FAB GLAM: A scene from the film Leave it on the Floor, a dance musical about LA balls.
FAB GLAM: A scene from the film Leave it on the Floor, a dance musical about LA balls.
BABY MOMMAS: A scene from the documentary Waited For, a documentary about lesbian couples and adoption
BABY MOMMAS: A scene from the documentary Waited For, a documentary about lesbian couples and adoption

You may have noticed that this year’s Out in Africa gay and lesbian film festival started its “18th and 2/3rds” iteration yesterday, from the posters around town. Instead of one festival of 30 films, this year the organisers have opted to split the festival into three smaller festivals of 10 films each at NuMetro at the V&A Waterfront.

Festival organiser Nodi Murphy touts this decision as a way to give cinema-goers an opportunity to see more gay and lesbian films in the year.

“The social aspect of film festivals is important. People meet to go to the movies. This way, you can identify that gays and lesbians have a public presence and are not disappearing,” she says.

A film that she highlights is We Were Here, an American documentary about the Castro neighbourhood of San Francisco, once a popular city among gay and lesbians that was later plagued by Aids.

“It is an incredible film about this drastic disease. It shows people helping each other. When gay men were sick, lesbian women moved in.”

We Were Here screens on Tuesday at 6.30pm and next Saturday at 6.45pm.

A film I was very impressed by was Leave it on the Floor. It is a catchy, colourful musical set in Los Angeles that tells the story of lost boy Brad discovering Los Angeles’s “ball community” – a competitive scene populated by houses who compete in regular balls with categories like “voguing”, “executive romance” and “vintage prom princess”.

Expect to see hot bodies, flamboyant costumes, precise choreography and catchy beats as a love triangle unfolds in the House of Eminence, ruled by its strict Queef Latina. Director Sheldon Larry says there are many stories to tell in the American black gay culture.

“The ‘ball community’ is a unique and extraordinary part of the culture here. I seem particularly interested in telling stories about family and am most excited as a film-maker in taking an audience into new and unknown worlds. Ball culture here exists very much off the radar. It has low visibility and is a kind of ghetto for black kids who are runaways and throwaways in the culture.

“A number of the actors, particularly those who have a relationship with the ball community, have told me painful stories about rejection by their biological families.

“The actor Phillip Evelyn, who portrays Princess in the film, has no relationship with his biological father and a very strained one with his biological mother because of their refusal to accept his being gay. So he was driven to create a surrogate family in the ball scene to supplant his lack of a loving and supportive biological family,” he says.

If you want to see this glamorous dance musical, screenings are tomorrow at 6pm and on Wednesday at 8.45pm.

The film Children of God proved to be a mushy chick flick for gay men with its story of forbidden love. With a combination of sexy cast members and dreamy Bahamian scenery, an inter-racial love story unfolds against the backdrop of the country’s conservative homophobia.

It is the story of white Bahamian painter Johnny, who falls for the charms of Romeo, who comes from a conservative family wanting him to get married. Most of the story takes place on the island of Eleuthera, where the two meet while Johnny is looking for inspiration for his art. However, a pastor’s wife, Lena, is also on the island, campaigning against the “gay problem”.

American actress Margaret Kemp, who plays Lena in the film, said this week people might not like her character but that they came to love her.

“From my point of view what she was doing was not right. But she is not me and these are her choices,” she says.

Kemp, who is of Bahamian descent, says they had to call a halt shooting one day as community members were inquiring about the subject matter of the film.

“Homosexuality is seen as a sinful way of living there. It is very conservative. This is spoken about in daily conversation, particularly religious services.”

Children of God screens today at 9pm and on Thursday at 9.15pm.

And if documentaries are more your thing, try Waited For. It is a story of three Joburg lesbian couples – two with adopted children and one pining for a child.

Its director, Nerina Penzhorn, says she found the couples “really open and politically engaged”.

In the film, couple Kelly and Leigh-Ann attempt to adopt a baby and are met by a social worker who explains that preference is given to heterosexual couples.

Penzhorn, who was raised in Pretoria but has been living abroad for 12 years, was surprised by this but says that a progressive constitution has resulted in things like adoption for gay couples and same-sex marriages.

She will be attending the film’s screening next Sunday at 6pm for a question-and-answer session.

l All screenings are at the Nu Metro at the V&A Waterfront.

For more information on the festival, see www.oia.co.za or follow them on on twitter. Their handle is @outinafrica. - Weekend Argus