. “This is also a day for teachers to come because some of the films deal with gay youth.”

Short films will include “Nowhere to Run: Naheed’s Story,” “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness,” “The Hawker,” “The Devotion Project,” “What do you know?” and “The Maiden and the Princess.”

“’What do you know?’ is short film that features six to 12-year-old students from Massachusetts and Alabama discussing what they know about gay men and lesbians, what they hear at school and what they’d like teachers to do,” Latshaw said.

Day three of the festival will celebrate the artistic achievements of LGBT films and filmmakers and will showcase many films that are making the rounds on the international film festival circuit. It will be held Wednesday at the Museum of Commerce starting at 6:30 p.m.

Films that will be shown this night include “The Devotion Project,” “Akin,” “The Performance of Drowning,” “Transforming FAMILY,” “Coffee and Pie,” “Fallen Comrade,” “The Arrival” and “Tsuyako.”

“’Tsuyako’ is a Japanese film that is winning awards at many international film festivals,” Latshaw said. “It is a really beautiful film.”

The closing day of the festival will be held at 6:30 p.m. at The Yard, which is a new establishment in East Hill.  The documentary “Mississippi I Am” will be shown followed by a closing party.

Produced by ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass who came out publicly in 2006, “Mississippi I Am” follows the rejection Bass faced from his hometown in Mississippi. The documentary also features Constance McMillen, a high school girl who was denied the right to go to prom with her girlfriend in 2010.

After “Mississippi I Am,” there will be a closing night celebration with food and wine provided. Refreshments will be offered on all four days as well.

The festival is sponsored by the ACLU of Florida, the University of West Florida, Pensacola Care Center with the UWF Gay-Straight Alliance, the PNS GSA, the Red Ribbon Charitable Foundation, Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational Services and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Latshaw said that she thinks this festival will offer a great chance to open the door to a dialogue about moving forward with equal rights for all.

“This is something we want everyone to be a part of, not just the LGBT community,” Latshaw said. “This event is trying to show that Pensacola is a really open community. There is so much rich culture in Pensacola and I think we should celebrate the LGBT community as well to make our city as diverse as possible.”

PENSACOLA LGBT FILM FESTIVAL
WHEN: Monday, Oct. 8 – Thursday, Oct. 11
WHERE: Various locations.
COST: All screenings are free.
DETAILS: pcolaLGBTfilmfest.com; facebook.com/pcolalgbtfilmfest

Monday, October 8, 6 p.m.
UWF Conference Center
Opening Reception & feature presentation “Unfit: Ward vs. Ward.”

Tuesday, October 9, 6:30 p.m.
Polonza Bistro, 286 N. Palafox St.
Short film program for learning about the LGBT community with Q&A by the Human Rights Campaign.

Wednesday, October 10, 6:30pm
Museum of Commerce, 201 E. Zaragoza St.
Short films that celebrate the artistic achievements of LGBT films and filmmakers.

Thursday October 11, 6:30pm
The Yard, 1010 N. 12th Ave.
“Mississippi I Am” and closing night celebration

All screenings are free.  A full schedule with synopses of programmed films is available at pcolalgbtfilmfest.com. Updates are posted regularly to the film festival’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pcolalgbtfilmfest.