The Desperado Film Festival 2019

Indie, LGBTQ features and shorts

A scene from Sell By, screening at Desperado Film Festival

By Brianna Moore. Photos courtesy of the Desperado Film Festival.

Whether you’re into documentaries, short films, dramedies, or musicals, there’s something for everyone at the Desperado LGBTQ Film Festival.

The Desperado Film Festival is dedicated to spotlighting independent films with LGBTQ themes that don’t receive major distribution. Films featured in the festival are chosen by a designated film committee, consisting of about eight or nine people. Members of the committee select a variety of films and build the schedule for the festival.

“We try to pick the best films that we possibly can,” says Alan East, co-founder of Desperado. “We want to bring our audience really great films from around the world.”

East founded the Desperado Film Festival back in 2009 with his colleague and friend, Dale Heuser.

More Beautiful for Having Been Broken, directed by Nicole Conn.

“When Dale and I started back in 2009,” said East, “it had been about four or five years that Phoenix went without an LGBTQ festival. We felt that there was a need [for it.]”

East and Heuser started the film festival with the Gay Student Alliance at Phoenix College. Now, the festival has become a focus event for the entire Maricopa Community College District.

“We felt that this was a great opportunity for the students, the campus, and the college,’ says East. “It provides opportunities for people in the school system to gain leadership skills.

The Desperado LGBTQ Film Festival will kick off on Friday, October 11 with a welcome reception and the showing of For They Know Not What They Do, an award-winning documentary.

“For They Know Not What They Do,” directed by Daniel G. Karlsake, focuses on four religious families who must come to grips with both sexuality and gender identity. The film features, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay and partnered priest to be elected bishop.

“During the course of the film, you get to see these parents [and] how their minds change over time and how they began to understand the relationship between religion and sexuality,”  says Bishop Robinson. “All four of the stories in this film are incredibly moving and illustrative of where we found ourselves now in the LGBTQ movement. It is powerful and moving, and convincing. Both the director and the film editor have done a spectacular job.”

After the film’s showing, Bishop Robinson will answer audience questions about both the film and his role in the making of it.  

“I’m really looking forward to the Q&A that I’ll be doing the with the audience because, like everyone else, they will have questions,” he says. “There’s no such thing as a stupid question. This is something I’m completely comfortable talking about and feel incredibly positive about.”

The festival will showcase eight other feature films and more than ten short films, all focused on LGBTQ issues. The films tackle other issues as well, such as the balance between sexuality and religion, immigration, technology and more.

It will also include an LGBTQ art exhibit, displaying the work of Christina Carmel, a figurative artist based in Phoenix.

“I paint what makes us human,” writes Carmel on the Desperado Film Festival website. “My passion is people, my message is human connection, and my mode is my paintbrush.”

East describes the Desperado Film Festival as a “cultural diversity event for the state.”

“We try hard to present a lot of different stories of acceptance and growth of LGBTQ people in the films that are shown,” he says. “It’s really about trying to get people to come together and learn about each other.

The Festival takes place Oct. 11-13 at Paradise Valley Community College Center for the Performing Arts, 18401 N. 32nd St., in Phoenix. Visit for ticket and screening information.