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Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival offers something for every taste

This year’s Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival has something for nearly everyone in the LGBT rainbow – and then some, says festival director Carl Bogner. The popular event returns for the 24th year on Thurs., Oct. 20, and runs through Sun., Oct. 23. The festival continues with monthly showings in November and December, as well as in 2012.

The festival has changed considerably since it was founded a quarter of a century ago, says Bogner, who’s been part of it for 14 years. He’s also a senior lecturer in UWM’s film department.

The idea for the festival originated with Carl Szatmary, the proprietor of Milwaukee’s Outwords Books, Bogner says. Szatmary organized the original film festival screenings. Eventually the festival floated around the UWM film department, evolving into today's full-fledged international film festival.

Prior to last year, the festival ran for two weekends – 11 days in all. But last year the event switched to a format featuring one activity-packed opening weekend in October, followed by screenings on the first Thursday of every month.

That’s the plan for this year as well.

The festival is an ever-changing event. The subjects and styles of its offerings have shifted over the years to reflect evolving social attitudes about LGBT people, Bogner says.

In the early days, “gay storytelling was by no means mainstream,” Bogner says. “LGBT work used to be more difficult, edgier and more challenging in form and content.”

The gay coming-out or coming-of-age story used to be a staple of LGBT cinema, but this year’s festival does not feature even one film that follows that kind of storyline. 

“As it’s become mainstream …  queer cinema has become more conventional,” Bogner says. “Now, queer work has entered popular forms. Romantic comedies are by far the most popular (now), giving LGBT people compelling fantasies that they like seeing over and over.”

This year’s festival proves that transgender film has arrived. Two feature films feature transgender children courageously asserting their identities. In the French film “Tomboy,” 10-year-old Laure uses the opportunity provided by her family’s relocation to become a boy in the eyes of her new playmates. This year’s closing film, “Gun Hill Road,” tells the powerful tale of family dysfunction as a father returns to the Bronx after serving time in prison to discover that his teenage son is transitioning into a woman.

This year’s festival also demonstrates the international boom of independent LGBT cinema. Films from France, Israel, Brazil, Italy, Norway, England, Australia, and the United States are represented.

The range of characters has become broader and more diverse. LGBT cinema is no longer just about stories involving white people. There are characters of all ages, from children through senior citizens.

Genres represented at this year’s festival run the gamut – comedy, romance, drama, documentary – they’re all there. There’s even a cheesy Ed Wood-style lesbian sci-fi romance.

Despite all of the changes in both form and content, however, this year’s festival promises once again to be a crowd pleaser. After all, as Bogner puts it, “We’re just showing really good movies.”

Click here for the festival’s complete schedule.

For reviews of some of the festival’s highlights, click here.

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