The Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival follows up 2009's 10-year anniversary celebration with an even better film selection in 2010. As evidenced in the blogosphere, this year's nine features are sought-after films on the gay and lesbian festival circuit. Even the subject range of short films is impressive.
However, if you can't make it to all the films over the weekend, try to make it to at least these three:
From Beginning to End, Friday, 7:40 p.m.: Opening night starts off with this Brazilian drama about two half-brothers who fall in love and spend their lives together. Though the subject may seem taboo, director Aluizio Abranches treats it delicately and reveals the natural oddities of love that we all experience through this unusual romance, which becomes even more complicated when one brother leaves for three years in Russia.
Abranches' storytelling skills immerse the audience in the slow-moving progression from innocent childhood love into adult sexual love. The obstacles and complications that arise seem natural to the story and make for interesting observations on what healthy love really is. Quite possibly the best film in the festival in terms of acting and story, it sets a high bar for the weekend.
Elena Undone, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.: Elena Undone made Hollywood headlines by setting the record for longest on-screen kiss shot in one take: 3 minutes, 24 seconds. (It was previously held by a heterosexual couple in the 1941 film, You're in the Army Now.)
The film is riddled with stereotypes and conventions seen in many lesbian films — for example, the artistic lesbian falling for the conservative, but also secretively artistic, churchgoing woman. But by the time the story gets to the kiss, somehow writer/director Nicole Conn has captured enough emotion to trap the audience in the moment, so much so that the kiss doesn't seem long enough. The chemistry between Necar Zadegan and Traci Dinwiddie cements Elena Undone as the lesbian film of the festival.
The Stranger in Us, Saturday, 7 p.m.: Looking for a more interactive experience? The Stranger in Us will have you seeking answers about everything from plot to filming techniques, and director Scott Boswell and actors Rapheal Barker, Scott Cox and Adam Perez will be around for a Q&A after the film.
The Stranger in Us is about a small-town boy who moves to San Francisco, only to find the experience to not be what he intended: His boyfriend isn't the lovely guy he seemed, and a hustler turns out to be a friend. Taking place over the course of a year, this film does not move linearly, instead bouncing around with a timeline at the bottom as the only indicator of where in the story you are.
Unlike the other two films, The Stranger in Us is heavily rooted in the indie film movement, with an always-unsteady camera and reliance on tight close-ups to express emotion. If that's not your thing, it's probably best to stay away; if you like that style, run to the theater.