There’s something of an inside joke among event planners, including film festival personnel, that — for planning purposes — you have to be prepared for anything. 2020 was a perfect example of just that. None of us saw COVID-19 coming as we started to make plans for last year, and when we did, we all hoped the pandemic would be under control by the fall. That was not to be case.
Flash forward to a year later. As much as we all wanted normalcy again, COVID-19 is still around, albeit somewhat more containable. Last year’s events were almost all virtual, but this year live events are returning.
Out On Film, the Atlanta LGBTQ film festival I’ve been the festival director of for 13 years now, is a hybrid this fall. We have live events and virtual events. We have had to learn and pivot over the last year and find ways to reach our audience. As a nonprofit organization, our mission is to screen films for, by, and about Atlanta’s populous LGBTQ community. Luckily, I think we’ve been able to do that and adjust to find a way to still produce.
As we approached our festival this year, we realized safety was our biggest concern. This is a time when we have to take care of ourselves and others in our community.
For those who feel comfortable coming to a theater, we look forward to seeing you and will do everything we can to keep you safe. Vaccinations are required for anyone buying a pass or ticket, and we will be socially distancing inside the Midtown Art Cinema theaters and at Out Front Theatre. Masks are also required. For those who feel more comfortable staying home, we respect that and still have a lot to offer.
What COVID-19 has taught us is that the old model of how to produce is gone. For me, there’s nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen. I grew up nearly alone in Milledgeville, Georgia, and I escaped by going to the movies. When I went to school at UGA, I found my professional tribe of people who loved seeing movies communally and talking about them after. As much as I cherish that, though, I realize virtual is here to stay and for many there are simply too many advantages not to have it as a component. Not least is the ability to reach people around the state, the South, and in some cases the country. I have learned there’s room for both.
We all need art and escapism and the ability to see positive images of ourselves on the big screen. Many of us did not have that growing up.
Fortunately, COVID-19 has not affected the quality or quantity of LGBTQ films. This is a superb year, and I am happy to see such diversity and depth in our lineup, with representation from around the world as well as Atlanta. We open this year’s festival with the crowd-pleasing “Firebird,” Peeter Rebane’s Cold War drama about the romance between a soldier and a fighter pilot. Our closing night film is the world premiere of the excellent “Keep the Cameras Rolling: the Pedro Zamora Way,” a look at the life of “The Real World’s” Zamora and his activism.
Other dandies include Vivian Kleinman’s documentary, “No Straight Lines,” about the rise of queer comic book artists; Phil Connell’s adorable “Jump, Darling,” with Cloris Leachman in her final film performance; T.J. Parsell’s remarkable “Invisible: Gay Women in Southern Music;” the world premieres of Antony Hickling’s “Down in Paris,” Jan Miller Corran’s romantic comedy, “Along Came Wanda,” and Jade Winters’ “One Four Three;” Jeffrey Schwarz’s dazzling “Boulevard! A Hollywood Story;” the U.S. premiere of the sexy and sweet “Mascarpone;” Nathan Hale Williams’ extraordinary adaptation of “All Boys Aren’t Blue;” John Carluccio’s look at an icon in “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back;” Lauren Hadaway’s Tribeca award winner, “The Novice;” Nicole Ruiz Benavides’s exquisite “Forgotten Roads;” Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt’s highly acclaimed “No Ordinary Man;” and Harri Shanahan and Sian A. Williams’s compelling “Rebel Dykes.”
We also have a night of horror films — Sean King O’Grady’s unnerving “We Need to Do Something” and a series of Horror Shorts. Speaking of short films, we have 17 programs this year, including our first ever in-theater Oscar-qualifying Drama Shorts.
An interview with former Atlantan Amanda Bearse of “Married With Children” fame is also part of our virtual fare.
Movies bring us all together, even if maybe not in the ways that we are used to, and I look forward to (safely) reuniting with the community September 23 through October 3.