People say age is just a number. That's good news for the LGBT Film/Video Festival, considering up until recently, festival programmers weren't quite sure of its age at all.
"The history is kind of like a game of telephone," said program director Carl Bogner. "When I started I was working with a woman, it was her second year at the festival, and she told me, 'This is our 10th annual festival.' So, that was the starting point for our counting. One year, someone did some counting from our alleged 10th and said, 'Oh, this is our 20th!' So, we were poised to, based on this sense of history, call this our 25th anniversary festival."
In truth, this upcoming installment marks the LGBT Film/Video Festival's 27th year. But, that's not stopping Bogner and the festival team from celebrating their missed milestone with a "2nd Annual 25th Anniversary" when the theater lights up Oct. 18-21.
"Since we never had a 25th anniversary, and since we've wanted to call attention to the fact that we were resetting the clock in some way, we decided on this cumbersome name mostly to produce a question mark. I like to acknowledge the history of things," explained Bogner. "Next year, with confidence, we will call ourselves the 28th annual Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival."
This year's film fest isn't missing out on legitimate anniversary fanfare completely. UWM's Peck School of the Arts, which has offered longtime support to the festival, is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout the 2012-13 school year with special Year of the Arts programming and inter-departmental partnerships.
"One of the programs that I'm most excited about doing that might be the most 'Year of the Arts'-y is a collaboration we have with the dance department," said Bogner.
"We're showing this video called 'Ocean,' and it's a documentation made by video artist Charles Atlas of a Merce Cunningham dance piece called 'Ocean.' which he originated in 2004. In 2008 he restaged the piece in this quarry north of Minneapolis. I don't know of any other LGBT film festival that's showing 'Ocean' as part of its programming. It is an inflection that I think is most Peck School of the Arts for us to be presenting."
The festival will also host a number of filmmakers to present and discuss their work over the course of its four days at the Oriental Theatre and UWM Union Cinema.
"'Mosquita y Mari,' about these two Chicana teenagers in L.A., I think is a really lovely film. The director, Aurora Guerrero, is going to be here to introduce the film and talk afterwards. From further away, Yariv Mozer, the director of the documentary 'The Invisible Men' – about Palestinian men who have to flee their homeland because of violence and homophobia – he'll be here for that screening also."
Not only are these films special for their guest appearances, they – along with many others presented at this year's festival – also represent the diversity and growth of modern LGBT film.
"They're definitely contemporary LGBT cinema. They don't feel like LGBT film from even five years ago – not just because of the way they talk about identity in the context of other identities or other issues, but also they're not about white people, which is not a small thing," explains Bogner.
"Gay and lesbian film and transgender film, they all have different histories in terms of what genres they've taken in. For instance, it used to be very common that every festival would always feature one or two coming out stories, always immensely popular, just because those are still emotional, powerful moments. But, I don't necessarily regret that LGBT film has felt confident enough to move away from it or to do it differently.
"The film 'Mosquita y Mari,' for instance, I think one of the things I love about it is the word 'lesbian' isn't mentioned once in the film. In no way is that because of any closeted aspect of the film. I think it just testifies the filmmaker's interest in exploring the feelings and discoveries that these two girls are going through without looking to put them in a category."
Similarly, the LGBT Film/Video Festival continues to evolve. This year's programming includes romantic comedies, documentaries and dramas, all of which represent unique cross-sections of LGBT life from around the world. Age may be just a number, but it's also about how old you feel. And, as new voices breathe fresh life onto its screen, the festival is poised to usher in many more anniversaries to come.
"There's still a need to tell LGBT stories, but LGBT stories in some communities are told differently these days. I think the films reflect changing attitudes more broadly," said Bogner.
"In terms of the festival programmers, I think what we need to be responsible to is, within a short amount of time, be as well-textured as possible. It's good to hit different notes."
Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with OnMilwaukee.com, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."
Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.