The Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival has something for everyone

TIGLFF brings movies, parties and more to both sides of the bay.

Now in its 24th year, the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF) continues to age gracefully. The 2013 edition runs Oct. 4-12 and will feature screenings on both sides of the Bay (at Tampa Theatre and Muvico Baywalk in St. Pete), grand parties, celebrity appearances and more. But the real measure of any film festival is the quality of the movies, and it’s in this area that TIGLFF continues to grow and improve.

“It becomes more and more difficult to choose,” says KJ Mohr, the festival program director, about the selection process. “It’s not just coming-out stories now. The films focus on more complex gay lives that lend themselves to more interesting stories. The filmmaking is just better, too. It’s gotten easier to make a smaller film on a smaller budget.”

Past festival maven Margaret Murray plucked Mohr from the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. three years ago to work on TIGLFF. Mohr already knew of the festival thanks to its excellent reputation among the LGBT filmmaking community, and was excited by the challenge of programming a festival that tries to appeal to both the LGBT community and the general public.

“[LGBT stories have] become more acceptable in society and the stories are more applicable to everyone,” she says. “These are stories the wider audience wants to see. … People are coming and looking for a quality film, not just LGBT films.”

How does Mohr go about selecting the films? It starts with a good story, something interesting or original. She then considers production values, and is always on the lookout for great flicks from other countries. “The festival is international, so we want good representation from around the world,” she says. “There are more films than ever because LGBT stories are more accepted internationally.”

That ethos of finding inclusive gay films with wide appeal extends from the opening night film The Happy Sad (“I saw it in San Francisco and as soon as it ended I knew that it was our opening film — It had something for everyone,” Mohr says), to the rest of the dramatic films, short features, and the wealth of excellent documentaries that will be screened during TIGLFF’s eight-day run.

“Documentaries are my favorites,” Mohr says, “but it’s hard to get audiences out to docs for some reason. … [TIGLFF] could be a whole LGBT doc fest and it would be excellent. It’s not like I have a quota, but this year I kept adding this one and that one because it’s so important and they’re good films.”

Despite wading through hundreds of movies in her time with the festival, Mohr still finds herself surprised. Take Test, which she calls “an AIDS dance film, which sounds awful. And it’s a period piece!” Despite a self-professed aversion to the genre, Mohr couldn’t help herself. “The characters are great, from the first shot it’s just beautiful, and it hooked me right away. It’s a great film from beginning to end.”

It’s that spirit of discovery that should guide festivalgoers as they experience TIGLFF. There really is something for everyone here. You just have to be willing to look.

There are 35 feature films in the festival, plus three shorts programs. CL was able to screen several of them in advance; you'll find our reviews at right.

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