The ever-popular Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival, which runs two weekends—Sept. 19-22 (at Palm Springs Cultural Center) and Sept. 27-28 (at the Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City)—features a bevy of original content and enough Q&A sessions with the filmmakers to keep audiences intrigued if not invested in return visits.

It serves as a reminder that being gay, bi, trans or queer make up just one element of one’s humanity, and it’s one of the powerful themes explored in the 12th outing of this festival.

This film festival is a celebration of world-class LGBTQ film, folks, with a divine mix of some of the world’s most inspiring filmmakers, writers, directors, producers, actors, film artists, distributors and other industry professionals. You'll walk away inspired by the fest’s dedication to advancing and further strengthening the diverse gay community through vibrant storytelling.

As Cinema Diverse’s website notes, “We believe LGBTQ films and LGBTQ film festivals are critical to our local community, and to the world community, because they tell stories that remind us of where we came from, who we are, and who we can be. They tell stories that not only inform and transform those within our community but also have the power to change the lives and attitudes of people outside our community.”

Here’s to that.  

In the meantime, here are 9 films that stand out and why they matter.

Take a scroll:

For They Know Not What They Do

The conversation about the impact of religious believes on the lives of LGBTQ people is on full display here from the director of For The Bible Tells Me So. While Marriage Equality became law in 2015, there’s been growing resistance from the right. This outing shares the stories of families caught in the maelstrom. Why it matters: In an era where things seem to be contentious, a film that leans toward love and reconciliation is downright refreshing.

Screens 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 19 at. at Palm Springs Cultural Center

More Beautiful For Having Been Broken

What happens when an FBI agent escapes to an idyllic ranch town after the loss of her mother? A bit of a wild spiral downward, but look at what happens: The woman meets a wheelchair-bound boy with special needs and develops a came-out-of-nowhere relationship with his mother. Why it matters: Audiences connect with heartfelt stories, especially ones that offer remarkable personal transformations.

Screens: 7:45 p.m. Friday, September 20 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.

Cinema Diverse Short Sets

There’s a lovely gaggle of short films in this year’s fest and a quick scroll through Cinema Diverse’s website should inspire the masses to take a peek at these oft-underlooked gems. One of the programs is dubbed Coming Out/Outcomes, which screens at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. Why it matters: Hello! Uplifting tales, anyone?

The Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirt Woman Documentary

This endeavor is bound to turn heads. An infant, whose mother cannot pronounce his illness, spinal meningitis, gets the moniker Spider Mites of Jesus. What follows is a frenzied life that includes illiteracy, prostitution, a curious political run, pin-up calendar status—weighing in at 350 pounds no less—and so many more outlandish things you question their validity.  Why it matters: Who doesn’t love a tale with a protagonist that never stops beating to the beat of his own vibrant drum.

Screens: 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.

Cohibernation

Seven gay male bear couples lay bare their real feeling about being in adult relationships in this captivating documentary, which hopes to remind the LGBTQ populace of two things: That being queer is just one—albeit vital—component of one’s humanity and that real-life adult relationships take commitment and devotion. Why it matters: Everybody wants relationship tenure ... regardless of how un-fairytale-like it ultimately feels.

Screens 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.

Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street

Who knew that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was often dubbed “the gayest horror film Tinseltown ever made.” (Well, that may be a stretch). Still, this looks fun: One actor from the film confesses all—the backlash that effectively ended his career and the inevitable “revenge of the first male scream queen.” Why it matters: There’s a deeper message here and it’s that the “nightmare” in the LGBTQ community, especially when it comes to acceptance, still lingers.

Screens: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 at Mary Pickford Theatre. 

Krow’s Transformation

He was never comfortable with her body or given name and knew since childhood he was meant to be a boy. This insightful film about identity, Krow, as he is known now, reveals his quest to become fully realized, making his way to becoming a male model on the runway at Paris Fashion Week. Why it matters: Transformations—inner and outer—inspire and this outing is destined to do that in spades.

Screens: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at Mary Pickford Theatre

Herland & A Great Ride

Think of the Herland doc as a tribute and a lesson all in one. We’ll learn more about the major challenges behind establishing a radical lesbian/ feminist community in the conservative heartland of the 1980s. Meanwhile, in The Great Ride, we explore growing old and how deep friendships and humor buoy aging lesbian trailblazers. Why it matters: Lesbian themes and stories may often seem overlooked at LGBTQ fests, but not at Cinema Diverse and these stories are downright compelling.

Screens: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at Mary Pickford Theatre

The Unlikely Story of the Lesbians of First Friday

Roanoke, Virginia, is the setting. The 1980s is the time. Here, a group calling themselves First Friday emerges from the minds of passionate lesbians living in the area. Mix in some political turmoil and stir. Why it matters: It’s robust and sheds light on the issues and conquests of people determined to be heard and viewed as valued as members of society.

Screens: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at Mary Pickford Theatre

Screenings take place at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs (Sept. 20-23) and Mary Pickford Theatre, 36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City (Sept. 28-29). Visit psculturalcenter.org/filmfest for a full list of films.

Looking to explore the LGBTQ+ scene in Greater Palm Springs? Check out these fun and unique happy hour offers at some of the best LGBTQ bars in the oasis. Cheers!