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'We’re still fighting.’ This free Miami film festival puts LGBTQ stories in spotlight

Sabrín Diehl and Emily Rosenberg star in “Bathroom Bromance,” a silent film about two neighbors who share a bathroom.
Courtesy of Anita's Film Festival
Miami Herald
Sabrín Diehl and Emily Rosenberg star in “Bathroom Bromance,” a silent film about two neighbors who share a bathroom.

Miami’s LGBTQ filmmakers have a statement to make — and films to screen.

Anita’s Film Festival, a one-day showcase of independent LGBTQ short films from Florida and beyond, returns for its second year Friday night at the University of Miami’s Bill Cosford Cinema. The free event aims to bolster local LGBTQ filmmakers and promote representation despite conservative politicians’ legislation against the queer community, said festival founder Chris Molina.

Molina, who also organizes Sun Pass Film Festival, started Anita’s Film Festival last year in response to Florida education laws that restrict discussion of sexuality and gender in classrooms, which critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” The festival’s name pokes fun at Anita Bryant, the Florida orange juice commercial singer who led an influential anti-LGBTQ campaign in the 1970s, Molina said.

Of the 10 short films in the lineup, 7 are based in Florida, Molina said.

“Queer filmmakers needed more space down here, to just take up as much space as we can to prove that we exist here,” Molina said. “It’s not just the DeSantis state. There’s so many different people who live down here and we’re not just the reputation that we hold throughout the country.”

The films explore a range of themes and styles and feature characters who run the gamut of the LGBTQ community, Molina said.

There’s “Mikvah Dream,” an animated music video by Emily Kobert of Hollywood that explores spirituality, transformation and rebirth. In “I’d Like To,” by Queenie Zhang of Tallahassee, a shy high school student works up the nerve to ask out her crush. “June 1st,” made by Rio Angelo and June Vinette of South Florida, is a personal, quiet piece about a 16-year-old aspiring model who reflects on her future and her turbulent relationship with her mother.

“I want people and other places to recognize that cool stuff is being made here,” Molina said. “With this festival specifically, I want people to see that there are great queer voices coming from Florida and to have those voices be louder.”

Joshua Hernandez, a filmmaker who was born and raised in Miami, praised Anita’s Film Festival for giving LGBTQ filmmakers the opportunity to show their work at a time when “queer people aren’t able to be themselves, especially young people in Florida.”

Hernandez, 28, directed, wrote, produced and starred in “River,” a coming-of-age story about a genderqueer college student who throws a disco party the night before graduation. When the titular character River struggles with their anxiety, a group of friends pick them back up. The film, which premiered at OutFest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival in Los Angeles, reflects on the importance of friendship in the queer community and coming to terms with life in your 20s.

“You get to see these high school stories [in media,] you don’t get to see college and post college,” Hernandez said. “You’re going through these changes in your body and in your mind and in how you see yourself.”

The festival’s lineup also includes unique, comedic takes on complex topics, like “Bathroom Bromance,” a silent short film about two neighbors who share a bathroom. The mysterious neighbors finally meet, sparking a bromance.

The five-minute film was inspired by a true story. Sabrín Diehl, a Miami-based actor who wrote, directed and starred in the film, said he did share a bathroom with a stranger while living in a studio apartment in Minneapolis. Diehl never met his neighbor, and he was struck by the dynamic of sharing such an intimate space with a stranger.

“Bathroom Bromance” reflects on how two people who live separate lives come together to form a relationship. Diehl also drew inspiration from the experience of falling in love with his partner, Taylor, he said.

“Here’s my apartment, here’s this middle space of the bathroom, and there’s your apartment,” Diehl said. “There’s this middle place where we meet, and that’s intimacy.”

Diehl, who identifies as trans non-binary, stressed the need for more representation of lesbians and transgender men in film.

“We’re still fighting,” he said. “We need film festivals like this. It forces us to elevate the art.”


When: Friday Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Bill Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Dr, Coral Gables. (Located on the University of Miami campus.)

Info: Free and open to the public. RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anitas-film-festival-2-tickets-694968899687

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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