TIGLFF St. Pete a ‘pivotal time’ for LGBTQ+ festival

TIGLFF Tampa in October. (Photo courtesy TIGLFF)

ST. PETERSBURG | The Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will hold the second part of its 34th annual celebration at Green Light Cinema Jan. 25-28, showcasing films by, for and about the LGBTQ+ community.

The festival is the state’s longest-running celebration of its type. TIGLFF St. Pete follows TIGLFF Tampa, held Oct. 5-8 last year after organizers split the festival between cities in lieu of its traditional nine-day format.

“October went really well,” TIGLFF President Rob Akins says. “People enjoyed the shorter period and in my opening night speech there was actually some applause. They seemed to like not having to attempt to commit to nine days; a long weekend was much more palatable.”

“The main thing that was clear from TIGLFF Tampa is that TIGLFF exists because of a loyal and devoted audience … folks we see year after year and look forward to reconnecting with annually,” Program Director KJ Mohr adds. “But there were also several new festival goers. All of which tells me that there is still a need and a strong desire for TIGLFF to exist.”

View photos from TIGLFF Tampa below:

Whether or not TIGLFF will continue to exist is up to supporters. Akins’ previously extended term will end this month and he tells Watermark new leaders are needed for TIGLFF to move forward.

Akins and Mohr also address that in a joint letter featured in TIGLFF St. Pete’s program.

“This is a pivotal time for TIGLFF as we are in desperate need for members of the community to get involved to ensure the organization’s continued existence,” they wrote. “We’re the oldest film festival and the oldest LGBTQ+ film festival in Florida where LGBTQ+ rights are under continued threat. This is not a time to lose TIGLFF!”

TIGLFF St. Pete’s selection of films, a collection Mohr says consists of “extremely compelling, unique stories that we won’t be able to see elsewhere,” was cultivated in part to prove that. The festival opens Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. with a collection of shorts.

Full-length features “The Venus Effect” and “Norwegian Dream” will respectively follow Jan. 26 at 7 and 9 p.m., and Jan. 27 will feature four others. They include “1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture” at 12:30 p.m., “Before I Change my Mind” at 3 p.m., “Lie with Me” at 5 p.m. and “Peafowl” at 9 p.m. Another shorts program will also play at 7 p.m.

Watermark’s documentary “Greetings from Queertown: Orlando” will subsequently make its Tampa Bay debut Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. The film details the history of the LGBTQ+ community that built Orlando’s political and nightlife scene, struggled through the HIV/AIDS crisis and Pulse, created Parliament House and Gay Day at Disney World and much more.

“I am overjoyed at the opportunity to share this film in the Tampa Bay area,” says Rick Todd, Watermark owner, publisher and the film’s executive producer. “I have worked with this community for the last 22 years and hope to engage similar projects here in the future.”

“A Big Gay Hairy Hit! Where the Bears Are” will then screen at 4:15 p.m. Making its U.S. premiere, “Riviere” will close the festival at 6:30 p.m.

“All of these films will spark conversation and have us thinking about them long after we leave the theater,” Mohr says. “It’s not the same as watching something while checking your phone and folding laundry at home and promptly forgetting about it.”

Tickets for TIGLFF St. Pete begin at $15 for single films or are four for $45. For $65 supporters can purchase “Friend of the Fest” passes to see as many in-person screenings as they’d like.

“TIGLFF grew out of community need and has thrived for decades despite antagonism, homophobia, recessions and pandemics,” Mohr says. “It emerged out of necessity and a lot has changed over these past 34 years. But we still need this space of queer joy, an in-person celebration of LGBTQIA artistry and community.

“It has always been the community who has made TIGLFF happen,” she continues. “Now it’s up to that community to keep it alive. It would be sorely missed if we let it dissolve. I hope that won’t happen.”

TIGLFF St. Pete will be held Jan. 25-28 at Green Light Cinema, located at 221 2nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. For more information about supporting its future, each of the films and to purchase tickets, visit TIGLFF.com.

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