By Hans Pedersen, February 2016 Issue.
From transgender roller derby players and gay sports heroes to tattooed suburban moms and hot cops in love, the 2016 Desperado LGBT Film Festival has something for everyone on the rainbow spectrum.
The seventh annual festival, which will include screenings of nine feature films and 11 assorted LGBTQ short films, will run from Jan. 29 to 31 at Paradise Valley Community College.
Created by Paradise Valley Community College students in 2010, the Desperado LGBT Film Festival has blossomed into an annual Valley tradition that includes music, vendors, an LGBT art gallery, Q&A and discussion sessions. (Meet Marisa Hall Valdez, Desperado’s 2016 featured artist, here.)
Today, Desperado is also a student club at PVCC, and as incoming students replace those who have moved on, the club continues to work with a core group of community members who assist with all aspects of the festival.
According to Dale Heuser, sports science faculty member at PVCC, the hybrid model works well for the annual event, with the school’s employees and members of the Valley all providing input to help guarantee the annual festival is a success. In return, festival proceeds benefit the school’s scholarships and college diversity events.
“We’re pretty happy with it,” Heuser said of the roster, adding that this year’s festival offers “a very strong lineup.”
This time around, the process of choosing which films to include in the event was different than in prior years, explained Maryanne Holms, better known as Maryanne Marttini, a Valley-based stand-up comic and one of the selection committee members.
“We divided the selections this year to make it easier,” Marttini said. “I really pretty much worked on the transgender films, because that’s what I am.”
According to Marttini, she first became involved with the festival a few years ago when she came across a Desperado booth during a local pride event.
“I think our system will produce the best festival here,” she remarks, pointing out how last year’s festival was also strong, with and an estimated 1,500 attendees and the enchanting trans film Boy Meets Girl landing the audience award.
Scene I – Jan. 29
This year Desperado kicks off with a free 8 a.m. screening of Out to Win Jan. 29. This documentary profiles prominent gay and lesbian sports figures, and features interviews with everyone from tennis legend Billie Jean King to former NFL player Wade Davis.
The screening of this sports documentary will be followed by a discussion about the benefits of being out and proud when it comes to workplace productivity. According to Heuser, the discussion will cover how “being in the closet impacts employee performance and impacts recruitment.”
You may want to bring along the Kleenex for the award-winning tearjerker Akron, which officially kicks off this year’s festival at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29.
Brian O’Donnell, the director of the emotionally riveting drama, is scheduled to attend, along with the film’s executive producers and actor Matthew Frias, who plays Benny. Akron centers on a tragedy in a Ohio parking lot years earlier that winds up creating a conflict for two cute young college students in love.
Scene II – Jan. 30
Screening at noon on Jan. 30 is In The Turn, a documentary about a 10-year-old trans girl who is denied the opportunity to join local athletic groups, but she finds empowerment and a sense of community when she joins a roller derby team called Vagine Regime.
“This young girl is not allowed to play sports, so she and her mom find a roller derby league,” Heuser explained.
This uplifting documentary, which Marttini as one of the best she’s seen in years, focuses on a league that is made up of different kinds of people, including gay and trans girls.
Death in Buenos Aires, a Spanish-language crime drama starring Oscar-nominee Demian Bashir (“Weeds”), will screen at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 30. Here, Bashir plays a veteran detective who must delve into the gay nightlife of Argentina to try and solve a murder, but teaming up with a young officer to crack the case creates some sparks between the two handsome officers.
Another centerpiece film of the festival is Clambake, a documentary all about Women’s Week in Provincetown. This film, which traces P-Town’s development into a major lesbian hot spot, screens at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 and it will be followed by a question-and-answer session with director Andrea Meyerson.
Closet Monster closes out the Jan. 30 lineup with an 8 p.m. screening. Isabella Rossellini headlines this drama about a creative teenager named Oscar Madly who wants to become a special effects artist. Struggling with his sexuality and hoping to leave his hometown, Oscar finds his biggest obstacle to be disturbing memories from his childhood. This movie won Best Canadian feature film at the Toronto Film Festival.
Scene III – Jan. 31
The Arizona premiere of The New Girlfriend, a dynamite trans film that’s breaking down barriers, will take place at 1:50 p.m. Jan. 31. After a woman loses her lifelong best friend, she checks in on the grieving husband and finds him dressed in women’s clothing, nursing a newborn with a bottle.
Stuff, a fun romp with suburban lesbian moms, screens at 4 p.m. Jan. 31. In this film, Trish, a dentist, and Deb, a stay-at-home housewife, who are raising their two daughters. But Trish is coping with the loss of her father and gets distracted from their home life, and Deb winds up falling for the cute tattooed mother of their daughter’s classmate.
Those People, which closes the festival with its screening at 6 p.m. Jan. 31, is a tale about a young man, Charlie, whose heart is stolen by a piano player. But Charlie cannot avoid his boyhood crush on his charming pal Sebastian, a young man who has become notorious ever since his father was incarcerated in connection to a financial scandal.
2016 Festival Screening Schedule and Reviews
8 a.m. – Out to Win
7:30 p.m. – Akron, followed by a Q&A with director Brian O’Donnell and actor Matthew Frias. (Read Echo‘s review of Akron here and Echo‘s interview with Matthew Frias here.)
Noon – In the Turn
1:55 p.m. – Five short films
3:30 p.m. – Death in Buenos Aires
5:30 p.m. Clambake, followed by a Q&A with director Andrea Meyerson (Read Echo‘s interview Andrea Meyerson here.)
8 p.m. – Closet Monster (Read Echo‘s review of Closet Monster here.)
12:15 p.m. – Six short film selections
1:50 p.m. – The New Girlfriend (Read Echo‘s review of The New Girlfriend here.)
4 p.m. – Stuff (Read Echo‘s review of Stuff here.)
6 p.m. – Those People (Read Echo‘s review of Those People here.)
Desperado LGBT Film Festival
Paradise Valley Community College’s Center for Performing Arts
18401 N. 32nd St. Phoenix
Tickets: $10; MCCCD employees, $9; students and seniors, $8. All access ($80) and single-day ($30) passes are also available.