With a strong lineup of more than 60 films, Tampa's International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is expected to draw as many as 7,000 attendees this year.
"We are overly blessed with amazingly good choices — award winners and critically acclaimed films," says the festival's Executive Director Larry Biddle. "And with the economy improving, we are expecting a good turnout this year, better than the past few years."
Tampa's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is the fifth largest in the country. This 23rd edition runs through Oct. 13.
It gets under way Friday with the festival's inaugural food truck rally beginning at 6 p.m. outside Tampa Theatre. An opening night party is set for 9:30 p.m. at Liquid, an Ybor City night club. Two films will be screened tonight at Tampa Theatre, "Elliot Loves" and "I Want Your Love."
Most of the screenings will be at the Tampa Theatre. Six of the films will be screened at the Muvico Baywalk in St. Petersburg.
"We have a wide variety of styles and themes from comedies to dramas and documentaries," Biddle says.
The festival is devoting the morning of Oct. 13 to a free film and panel discussion on bullying. "We will be screening a 28-minute film, 'Let's Get Real,' made by Academy Award winner Debra Chasnoff," Biddle says. The anti-bullying program, beginning at 10 a.m., is aimed at reaching young people and will focus on stopping bullying in schools, the workplace and in the community.
Among the films of note is "I Stand Corrected" (8 p.m. Monday at Muvico Baywalk), a documentary about jazz bassist John "Lefty" Leitham's transformation to Jennifer Leitham.
Leitham, a former member of the "Tonight Show" band, also has performed with Mel Torme's band, Woody Herman, George Shearing, Peggy Lee and others. Leitham will be at the screening and will perform on bass.
Another choice that has been a crowd-pleaser at other festivals is "Cloudburst" (5 p.m. Sunday, Tampa Theatre), starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as an elderly couple of 30 years who embark on a journey to Canada to finally get married.
The film "Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean" (1 p.m. Saturday, Tampa Theatre), explores the rumors that 1950s film star James Dean was gay or at least bisexual.
Single film tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for students. Multi-ticket packages are available.
Biddle says the festival draws film fans beyond the gay and lesbian communities. "A lot of young people today don't care about labels and are more interested in seeing a good film," he says. "It's not about the sexuality of the characters; it's about the humanity of the story."
For a complete list of films, time of screening, locations and admission prices go to tiglff.com.
TAMPA INTERNATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN FILM FESTIVAL
When: Friday through Oct. 13
Where: Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St., Tampa; Muvico Baywalk, 151 Second Ave., N., St. Petersburg
Tickets: $10 per movie and $48 for 6-pack pass; other multiple screening packages available; tiglff.com