"Ten Straight Years of Queer Film" is the sort-of theme for the 1999 edition of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It's a tongue-in-cheek subtitle, if you will, for the sixth largest event of its kind in the United States.
"We called it that just to kind of have fun with ourselves," says festival director Dorothy Abbott, the writer, editor and community activist whose 10-day labor of love continues through Sunday at the Tampa Theatre, an ornate downtown movie palace.
Silly slogan aside, the festival has turned into a big-time event, with 37 feature films, a $100,000 budget, an expected attendance of 15,000 and an economic impact that might unofficially be measured by occupancy rates: Downtown hotels are packed.
The festival, which began as a weekend event, last year dropped the "Pride" part of its name in favor of the more cosmopolitan "International" designation, and this year's lineup easily reflects that stated bent for cultural diversity.
Overseas offerings include "Lola and Billy the Kid" and "Novembermoon," from Germany; "Get Real" and "Love is the Devil," from England; Australia's "Head On"; Taiwan's "Murmur of Youth"; "The Man Who Drove With Mandela," a UK/South Africa/Netherlands co-production; and "Show Me Love," from Sweden/Denmark.
"I try to have a good gender balance, a good international balance, a good balance of class and race and culture," Abbott says. "I always try to get the best films possible.
"This year, we're adding some things like films that have a Jewish theme to them," she says, referring to Thursday night's triple bill of "Treyf, Hit" and "Runway" and "Novembermoon."
Closing night, Sunday, also gets it own theme, of sorts, with two coming-of-age stories "Edge of Seventeen" and "Show Me Love." And the same day brings a panel session, sponsored by the Lesbian Caucus of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Center of Tampa Bay, following the screening of "Love is the Devil."
The festival's mission, as Abbott describes it, is to offer gays and lesbians a variety of images of themselves on the screen, and to provide an alternative cinematic point-of-view for mainstream audiences unaccustomed to such fare.
"The community that is supportive of gay and lesbian people comes out, and so do those who appreciate good film, and international film," she says. "I hope people will take a chance. I hope people will cross the bounds and look at films that they might not see otherwise."
Tuesday, 6:45 p.m. "Lola and Billy the Kid," a gritty, voyeuristic view of the Turkish emigre subculture in Berlin; directed by Kutlug Ataman; 1998, Germany.
Wednesday, 9 p.m. "Gendernaughts," a documentary probing the concept of gender, with the help of notorious performance artist Annie Sprinkle and some of San Francisco's most famous gender benders; directed by Monika Treut; 1998, Germany
Thursday, 7 p.m. "Hit and Runway," the tale of odd-couple writing partners, one a heterosexual Italian Catholic and the other a Jewish homosexual; directed by Christopher Livingston; 1999, U.S.
Friday, 11:30 p.m. "Rites of Passage," an alternately brutal and tender story of a father (Dean Stockwell), his two sons and a pair of escaped convicts who may be friends or foes; directed by Victor Salva; 1999, U.S.
Saturday, 11:15 p.m. "Shooting Porn," a frank and funny -- because it's so matter-of-fact -- voyage through the seedy world of adult films, from movie sets to an industry awards show to a pornographic book store; directed by Ronnie Larsen; 1996, U.S.
Sunday, 5:15 p.m. "Get Bruce," a puffy but funny profile of Bruce Vilanch, the Hollywood comedy writer who has served as an unsung muse for the likes of Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Paul Reiser; directed by Andrew J. Kuehn; 1999, U.S.
Tickets are $6.25 for single admission, $31.50 for strips good for any six films, or $80 for the all-inclusive Crown Circle pass. Tampa Theatre is at 711 Franklin Street Mall in downtown Tampa. For more information, call (813) 237-0239.
Complete festival details are available on the Internet at www.flagg.net.