The Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival Gets Underway This Weekend

Tank Fairy is just one of the shorts screening at the Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
Tank Fairy is just one of the shorts screening at the Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Erich Rettstadt
The Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival is taking place Friday, September 23, through Sunday, September 25, at the Paradise Valley Community College Center for Performing Arts in Phoenix, where it has been held since its inception. "Desperado" was recommended by a friend of the festival, a name that organizers adopted because they felt it kept with Arizona's Southwest theme.

This year’s slate includes seven full-length films and nine shorts.

“We have been going strong consecutively every year since 2009. Our audience is usually a little older. We even conducted virtual film festivals in 2020 and 2019,” festival organizer and social media manager Ted Kirby told Phoenix New Times on Tuesday night.

Once again, the Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival has a program full of diverse stories that celebrate the gay community. This year's films include the rugby sports drama In From the Side, and the mockumentary (but historically accurate) Agnes, which tells the story of a trans woman applying for gender reassignment surgery in the 1950s.

“We have a committee that reviews films that we feel our audience can relate to and will enjoy — we are very selective,” says Kirby.

The festival is one of the first to showcase the opening night documentary film All Man: The International Male Story, which chronicles the history of one of America’s most unique mail-order fashion catalogs. This showing also includes a Q&A with journalist and former International Male employee Deon Brown.

The closing night film, Where Butterflies Don’t Fly, is a coming-of-age tale that finds a teacher and his student trapped inside a cave, working together to find a way out.

Other films screening this weekend are Maybe Someday, You Can Live Forever, and Mama Bears. A special panel discussion will follow the screening of Mama Bears with GLSEN Arizona Board co-chair Andi Young, PVCC marketing director and Mama Bears member Tina Miller, and AZ LGBTQ+ activist and mom Kathy Young.

click to enlarge
The Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival takes place from Friday, September 23, to Sunday, September 25.
Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival

Film festivals such as the Desperado are a way to bring audiences new and diverse stories in a collective forum. These movies are generally not in wide release and are often independently made. As for the LGBTQ+ community, unique storytelling is sometimes passed over by the mainstream film market so a special event such as this one “is a way for the audience to connect with a story, provoke thought, and elicit emotion,” says Kirby.

click to enlarge
In From the Side screens on Saturday, September 24, at the Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
Matt Carter

It is also a safe space for LGBTQ+ movie lovers to convene. Adds Kirby: “The Desperado Film Festival provides an arena for people to feel physically and psychologically safe to share their moviegoing experiences with other individuals who appreciate diverse film and storytelling.”

The festival also includes an art gallery where photographers and artists showcase their work to the public. This year's artists include Benji Sakoia and Bobby Castañeda in an exhibit titled "Gaywars and Assorted Works." The art gallery and outdoor events are free to the public. The art gallery is open from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Because of the pandemic, the festival had to go remote in 2019 and 2020, but this year people can rub elbows with the moviemakers and stars attending the event.

"Our Phoenix LGBTQ+ community has been supportive year after year," explains Kirby. "We are excited to be back in person this year. I know our team and moviegoers look forward to this annual event and the camaraderie that is collectively shared during the event."

The Desperado LGBTQ+ Film Festival

When: Friday, September 23, to Sunday, September 25.
Where: Paradise Valley Community College Center for Performing Arts, 18401 North 32nd Street.
Tickets: $10 for individual films; $55 for passes. 
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Timothy Rawles