The 4th Annual GayCharlotte Film Festival is around the corner and already events leading up to the big week are in full effect. The festival, scheduled to run from March 21-25, brings thousands of movie-goers together at various venues across Charlotte to witness and celebrate LGBT inspired films from across the world. Leading up to the festival, The GayCharlotte Film Series is hosting the three-part series, “Getting Into Movies.” The festival’s current form is the product of years of advocacy and support from local LGBT screenwriters and filmmakers.
In 2004 film festivals in Charlotte were few and far between and for the most part LGBT filmmakers worked exclusively on straight projects. Lesbian filmmaker Victoria Eves joined a local filmmaking organization called Group 101: CLT, but with the exception of Eves, the group’s members were all straight men. Notwithstanding that the themes of the group’s movies were straight-male dominated, Victoria managed to make the short movie “Inside Out.” A dance piece which contained subtle hints of lesbianism, Eves’ movie won top prize in one of Charlotte’s two only film festivals in existence in 2005.
At the same time, various members of Charlotte’s LGBT community were involved with an LGBT film series which scheduled gay-themed movies once a month at various movie theaters. The film series was a huge success, but Eves and other LGBT filmmakers yearned for a film festival where Charlotte’s LGBT community could meet for one long weekend every year to watch a succession of LGBT-themed movies in a more festival-type atmosphere.
As Group 101 disbanded, Charlotte’s two film festivals disappeared. By 2006, Group 101’s leader had created the Charlotte Film Festival, but Eves noted that the movie line-up seemed extremely straight-male oriented and was devoid of movies by local filmmakers. Finally, in 2008, she and a few other LGBT filmmakers and film enthusiasts convinced Charlotte’s LGBT Community Center that Charlotte was ready for a weekend annual film festival. As a result, Eves teamed with LGBT Community Center Board Members Teresa Davis and Frank Kalian, screenwriter Rhonda Watlington and filmmaker Eric Scott McPherson to launch the First Annual GayCharlotte Film Festival in April 2009.
The first festival, held entirely at the center, included a screenwriting competition which proved overly ambitious. The second year the script competition was dropped and the festival committee added Park Terrace Theater as a venue. Although one of the worst snow and ice storms in Charlotte’s history forced postponement of part of the festival, it still succeeded. At that time, the five founding festival organizers realized that they had consistently, for two years in a row, programmed a festival of movies as diverse as any LGBT film festival line-up in the country.
The GayCharlotte Film Festival’s movies have continued to include LGBT movies about Latinos, African-Americans, transgender people and Asians. The festival’s programs are an equal mix of movies of interest to gays, lesbians, straight allies and straight kids whose parents are gay. “We are committed to providing movies for everyone. Our movies are almost entirely PG-13 rated, and we pride ourselves on showing movies that everyone can enjoy,” explains Eves.
When the Third Annual GayCharlotte Film Festival had to expand to eight days in order to fulfill the demand for so many diverse LGBT movies, the Festival secured a grant from the Lesbian & Gay Fund to launch a film series where LGBT movies could be shown throughout the year. The Lesbian & Gay Fund also expressed interest in filmmaking panel discussions which could build bridges between our LGBT community and straight allies.
As a result of the Lesbian & Gay Fund grant, the Film Festival and its bi-monthly series have hosted “Hollywood to Dollywood” with gay-twin Goldsboro filmmakers Gary and Larry Lane. It was such a hit in January that they will rescreen their movie at the March Film Festival. On Feb. 18, the Film Series will hold two seminars with Hollywood screenwriter Ben Zook and partner/actor/director Joe Dietl. Then on Feb. 21, the Charlotte Business Guild teams with the Film Series to showcase Charlotte’s LGBT moviemakers in a free admission meeting at Wet Willie’s in the NC Music Factory. Eves and Teresa Davis will lead the panel which includes LGBT filmmakers from Dalliance, Indivision, Emulsion Arts and the Art Institute of Charlotte.
Festival organizers promise that the line-up, to be released soon, will include the same high-quality diverse LGBT movies that have made the GayCharlotte Film Festival one of the LGBT Community Center’s biggest programs. “It’s thrilling to think that we’ve come so far since 2005 and that Charlotte’s LGBT moviemakers are getting together for the February Film Series event before our Fourth Annual Festival,” says Eves. “Charlotte has numerous film festivals now, but one aspect of the GayCharlotte Film Festival that’s so important is that when you attend a movie, you’re supporting the LGBT Community Center and you’re making Charlotte’s LGBT community stronger and more visible.”
For more information about The GayCharlotte Film Festival and upcoming GayCharlotte Film Series events, visit gaycharlottefilmfestival.com. : :