In a key scene in Circumstance (Saturday, Sept. 24, 11 a.m.), the Farsi-language centerpiece of this weekend's 12th LGBT-minded Lavender Film Festival, a teenage girl, wearing typical club gear and losing herself among the throbbing music and the Westernized Iranian youth culture, climbs the elevated DJ booth, closes her eyes and sinks into the obliging crowd below. It's a moment of pure bliss, all-too-predictably shut down seconds later when someone shouts, "Morality Police!"
Enforcers who believe they are keeping Iran strong by suppressing sexuality, speech and anything else that hasn't been pre-approved by unseen religious leaders storm the club, and the fun is over.
It's not that a similar scene has unfolded in Colorado Springs' gay and lesbian community lately. But after an antagonistic mayoral race and in anticipation of a presidential election year, Lavender Film Festival director Alma Cremonesi does again see the need for "a safe place."
"That was kind of the general point when we started," says Cremonesi. "We wanted that little oasis where people could be themselves."
Opening night's musical extravaganza, Leave It On the Floor (Friday, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.) starts things off with a musical about a boy who's been kicked out of his house for being gay, and the dance troupe that takes him in. Director Sheldon Larry and writer-producer Glenn Gaylord will be in attendance all weekend, along with drag veteran and co-star Barbie-Q.
A similar, though certainly more literal, form of escape marks many of the fest's selections: Christopher and His Kind (Sunday, Sept. 25, 5:30 p.m.) follows a young man's journey from 1930s England to decadent Berlin. BBC's The Night Watch (Sunday, Sept. 25, 2:45 p.m.) is a wrenching look at the lives of the gay, lesbian and straight in post-World War II London, while A Few Days of Respite (Saturday, Sept. 24, 2 p.m.) focuses on two gay Iranian men attempting to flee to Paris — which could cost them their lives.
It's not all life-and-death, however: Set to music from the likes of Tegan and Sara, the Icicles and Sera Cahoone, Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together (Saturday, Sept. 24, 4:30 p.m.) takes a relatively light look at a woman's unrequited love for her college roommate. And taking the term "outsider" to its fullest extent, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (Sunday, Sept. 25, 7:45 p.m.) is a quirky, black-and-white charmer whose title likely says it all.
A number of other worthy films fill the festival's two days and three nights, but Cremonesi is well aware that the main attraction is Circumstance, one of the year's best films and a project that garnered headlines as far back as 2007, when director Maryam Keshavarz was awarded the first-ever Adrienne Shelly Foundation Women Filmmakers Grant.
"It's a bit of a coup," says Cremonesi of snagging Circumstance. She hopes it's the kind of booking that will finally bring attendees back after a couple of declining years.
"I'm thinking if we don't have some kind of a breakout year, then maybe we should raise the question, 'Should we keep doing this?'"