With three venues and screenings of 39 films spread over nine days, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival returns Friday.
The annual festival, one of the largest in the country, kicks off its 24th year in the Tampa Theatre with a free screening of an award-winning drama about two couples and their relationship troubles.
”The Happy Sad,” shows at 8 p.m. following a kickoff party that starts at 7 p.m.
The TIGLFF, which runs through Oct. 12, showcases feature films, documentaries and short film collections from throughout the world.
Many will be shown in the Tampa Theatre. Some will be screened at the Muvico Baywalk in St. Petersburg and others at the Muvico Centro Ybor.
“We had about 7,000 attending last year and we expect a 25 percent increase this year,” says Larry Biddle, executive director of the festival.
“We are about the sixth largest gay and lesbian film festival in the country and the last major one of the year,” he said.
Biddle says the audience has grown as attitudes about gays and lesbians have changed.
“There is more understanding and acceptance now,” he added. “We're getting more of the mainstream audience as the films have become more mainstream. There are dramas, comedies and documentaries that are interesting and entertaining to all audiences.”
Admission ranges from a single $10 ticket for one screening to a $50 ticket to six screenings and a $135 “club” pass for all screenings. There is also a limited number of $500 VIP passes.
The free opening night, packed with clips from the other films, is a way to entice the audience to come back. “The Happy Sad,” written by playwright Ken Urban, follows a black gay couple and a straight couple as they deal with sexual relationships outside their long-term commitments.
Among the documentaries is “Breaking Through,” at 12:15 p.m. Sunday at Tampa Theatre. This film by Cindy Abel recounts the personal stories of openly gay and lesbian politicians such as Barney Frank and U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin who overcame bullying and prejudice to have successful careers in office. Abel will attend a question and answer session following the film.
Another documentary, “Ian Harvie Superhero,” at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Muvico Baywalk, features the standup comedy of Harvie, the first “trans supercomedian.”
The comedy film, “Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Tampa Theatre, stars filmmaker Anna Margarita Albelo as a forlorn middle-aged Cuban-American, living in a garage, who makes a low-budget all-female version of Edward Albee's “Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf?”
Among the numerous dramas is the film version of the award-winning play “Southern Baptist Sissies,” at 8:15 p.m. Monday at Tampa Theatre. The play is about four gay men who have painful, funny, sad and bittersweet memories of growing up in the Deep South.
Some of the films deal with the issue of bullying and others, such as “Geography Club,” deal with coming of age. Showing at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at Muvico Baywalk, the film is about a club where misfit teens are trying to get through those sometimes difficult adolescent years.
For information about all the films, admissions, special events and parties during the festival go to www.tiglff.com