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All Grown Up 

Previewing the Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

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Twenty-one is a benchmark age that denotes a certain maturity, and for its 21st outing, the annual Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival stretches its boundaries even further. Oh, there are still the saucy comedies and same-sex romances that festival-goers enjoy kicking back at. But this year, the PILGFF has linked several screenings with community groups to facilitate post-film discussions; expanded socializing opportunities; and added new programs, including the free Family Day and an evening of experimental LGBT film.

The festival kicks off with a double-header: First, a sneak peek at your choice of one of two films -- the controversial Shortbus or the aerialist love story The Gymnast; afterwards, there's a party. Other special events of the festival, which runs from Fri., Oct. 20, through Sun., Oct. 29, include: "An Evening with Tab Hunter," on Thu., Oct. 26, during which the gay Hollywood star will recount his curious career playing the male romantic lead; and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sing-Along, on Fri., Oct. 27.

Films and videos screen at the Harris Theater and Byham Theater, both Downtown; the SouthSide Works, South Side; and the Melwood Screening Room, in Oakland. Tickets are $8 for single admissions; $5 for under 25, at the door. Discount passes are available, including: the Cheap Thrills packet ($45 for six admissions); the Screen Queen Pass ($75 for 10 admissions); and the Diva Pass ($125 for admission to all festival events and parties, except for the Tab Hunter evening). Contact 412-422-6776 or www.pilgff.org for more information.

Here is the screening schedule for the first seven days:

Fri., Oct. 20

8 p.m. THE GYMNAST. Sure, it has a gimmick: Depressed but ripped (and gorgeous) middle-aged blond female masseuse and young (and gorgeous) Korean-American female dancer meet as part of an aerial "silks" act with Vegas ambitions. And sure, it all transpires in the self-absorbed, overprivileged world of heated-pool L.A. But writer/director Ned Farr's romance goes beyond eye candy, with concise acting and an unexpectedly witty script to accompany its visual diversions and distract from a predictable plot. And do stick around for an especially fun end-credits sequence. To be screened via video projection. $20 ticket includes the Opening Night Gala to follow at Hot Metal Grille (2829. E. Carson St., South Side). SouthSide Works (Bill O'Driscoll)

8:30 p.m. SHORTBUS. In this dramedy from John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), a group of stressed-out New Yorkers find comfort at Shortbus, a club for beautiful freaks, libertines and sexual explorers. No simulated action for the button-pushing Mitchell: The film contains explicit scenes of real sex. $20 ticket includes the Opening Night Gala to follow at Hot Metal Grille (2829 E. Carson St., South Side). SouthSide Works

Sat., Oct. 21

2:45 p.m. ALL ABOARD, ROSIE'S FAMILY CRUISE. Shari Cookson's 2005 documentary captures fun, freedom and family values when Rosie O'Donnell, her partner and their children, plus 1,500 other gay and gay-friendly family members, set sail for a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Daniel Palmieri's short film about a gay mermaid, "The Little Merman," will also be screened. Screening is free, in conjunction with PILGFF's Family Day. To be screened via video projection. Harris

5 p.m. SAVING MARRIAGE. They said gay marriage could never happen, but Mike Roth and John Henning's documentary proves otherwise. Follow the fight that occurred after the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in 2003 in favor of same-sex marriage to preserve and protect this right from conservative attacks. To be followed by a panel discussion. To be screened via video projection. Harris

7:30 p.m. GYPO. Told in three intersecting chapters, this affecting British drama from Jan Dunn documents the breakdown of a working-class family, the travails of immigrant workers, and a burgeoning friendship between two women. Helen (Pauline McLynn), a lovely caring soul long worn down by her peevish and demanding family, strikes up a friendship with Tasha (Chloe Sirene), a young Roma immigrant escaping a brutal past in the Czech Republic. Dunn shoots Gypo Dogme-style, utilizing real locales and natural light, with great effect. The gloomy streets of the dormant seaside resort are barely relieved by cheap Christmas decorations, and the perpetually overcast skies lend an oppressive air. Regardless, like the blowsy but always kind Helen, Gypo will lift your spirits. To be screened via video projection. Harris (Al Hoff)

9:45 p.m. BOY CULTURE. Here's a movie with an identity problem. Boy Culture, written by Philip Pierce and Q. Allan Brocka (who also directed), is a really sappy love story about a high-class callboy looking for love. But Brocka seems embarrassed by this screamingly obvious fact, and tries to hide it under an archly studied tone of hip/cool cynicism and a faux film noir narration so hardboiled you'd swear it's performance art. And it's too bad, really, because the love story, though admittedly sappy, is rather enjoyable, thanks to Brocka's visuals and fine performances by Patrick Bauchau, Derek Magyar, Darryl Stephens and Jonathon Trent. To be screened via video projection. Harris (Ted Hoover)

Sun., Oct. 22

3 p.m. MY GIRLFRIEND DID IT. This 40-minute 1995 documentary, directed by Dawn West, examines the issue of woman-on-woman violence in lesbian relationships. This free screening is presented in association with Persad. To be screened via video projection. Harris

4:45 p.m. METH. Methamphetamine use in the gay community is the focus of Todd Ahlberg's documentary, which examines the drug's popularity and exposes the devastation it can wreak. David Brunner's short film, "Time for Compassionate Change," looks at AIDS and HIV from a 20-year-plus perspective. To be followed by a Q&A. To be screened via video projection. Harris

7:15 p.m. WOMEN'S SHORTS. A program of short films by and about women, including "Costa Bella," "Moving Out," Attack of the Bride Monster," "Succubus," "Open" and "His Name Is Cosmo." To be screened via video projection. Harris

9:15 p.m. MEN'S SHORTS. A program of short films by and about men, including "Arie," "Murder's a Drag," "Davy & Stu," "Hitchcocked," "A Trip to Prague," "Colorblind," "Hello, Thanks" and "Man Seeking Man." To be screened via video projection. Harris

Mon., Oct. 23

7 p.m. LIFE OF REILLY. Charles Nelson Reilly was a breath of fresh, campy air on so many talk shows, comedies and game shows of the 1960s and '70s. Barry Polterman and Frank Anderson's film adaptation of Reilly's one-man show recounts the performer's trials and triumphs with his expected acerbic observations. To be screened via video projection. Harris

9:15 p.m. LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP. Los Angeleno Glenn becomes smitten with a cute Southern man he met through the personals, only to learn that his prospective long-term partner is a Republican. Can true love survive partisan politics? Or their bungled first time in the sack? Rob Williams directs this romantic comedy. To be screened via video projection. Harris

Tue., Oct. 24

7 p.m. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL. As if being born in the wrong-sex body weren't trials enough, the transgendered are three times as likely to be incarcerated as the average American. And pre-operative transgendered women are typically jailed with men -- with all the risk that entails -- or else put in solitary confinement. Janet Baus and Dan Hunt's 65-minute documentary is composed largely of talking heads, but that approach belies how intensely involving it is. It's a portrait of five diverse transgendered women and their existential despair ("It's like being forced to be somebody that you hate") as well as a look at their struggles in the penal system, including the fight for hormone treatments. One statutory change transpired only after one of this film's subjects, an aging former oil-field roughneck named Linda, cut off her own male genitalia. In jail. Without anesthesia. To be screened via video projection. Harris (BO)

9:15 p.m. LGBT AVANT GARDE RESTROSPECTIVE. This 90-minute program, subtitled "Pioneers in Revolt: An Introduction to Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film," offers a selection of shorts considered significant in the evolution of both filmmaking and personal expression. The program, curated by Gordon Nelson of the local experimental screening series Jefferson Presents ..., includes Kenneth Anger's "Fireworks"; "Scotch Tape," by Jack Smith; George Kuchar's "Hold Me While I'm Naked"; Barbara Hammer's "Superdyke"; "Loads," by Curt McDowell; Matthais Muller's "Alpsee"; and "Jollies," by Sadie Benning. To be screened on 16 mm and via video projection. Harris

Wed., Oct. 25

7 p.m. MOM. Erin Greenwell's Mom is a wonderfully funny and refreshingly human lesbian buddy picture about three days in the life of the very uptight Kelly and the very laid-back Linda. They work for a market-research firm interviewing subjects in their homes, and wind up in the tiny town of Little Hope ... where anything that can go wrong does. Mom and Greenwell do an amazing job of setting up the audience for classic Hollywood plot advancement, and then jiggling the frame just enough to send us in some unexpected but always perfectly calibrated direction. As the leads, Julie Goldman and Emily Burton are charming without being cloying, and quirky but never precious. I demand a sequel! To be screened via video projection. Harris (TH)

9 p.m. WHOLE NEW THING. Home-schooled his whole life, 13-year-old Emerson -- at the behest of his hippie parents -- enrolls in the local high school. Because he's as intellectually mature as he is socially inept, Emerson's school days are pretty grim until he meets and develops a crush on his English teacher, a gay man with troubles of his own. This Canadian film, written by Daniel MacIvor and Amnon Buchbinder (who also directs) is a dense, old-fashioned character study, the sort of film the indie film industry was created to make. Buchbinder directs with a light hand, showcasing strong performances by Aaron Webber, Robert Joy, Rebecca Jenkins and MacIvor himself. Harris (TH)

Thu., Oct. 26

7 p.m. PICK UP THE MIC. Alex Hinton's engaging documentary knocks aside preconceptions about hip hop, a musical genre too often defined by its limitations. Hip hop, though, isn't just for the wannabe pimps and braggadocios. The rappers, musicians and emcees Hinton profiles say, "We're queer, we're here, and stand back while I break it down." After the slam-bang opening, where rapper Deadlee chants the unlikely rouser "No Fags Allowed," Hinton's film introduces us to a diverse group of gay, lesbian and transgendered entertainers. On the mic, they're fast, furious and funny ("Crack" isn't about any drug); offstage, their enthusiasm for claiming queer-hop as a supportive culture is infectious. Most of the artists are centered in the San Francisco/Oakland or New York City areas, but Pick Up reminds us that art can be a revolutionary act, and it might be coming to your town next. To be screened via video projection. Harris (AH)

7 p.m. RIDE THE WILD SURF. Who among the dreamy bare-chested men will dare conquer the big waves of Waimea Bay? Will it be Fabian, James Mitchum, Peter Brown or Tab Hunter? Don Taylor's 1964 beach comedy will answer that important question. After the screening of this restored surf classic, Hunter will introduce his new autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential, and explain what it was like for him, as a closeted gay man, to play the romantic lead in this and many other Hollywood classics. $10-25. Byham

9:15 p.m. EL CALENTITO. Set amid the boldly patterned, big-hair milieu of '80s rock, this Spanish comedy from Chus Guttierez follows an innocent girl, Sara, after she stumbles into El Calentito, an outrageous nightclub for the sexually adventurous. And virginal Sara doesn't just discover some new bands ... To be screened via video projection. In Spanish, with subtitles. Harris

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