The Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is celebrating its silver anniversary this weekend — 25 years — and organizers are promising that this event spanning today through Oct. 11 will be as “fabulous” as ever and is its largest yet, with celebrity appearances — including a visit from icon John Waters — and the record screening of almost 100 films.
“We’re excited about this year’s film festival,” said executive director Margaret Murray. “We always promised to keep getting bigger and better, and I think we deliver again this year.”
The Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival kicks off Friday at Tampa Theatre with a street party at 6 p.m. that will include food trucks, a DJ and a bar.
The festival opens with the movie “Blackbird,” starring Oscar winner and comedian Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and newcomer Julian Walker. It tells the story of a young singer struggling with his sexuality and the treatment of others while coming of age in a small Southern Baptist community. The movie begins at 8 p.m. at Tampa Theatre, and admission is free.
“Blackbird” is followed at 10:30 p.m. by “I Feel Like Disco,” about an overweight teenager who has trouble fitting in, shows little interest in sports or girls, but when he’s alone he dances to the songs of his favorite German disco star. The movie is in German with English subtitles.
On Saturday, the fest kicks into high gear with multiple screenings on both sides of the bay — at Tampa Theatre and at freeFall Theatre and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.
Nearly 100 diverse movies, produced in more than 20 countries, will be screened.
This weekend’s lineup includes:
“Such Good People” (11 p.m. Saturday, Tampa Theatre): A comedy about a young couple who discover a secret room filled with cash while house-sitting for rich friends who die while out of the country. The cast includes Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty”) and Randy Harrison (“Queer As Folk”).
“Letter to Anita” (2:45 p.m. Sunday, Tampa Theatre): In this documentary, you’ll see the story of Ronni Sanlo, a Florida resident and lesbian who came out in 1978 and five months later lost custody of her two young children due to singer Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign. Sanlo will lead a question and answer following the film.
“Boys” (10:30 p.m. Sunday) The coming-of-age film from the Netherlands about a gay teenager training the new athletics team for the national relay championship who succumbs to pressure to date girls while longing to be with a gay teammate.
A full schedule of films can be viewed at tiglff.com.
Saturday also brings the festival’s biggest celebrity appearances.
John Waters, writer-director of such iconic films such as “Hairspray,” “Cry-Baby” and “Pink Flamingos,” will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work celebrating and championing the gay and lesbian community.
The presentation at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Tampa Theatre includes Waters performing his acclaimed one-man show, “This Filthy Word: Filthier & Dirtier.”
It will be followed by another street party featuring a book signing of Waters’ latest bestseller “Carsick” and a live performance by the drag street performers “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”
At 9 p.m., the party moves back inside for a live stand-up performance by Del Shores, who will dish dirt on his highly publicized divorce, tell stories of his Southern Baptist upbringing and reenact scenes from his favorite reality shows — “Hoarders” and “Real Housewives of Orange County.”
“It’s unbelievable to see the festival still going strong 25 years later,” said Keith Roberts, one of its founders in 1989. “I don’t know if I could be more proud of it. It’s become a part of this area’s mainstream culture.”