Fall in Pittsburgh means changing leaves, adding a scarf and scoping out a new crop of gay-themed films. Friday marks the start of the 24th annual Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, set to run through Oct. 25. This year's slate of 17 films includes entertaining and provocative feature films and documentaries (plus shorts) highlighting gay, lesbian and transgendered experiences. There is also an opening-night party, plus a couple mixers in between. (See www.plgfs.org for more information.)
All films and videos screen at the SouthSide Works Cinema, South Side, except for Out in the Silence, which is on the Carnegie Mellon campus. Tickets are $8.50 for single admissions, except for the opening and closing films. 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 films).
Here is the screening schedule:
Fri., Oct. 16
7 p.m. HANNAH FREE. Hannah (Sharon Gless) lies in her nursing home, reflecting on her shared life with her childhood sweetheart, who now lies dying in the same facility. But there can be no closure, since her lover's angry daughter refuses to let Hannah say goodbye. Wendy Jo Carlton's film, adapted from Claudia Allen's play, addresses an all-too-real heartbreaking injustice. The resolution is a bit clumsy, but this low-budget drama is sweetly affirming.
9:30 p.m. THE BIG GAY MOVIE MUSICAL. Caspar Andreas' films are reliably filled with eye candy (Slutty Summer), but his latest comedy adds lots of musical numbers, too. Subplots involve coming out and finding a true love, but half the film is a pun-filled, campy off-Broadway show about gays and Christians. Did I mention gyrating angels in sailor-button hot pants?
An opening-night party is scheduled for in between screenings in the theater lobby. $25 for one film and party; $30 for both films and party.
Sat., Oct. 17
3 p.m. GENDER REDESIGNER. John Bergmann's documentary tracks the remarkable transformation of Fae, a young Western Pennsylvania woman who transitions from identified lesbian to a trans-man. With remarkable candor, Fae (now fAe) shares a journey that is as much emotional as physical, before ultimately celebrating his new identity in a unique, but wholly comfortable, gender. Bergmann and fAe will attend a post-screening Q&A.
5 p.m. ANNUL VICTORY. Last November brought a splash of good-news-bad-news to California's gay community: Obama handily won the presidency, but voters overturned the state's gay-marriage provision. Thousands of gay-rights activists and supporters took to the street to hate on Prop 8, and Cheryl Riley's on-the-fly doc captures the righteous furor. The film could use more context, but it's a timely snapshot of a still rocky road.
7 p.m. I CAN'T THINK STRAIGHT. The melodrama is familiar: Tala is heading for a marriage she doesn't want, after discovering her true love is a woman named Leyla. What adds interest to Shamim Sarif's dramedy is that both women have ethnic backgrounds that are less open to gay relationships: Tala is a wealthy Jordanian Christian, and Londoner Leyla comes from a middle-class Muslim Indian family.
9:30 p.m. EATING OUT 3: ALL YOU CAN EAT. If you dug Eating Out 1 and 2, you won't want to miss this next outrageous installment about wacky dating shenanigans. Glenn Gaylord directs.
Sun., Oct. 18
7 p.m. RIVERS WASH OVER ME. Parts of this indie drama are painful to watch: When Sequan, a smart, shy gay black teen from New York City gets transplanted to small Southern town, the miseries of being "different" are sure to heaped upon him. They are, but Sequan also tentatively finds unlikely allies. John G. Young's film pulls few punches in this adolescent snakepit of sexuality, race, class and crime.
9 p.m. DROOL. A dysfunctional family has its life re-arranged by the arrival of a woman selling cosmetics. And no, it's not the Avon lady. Nancy Kissam directs this comedy.
Mon., Oct. 19
7:30 p.m. HER SHORTS. A program of short films by and about women.
Tue., Oct. 20
7 p.m. OUT IN THE SILENCE. After placing a wedding announcement of his man-man marriage in his hometown paper, The Derrick, Joe Wilson, formerly of Oil City, was stunned at the hateful editorial letters it generated. But he felt for the single mom who wrote to say how poorly her out teen-age son was being treated. So, Wilson and his husband/cameraman Dean Hamer hit the road for Venango County, hoping to uncover just how and why small-town life can be so resistant to gay rights. What Wilson finds in Oil City is sad, surprisingly and, ultimately, hopeful. McConomy Auditorium, CMU campus
Wed., Oct. 21
7 p.m. HIS SHORTS. A program of short films by and about men.
Thu., Oct. 22
7 p.m. GHOSTED. Monika Treut's romantic thriller is a nonlinear account of a multi-partner love affair between a Hamburg photographer, two Taiwanese women and, if not an actual ghost, than at least the powerful memory of a recently deceased lover. The plot wobbles in places, but perhaps that's to be expected in a film that combines the German desire for logic with the Taiwanese respect for the mysterious. In English, and German and Mandarin, with subtitles.
9 p.m. REDWOODS. Everett should be happy: He has a stable husband, a child and a nice house in the forests of Northern California. It's not until he has an affair with a visiting novelist that Everett discovers what his life may be lacking. David Lewis' romance is fairly predictable, and padded out with lots of scenery -- but it is nice scenery. Lewis and producer David Wang will host a Q&A after the screening.
Fri., Oct. 23
7 p.m. OUR SHORTS. A program of short films by and about gay people.
9 p.m. AND THEN CAME LOLA. In this lively rom-com, a commitment-phobic photographer named Lola tries to sort out the various ladies in her life. Ellen Seidler and Megan Siler's film riffs on the German art-house hit Run, Lola, Run, aping its style of repeating the same actions three times (with differing results), and making the frantic Lola pound the pavement all over San Francisco.
Sat., Oct. 24
3:30 p.m. TRAINING RULES. Dee Mosbacher and Fawn Yacker's documentary recounts the controversy surrounding Penn State's women's basketball program, where the coach, Rene Portland, forbade lesbians on the team. The short feature "More Than Volleyball" also screens.
5 p.m. YOUTH SHORTS. A program of short films about gay youth. To be followed by a performance by Dreams of Hope, a local LGBT-youth arts-empowerment nonprofit.
6:30 p.m. NIGHT FLIERS. Life's miserable at 12 if you're a tomboy, a nerd or some other "freak." In Sara St. Martin Lynne's coming-of-age film, such kids from a small town band together for strength.
9:30 p.m. MAKE THE YULETIDE GAY. College senior Gunn de-gays to spend the holidays with his goofy, loving parents -- Mom's a giggly housewife and Dad's a super-stoner -- but the arrival of his boyfriend makes pretending to be straight a challenge. This sweet coming-out comedy from Rob Williams is packed with silly wordplay and, fortunately, very little Christmas music.
Sun., Oct. 25
5 p.m. THE BUTCH FACTOR. What does it mean to be a man, to be masculine, when you're also gay? Is it obvious physical strength, or doing "guy" things like playing rugby? Or is the sissy queen, entirely comfortable in his own fiercely defended identity, a bigger man than the straight-acting fireman? These are the central queries of Christopher Hines' documentary, which interviews a wide variety of gay men. Hines' style is a little clunky, but the issues are provocative.
7 p.m. PATRIK, AGE 1.5. Two Swedish married men living in a cozy suburb hope to make their domestic life complete with the addition of an adopted baby. But a typo on the application turns their hoped-for 15-month-old into 15-year-old Patrik, an angry delinquent who hates "homos." How these three manage this crisis is the heart of Ella Lemhagen's warm, low-key and well-acted dramedy. In Swedish, with subtitles. $15 for the double feature.