“This is our 16th year, and we’re going to be running two long weekends, eight days this year,” says Michael Green, Cinema Diverse Film Festival director of this year’s spirited occasion. The festival runs from Sept. 21 through Oct. 1, spanning two full weekends, with films screening at the Palm Springs Cultural Center (Camelot Theatres), 2300 E. Baristo Road in Palm Springs.
“There’s a variety of programming this year, and I wanted to showcase the depth and breadth of the LGBTQ films out there that, without a festival like this, may not always be films most people have the chance to see,” Green adds. “Generally, what happens with a lot of independent films, and especially shorts, is that the only opportunity people have to see them before they either go away or to streaming is in film festival circuit — because most of these films don't go into general release. LGBTQ films still don't tend to get the wide release that the bigger Hollywood films get.”
The scope of the festival is impressive, ranging from a variety of documentaries and shorts to standout indie films. With so much to savor, here's a short list of festival highlights below to help make your planning easier.
Here We Are
This opening night film is already generating buzz for its stellar director, Billy Clift (No Goodbyes, My Sister is So Gay). The film stars Mel England (Electricity), Wil Jackson (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Gym Shorts), and Sally Kirkland (Anna, The Haunted) among others. The lowdown: When Phil (England) loses his mom to conspiracies and booze, John (Jackson) comes out to his conservative family, and together, they finally face their buried pasts. “We've screened and done premieres on most of Billy's films,” Green says of Here We Are, “but this one is really special. It's a sneak preview because the film is still in the process of final edits. It'll be complete, but nobody will have seen it before we have. The film is about the issues of prejudice, historical and current, that an interracial couple encounters in their everyday lives with friends, family, and within the gay community. I just think at this moment in time, that is such an important topical issue to cover. That's one of the reasons I wanted to have this film be part of the festival.”
Info: Here We Are screens at 7:30 P.M. Thursday, September 21 at Palm Springs Cultural Center
Italian with English subtitles, this engaging film takes place in 1982, in the heat of a Sicilian summer. Two teenage boys, Gianni and Nino, meet and fall in love. Their relationship soon becomes a topic of gossip in the small town, and despite their families’ objections, the boys dream of living together. That decision becomes something the community is determined to stop.
Info: Fireworks screens at 5:00 P.M. Thursday, September 22 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
Glitter and Doom
Get ready for a fantastical summer romance musical all told through the iconic tunes of the Indigo Girls. The plot: A musician who wears charisma as camouflage and a carefree kid about to run away with the circus suddenly fall in love. But will twenty-nine days be enough time to help them realize if they can stay in love forever? LGBTQ discoveries Alex Diaz and Alan Cammish star, alongside the delightful Missi Pyle, Ming-Na Wen, Lea DeLaria, Tig Notaro, Amy Ray, Emily Saliers, Beth Malon, and Kate Pierson. This will be a standout USA/Mexico co-production.
Info: Glitter and Doom screens at 7:30 P.M. Saturday, September 23 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
Legendary Children (All of Them Queer)
This unique documentary follows many of the original Gay Liberation Front pioneers of the 1972 and first European Pride March during events over the summer of Pride 50, when the UK marked its 50th anniversary in spectacular style. Take note of the amazing “cast” here, who encompass truly influential figures in LGBTQIA+ rights activism and its history. The film screens with the short documentary, Stonewall Postal Action Network.
Info: Legendary Children screens at 2:30 P.M. Sunday, September 24 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
Marc Huestis gave gay San Francisco plenty to talk about in the five decades he produced special events and shows. Huestis teams with director Lauretta Molitor to capture a simultaneously sweeping and intimate view of his impact on community and culture in this feature-length documentary. The doc spans the 1970s, when Super 8 films were developed at Harvey Milk’s shop and became Frameline01, and sails through gay San Francisco’s major and minor moments. Fun.
Info: Impresario screens at 5:00 P.M. Thursday, September 28 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
I Love You More
The U.S. premiere of the film should be a heartwarming affair. After a year of online pillow talk, Ben (Don Shala), a shy Kosovar teen, is thrilled to finally meet his first (but secret) love, Leo (Leonik Sahiti). But he must weave a good “cover story” for his upcoming tryst with Leo, who’s arriving from Germany in just one month. Stir in some family drama and big twists, and this film could be a festival standout.
Info: I Love You More screens at 7:30 P.M. Saturday, September 30 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
The closing night feature offers a captivating cinematic ride as best friends Ira (Matt Dallas) and Roger (Rick Cosnett) reconnect after 24 years when Roger arrives unexpectedly for the weekend. Ira’s long-term relationship with Josh (Taylor Frey) is tested in this compelling romantic drama. “It’s about what happens when they get back together and how it all goes back to their childhood," Green says. "It's a pretty fascinating film."
Info: Shoulder Dance screens at 7:30 P.M. Sunday, Oct. 21 at Palm Springs Cultural Center.
Learn more about Cinema Diverse and explore the entire schedule here.