BEST FILM FESTIVAL

TIE: Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival/Saints and Sinners Film Festival

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Although they might at first glance appear to be worlds apart, this year´s picks for the Bay area´s best film festival actually have an awful lot in common. Both the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Saints and Sinners Film Festival are community events in the truest sense: These are festivals where the movies that get shown sometimes almost seem to take a back seat to the people who make them and watch them. Saints and Sinners drew big crowds for four festivals over two years at St. Pete´s State Theatre, where revelers came to celebrate themselves, their friends and good ol´ fashioned D.I.Y. spirit. Saints and Sinners is aggressively committed to Florida independent filmmakers — so much so that good intentions often count more than actual results. And if the festival yields only one gem-in-the-rough (like last year´s Filthy) out of every 50 or so films, the crowd seems perfectly happy with those odds. Ditto for the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which over the past 15 years has become one of the biggest events of its kind in the country. It´s been a long, sometimes bumpy ride, but festival programmers seem to have settled into a comfortable, workable formula that sprinkles a handful of artistically ambitious films amongst a basic diet of gay-theme documentaries and crowd-pleasing, commercial cinema featuring upbeat messages and positive role models. We have to admit that we long for the days when TIGLFF routinely delighted in throwing us curve balls, like the sublime live performance of Claire or the demented Hong Kong fantasy The Legend of Fung Sai Yuk, but there may be life in the old girl yet. With a little bit of luck, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival may surprise us once again.

Saints and Sinners Film Festival, 727-688-5756, www.renegadefilms.net; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, 813-274-8286, www.pridefilmfest.com.

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