The Atlanta Film Festival, the second largest film festival in the city, has just opened and this year’s event will be a hybrid, with some live screenings and virtual ones as well. Some of the LGBTQ films that incorporate the Pink Peach track include “Prognosis: Notes on Living,” a documentary about Oscar-winning director Debra Chasnoff and how she faced a diagnosis of stage four cancer and the repercussions it had on Debra’s wife and their sons, and “Nico,” in which a German-Persian woman is attacked in a racially motivated incident and harnesses her anger with karate training. Local filmmaker Jono Mitchell’s “Miles From Nowhere” is in the mix as well. Mitchell, who also directed “Pageant Material,” this time turns his attention (alongside co-writers Alexander Baxter and Madison Hatfield) to the story of a young man who is dying and his cabin trip with his two closest friends. What he doesn’t anticipate is that that they have a secret of their own to share.
Among the short films is Andy Long’s “Clearing House,” about an elderly woman who wins a sweepstakes only to discover there is more to the story, involving a gay relative. What starts off rather sweet turns a bit cynical. It stars Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz.
The LGBTQ-themed series “Insomnia” is now on Revry and reaching a wider audience than it did on its original home on YouTube. It follows Nikhil, a bisexual Indian American who is a struggling writer in New York and eventually turns to escorting. Star and writer Vishaal Reddy plays Nikhil and he decided to create his own series during a time when he could not book acting work.
“I was getting frustrated by Hollywood’s constant portrayals, the same kind of stereotypical parts I often see for South Asian characters and stories,” he said. “Even for the queer characters, I see tropes over and over. I really don’t get to see any queer South Asian content. A friend told me to stop complaining and go write.”
At first, he was headed in another direction, but fate intervened. Reddy was asked to be an escort one night at a bar and he said no, thinking it was a joke.
“The guy said you’re right – Indian people don’t do this stuff,” he said. “It was a different story for a little bit but I knew then I had my show.”
There is a little of Reddy in the character, based on his experiences with family and relationships.
“Nikhil is kind of going through an identity crisis,” Reddy said. “He has some generational trauma but (other) stuff in his life that he is trying to deal with, in terms of the loss of his mom. He is also helping to take care of his aunt with MS, and when the bills add up, being a struggling writer does not help. He finds his way into escorting and finds he likes it and that there is some complexity behind it. It helps him find his way back to himself.”
Reddy liked portraying a character that is not seen often.
“You really don’t get to see a lot of characters just exist and love,” he said. “I wanted the characters to feel human. An escort story is not necessarily new but to have it from the perspective of an Indian- American person is something you don’t see often. As an Indian person we are not often sexualized or romanticized in a lot of media. We wanted to showcase another side of ourselves.”
Comprised of six episodes, with a funny, startling first scene, “Insomnia” was made a few years ago. Reddy is in the development/writing stage of a second season and is optimistic it will happen.
Finally, it was a film festival smash everywhere it played last year, including Out On Film, where it was the opening night film with star and writer Tom Prior in appearance. Directed by Peeter Rebane (who is out), “Firebird” is a crowd-pleasing romantic drama about a young solider (Prior) who begins an affair with a fighter pilot during the 1970s communist rule. It opens April 29 across the country, including Atlanta, before launching on digital/VOD a bit later.