Out in Theaters

Behind the Out Far! Phoenix International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, "there's a core group of people who love and adore film -- gay, straight, men and women," says festival director Amy Ettinger.

And at the heart of that core group is Ettinger herself, who has coordinated the annual event since its first year, when it was originally held as a fund raiser for the Lesbian and Gay Public Awareness Project.

Ever since childhood, when her parents' discussions of films sparked her unending curiosity about the big screen, Ettinger has been devoted to the whole experience of going to the movies. To call her a film buff seems to be an understatement. "You have no idea!" she says with a laugh, adding that she's watched more than 150 films in the past two years.

She says the event's planners were "very judicious" in selecting the 14 full-length films and more than a dozen shorts that will be featured. They tried to imagine how the movies would feel to viewers in a big auditorium, and they tried to keep in mind the festival's two distinct audiences.

For lesbian filmgoers, Ettinger says she chose quality over quantity, plucking some true gems from among so many flicks that didn't meet her criteria of high production values and meaningful story lines. "I want them to feel gratified when they leave," she says.

Gay men can expect films that are edgier, a little more titillating, she adds. "I want this to be known as a classy, quality festival, but there will always be something sexually suggestive," Ettinger notes.

Series highlights include Sordid Lives, a comedy following the dysfunctional relatives and friends of a recently deceased family matriarch, and Bombay Eunuch, a documentary offering a rare and remarkable glimpse into India's population of "hijras," who are voluntarily castrated and considered to be neither male nor female. Ettinger admits that her "sweetheart" of the festival is Metrosexuality, Rikki Beadle-Blair's fast-paced, uplifting slice-of-life about gay and straight relationships in a British family.

Inspired by the huge success of gay and lesbian film festivals in other cities around the country, Ettinger is working to bring bigger and better films to Out Far! -- several of this year's features have won rave reviews and audience awards at events in New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Expect more stellar cinema from Ettinger in the future. "Every year you have to up the ante," she says.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig