Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019

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A Weekend at the Movies

With Stamped Film Festival
By Jennifer Leigh

The Pensacola LGBT Film Festival—now known as Stamped—could’ve just been a one-time thing.

“It started as a fluke, really,” said President C. David Newton. “[ACLU of Florida Northeast Regional Organizer] Sara Latshaw wanted to show a documentary that explored adoption issues in the gay community. But the director told her the film was only shown at festivals, so she started one.”

The film was “Unfit: Ward vs. Ward,” which tells the story of a Pensacola woman who lost custody of her daughter to her convicted killer husband solely on the basis that she’s a lesbian. It was the first of many stories the film festival has shared with the community.

Now in its eighth year, Stamped is not done sharing films about the LGBTQ experience. In fact, the event just keeps growing.

“We have so many good films this year,” said Newton. “I probably say this every year, and I always genuinely mean it.”

What’s new this year is more films. For the first time, Stamped has added a Saturday matinee block with three feature-length films as well as a Sunday family day with short films about coming out, young love and navigating the world as a young trans person.

“Our mission is to create a bridge for LGBTQ people and the larger community,” said Newton. “These films are very specific to parents and kids and allows for conversations to start between kids and their parents.”

But Newton said it’s always a tough call to say whether the movies shown at Stamped are “family-friendly.” He leaves that up to the parents.

But there is plenty of pre-show family fun with face painting, arts and crafts, and free gelato from Dolce & Gelato. The film festival will also host a panel of teachers who will talk about challenges students face in school.

This year, not one but two directors will be at the festival. Award-winning filmmaker Fiona Dawson was so excited to be a part of the festival, she chose to fly in for the occasion—proof of the festival’s economic benefits, Newton said. Dawson’s latest film, “More Than He Knows,” about a married man facing a reality about himself, is showing Friday night.

And as part of the weekend’s festivities, acclaimed writer, director, actor and stand-up comedian Del Shores will show his film “Six Characters in Search of a Play” Thursday night. Festival-goers will also get the chance to meet Shores at a special ticketed event to kick off the opening night of Stamped.

“Here’s a chance to meet a celebrity,” Newton said. “Shores is very popular and the creator of the cult films ‘Sordid Lives’ and ‘A Very Sordid Wedding.’ He was also a writer on ‘Queer as Folk.’ There will be an open bar, a Q&A and plenty of schmoozing.”

Proceeds from the Shores meet and greet will also benefit the University of West Florida Gay-Straight Alliance, which has been a partner organization of Stamped.

Preparation for the festival begins months in advance with the event’s film committee watching over 100 films to choose the best ones. In previous years, the festival had a free submission charge. When board members decided to implement a small submission fee, they saw the number of submissions decrease but the quality increase. The fees also helped create a small cash prize for the best films.

It’s always a struggle to select, or deselect, a film to show, said Newton, which is how one of the committee members—David Diamond—decided to expand the festival with the matinee.

Like any year, the 2019 Stamped film selections are diverse in lots of ways. The film committee strives to select films that cover “every letter of the alphabet,” Newton said.

This year is no different, with movies exploring body positivity (“Reshaping Beauty: Round in All the Right Places”) or recording history (“The Archivettes”) or mental illness (“Misdirection”).  There are documentaries, short films, feature-length films and even a film that requires scratch and sniff cards.

While the four-day festival is about art, it’s also about education and raising awareness. And Newton gives props to the Pensacola community and local businesses that help ensure the event continues.

“We always want people to leave with a greater sense of community,” said Newton. “We don’t stand alone—we’re stronger together. We’ve been in this community for eight years; this is something Pensacola can be proud of.”

With eight years under their belt, Stamped isn’t just looking to next year—but their next big milestone.

“We’re pumped up,” said Newton. “We’re already excited about what we’re going to do for the 10-year mark.”

STAMPED FILM FESTIVAL
WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22; 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23; Noon-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24; 2:30-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25
WHERE: Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.
COST: Free
DETAILS: stampedfilmfest.com

SIPS, SNACKS AND SASS: A MEET AND GREET WITH DEL SHORES
WHEN: 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22
WHERE: Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $35
DETAILS: facebook.com/stampedfilmfestival