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‘Film is acceptance.’ LGBTQ Miami film festival celebrates 25 years this month

A scene from “Three Nights A Week,” the closing film of OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami.
Courtesy of OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami
The Miami Herald
A scene from “Three Nights A Week,” the closing film of OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami.

From San Francisco in the 1970s to a glittery drag club in France, South Florida’s international LGBTQ film festival wants to take you there.

OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami is celebrating its 25th edition from April 20 to April 30. The festival, now located at the Silverspot Cinema downtown, includes a lineup of 65 features, shorts, and documentaries that tell the stories of LGBTQ people from around the world.

“Twenty-five years of anything LGBTQ is quite an accomplishment,” said Mark Gilbert, the festival’s board chair and interim executive director. “Twenty-five years of showing thousands of our stories on the big screen is quite rewarding.”

The festival’s milestone comes at a time that Florida’s LGBTQ community sees as increasingly hostile. Gov. Ron DeSantis has aimed his “anti-woke” culture war at drag queens and the state legislature is proposing restrictive bills that target the community. On Wednesday, Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, issued an advisory warning against traveling to Florida because of its laws and policies.

Gilbert said that the South Florida community’s support of the festival shows “those that are trying to take our rights away” that the LGBTQ community isn’t going away.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time to support our festival,” Gilbert said. “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re strong, and we’re staying. Our stories will be told for the next 25 years.”

The festival is celebrating its opening night with a dinner and a show at Silverspot. Dinner will be brought out to guests in the theater as they watch the film, and dessert will be served at the after-party.

OUTshine kicks off with “Fairyland,” an award-winning, coming-of-age film directed by Andrew Durham and produced by Academy-award winning filmmaker Sofia Coppola. After the death of her mother, a young girl named Alysia is uprooted when her father, Steve, decides to move to San Francisco in the 1970s. Steve begins to live a carefree lifestyle and date men, which clashes with society’s and Alysia’s expectations of parenthood. The heartfelt film is told from Alysia’s point of view.

“We thought it was just a perfect opening night film that will reach a broad cross section of the community,” Gilbert said.

A scene from “Fairyland,” the opening film for this year’s OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami. This year is the festival’s 25th anniversary.
Courtesy of OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami
The Miami Herald
A scene from “Fairyland,” the opening film for this year’s OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival Miami. This year is the festival’s 25th anniversary.

The rest of the festival’s program, Gilbert said, is “the best program that we’ve had in many years.”

The lineup ranges from a documentary on rock ‘n’ roll icon Little Richard to “Blue Jean,” a film about a lesbian physical education teacher who is forced to live a double life under a homophobic law.

On April 26, Olympic gymnast, LGBTQ advocate and Miami native Danell Leyva will be honored before the screening of “Clocked,” a film in which he has a starring role. In the movie, which takes place in Miami, Adolfo, an 18-year-old Puerto Rican boxer from a conservative Catholic family, is secretly saving his winnings to transition as a woman.

The next day, the festival will screen its “centerpiece,” a dramatic Italian film called “L’immensita,” starring Penelope Cruz. Set in 1970s Rome, Cruz plays a mother navigating the breakdown of her marriage and her oldest daughter coming out as a boy.

The festival closes with “Three Nights A Week,” a French film directed by Florent Gouelou that explores a love story set among a vibrant group of drag queens. Baptiste, a photographer stuck in a dead-end retail job, meets drag performer Cookie and follows her and her friends to photograph their lives. What started as an art project turns into a journey of self-discovery and a love triangle among Cookie, Baptiste and his girlfriend Samia.

Though the film isn’t about drag, it’s certainly a “love letter to drag” as an art form, said Joe Bilancio, the festival program director.

“The story tells us that love is love at its greatest,” Bilancio said. “It’s really just so engaging and sweet. Everyone is great in it.”

Bilancio said the opening and closing films tell universal stories that anyone can connect to, no matter their background. It’s important for the festival to promote independent films and provide a safe space for the community to enjoy, he said.

“We really try not to be overly political, but just doing what we do in itself is political,” he said. “While the climate has become overtly hostile, I would tend to say that the climate has been fairly hostile for many years. It’s just now they’re sort of showing their true colors, if you will.”

He said that it’s important for South Floridians to step out of their comfort zone and support films from parts of the community that may not be their own. He encouraged gay men to see lesbian films, lesbians to see gay films and cisgender folks to see transgender films.

“Film is acceptance,” he said. “People understand film.”


When: Opening night screening, dinner and party, April 20 at 7 p.m. Festival runs until April 30.

Where: Silverspot Cinema, 300 SE 3rd Street, Miami.

Tickets: Tickets for individual films start at $8. Tickets for the opening night film, dinner and after-party are $95. Available to purchase online.

Info: See the full festival schedule at outshinefilm.com/films/program

This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.

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