aGLIFF, or the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (which some of you might know as the Polari Film Festival), was founded in 1987 by Scott Dinger. aGLIFF will celebrate its 27th year Sept 10-14 here in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse S Lamar.
Last year, aGLIFF was held in October. This year, the festival is in September so it doesn’t compete as much with AFF. Also, September is PRIDE month in Austin. Jim Brunzell, aGLIFF Program Director, noted, “It makes sense to group [aGLIFF] in there with Stargayzer and PRIDE.”
The aGLIFF 2014 festival line-up boasts 40 feature films and 62 shorts. Many of the feature films are Southwest or Texas premieres, and some of the shorts are world premieres.
One of this year’s feature films, Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn will be a US premiere. To celebrate, aGLIFF will be flying in director Ethan Reid for the weekend. aGLIFF will be the second festival to play Reid’s fim after its world premiere in England this past June.
Peter de Rome’s death on June 21 of this year makes Reid’s film that much more timely and important to the LGBTQ community.
Brunzell said he is excited that aGLIFF will host the US premiere. “It’s a nice thing to have.”
He went on to say, however, that he doesn’t put as much emphasis on premiere status as others might. “Premiere status is big,” Brunzell admitted. “Some people get real tied up in it. But it doesn’t bother me.”
“I’m looking for the best content, to reach the widest audience, and to get them to talk about it, too,” Brunzell continued. “It’s an important part of the movie experience to digest what you’ve seen and talk about it with others. It’s important to have lively discussion and engage people.”
“I prefer better content to premiere status,” Brunzell explained.
Speaking of content, films are chosen for aGLIFF in a variety of stages. Brunzell scouted for appropriate films at festivals like Sundace, Tribeca, and even SXSW, as well as contacting film distributors for recommendations. aGLIFF also solicits films. They have a screening committee of 20-25 individuals who watch and grade film submissions, whether solicited or blind.
The aGLIFF 2014 theme is: “We’re not an audience. We’re a community.”
In honor of the theme, Brunzell has made a conscious effort to change the format of the shorts from years’ past. aGLIFF shorts used to be divided into “men’s” and “women’s” categories. This year, shorts are divided into categories like “comedy,” “drama,” and “experimental” instead.
Speaking of the change, Brunzell said, “We’re trying to unite people, to encourage them to see films together. What if I’m a man and there’s something I’m dying to see, but it’s a ‘woman’s’ short so I can’t go? To me, I found that offensive. We want the audience to see films together.”
Speaking further of the theme, and the community he believes aGLIFF builds in Austin, Brunzell said, “A film festival great place to meet people intellectually.”
“You can meet great people standing in line,” Brunzell continued. “When I go to a festival, I’m most excited about meeting other journalists. There are up and coming actors, actresses, and filmmakers…if you’re aspiring to any of those things, it’s a rare opportunity to meet people in person, or go to a Q&A after a screening.”
Brunzell believes that film festivals are a valuable community experience. “Austin supports film,” he said. “There’s a need for a LGBTQ film festival in Austin. If we didn’t exist, very few of these films would come to town.”
In that vein, Brunzell made an effort to bring new films to Austin for aGLIFF. Several good LGBTQ films were shown at SXSW this year. While the committee considered bringing some of those films back for aGLIFF, it was ultimately decided against. Brunzell explained, “If we bring them back, we have to turn down a film people have never seen.”
Brunzell moved from Minneapolis to Austin after SXSW to work on this year’s aGLIFF festival, and said, “It’s nice to share your hard work with a community you trust and care about.” Brunzell said he’s nervous but excited about the upcoming festival. “I wanna meet people in the community and get to know them as well. I hope people care about this organization as much as I do.”
Brunzell himself is straight, and while he says working for aGLIFF has taken him out of his element, it’s been a positive challenge. “To me it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight – everyone goes to the movies for the same reason,” Brunzell stated. “First and foremost I’m a film lover.”
Brunzell believes aGLIFF has plenty of films that both straight and gay audience members can enjoy, encouraging attendees to bring family and friends to the festival.
aGLIFF is a non-profit organization, so all the funds beyond the cost of the festival itself go towards helping the organization grow and improve for the future. Brunzell encouraged Austinites to attend the festival saying, “All the money goes toward a good cause. There’s gotta be one film in a hundred that interests you.”
The S Lamar Alamo Drafthouse location hasn’t been open since 2011. aGLIFF 2014 will be the first festival at the new S Lamar venue, and Brunzell believes that’s reason enough to attend. “It’s a huge deal,” Brunzell said. “People talk about that theatre like it’s a holy place.”
It’s not too late to buy a badge for aGLIFF, which will provide priority seating for all film showings, much like SXSW. Badges start at $100, or $50 for students. Badges can be picked up at the aGLIFF offices on 1107 S 8th St starting Sept 8, or at Alamo Drafthouse S Lamar starting Sept 10.
For those on a budget, all individual film tickets are $5 before 5pm, and $10 after 5pm. Individual tickets can be purchased at drafthouse.com or in the lobby of the S Lamar location. Without the benefit of priority seating, however, be prepared to show up at least 45 minutes early to ensure admittance to the screening.
This article was originally published by The Horn on 09/04/2014.