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REEL PRIDE 2005
Did you know that Fresno has a huge Gay and Lesbian Film Festival? Of course you did, you savvy Famous reader you. But, did you know that Oscar himself if a sponsor this year? That a second venue has been added? That the films keep getting bigger and bigger?
That gay people know how to throw a party?
With more than 50 films, a half dozen parties, and throngs of filmmakers and stars, this year's Reel Pride festival will be the biggest yet. In addition to screening the Fresno premier of big name festival circuit favorites like "Happy Endings," "Mysterious Skin," and "Loggerheads" at the Tower Theatre, Reel Pride will be showcasing smaller, niche films at the Starline. Thanks in part to sponsorship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, festival goers will have the opportunity to enjoy films in Spanish, cutting-edge documentaries, and youth programming.
"We did two venues because there are types of films that we've always wanted to show, and part of the problem is that they might attract a smaller and more specific audience. It's not conducive to the film to experience it in a 700-seat auditorium with 35 of your closest friends," explained Jon Carroll, Reel Pride Festival Director.
Films that will be screened at the Starline include the Argentine feature "El Favor," which will be shown in Spanish without subtitles. Other second venue choices include "Strange Fruit," a dark tale about murder in the south, and the Filmmakers Discussion panel.
Adding a second venue is the logical next step for the growing festival.
"The long range goal is to continue to expand the festival and this seemed the perfect way to do it rather than add one more day," said Carroll.
At a Director's Club preview held at the Starline this week, members were treated to a sneak peak of this year's programming. The short film, "Howdy Partner," explored the nomenclature of gay relationships- partner, wife, sweetie- and the challenges gay couples face to put a label on their union. Filmmaker Christie Herring and one of the local stars are scheduled to appear at the festival.
Reel Pride has a strong tradition of treating its stars and filmmakers well.
"Our best selling point is that all the filmmakers that come are our best sales people. They tell their filmmaker friends, 'If you ever get the chance, go to Fresno. They have a great audience and they treat you well,'" recalled Carroll.
Unlike some of the larger festivals, such as Outfest in Los Angeles and the 400-film festival in San Francisco, all filmmakers get the star treatment in Fresno.
"I've been to larger festivals where I've been standing in line waiting to get tickets to a film, and behind me is a filmmaker who had one of the bigger films at last year's festival. Wow, what a difference a year makes." That would never happen at the Fresno festival, where filmmakers return year after year because of the appreciation of the festival and the fans.
This year's headline movies are some of the biggest yet. "Happy Endings" opens the festival this year. Starring Maggie Gyllenhall, Tom Arnold, Laura Dern, and Jason Ritter, the film was a bit hit at Sundance and features a shockingly good performance from Tom Arnold.
"Mysterious Skin" is another film that has generated considerable buzz over the past year. Starring Third Rock from the Sun's Joseph Gordon Levitt, it's an enthralling look at society, teens, pedophilia, and drug use.
"Based on the fact that we've had a track record of 16 years, we continue to increase attendence and quality of the films," explained Carroll. "I'm excited by the quality of the films. We have several premiers. I'm excited by the fact that we have a second venue space. I'm really excited we have the recognition of the Academy," gushed Carroll. "I think that's a huge shot in the arm for the reputation of the festival."
From a few movies screened in a Fresno State classroom to a full-fledged five day festival sponsored by the authority on film, Reel Pride has come a long way in 16 years. This year's festival attendance is expected to top 15,000.
"Sometimes we surprise ourselves."
The 16th annual Reel Pride Gay and Lesbian Film Festival runs September 14th - 18th. For more information, visit reelpride.com.