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Pearl Boshomane, Johannesberg Times: (2011) Out In Africa Film Festival continues, promises to be gem

(2011) Out In Africa Film Festival continues, promises to be gem
by Pearl Boshomane, August 11, 2011

Babies, beauty pageants and dead bodies: these are but some of the topics covered by films at this month’s Out in Africa festival.

The South African Gay and Lesbian film festival starts on 12 August and will show a total of 19 films from 14 countries: six features, nine shorts and four documentaries.

The festival was started in 1994 to combat the largely-negative portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.

Festival director Nodi Murphy says: “We call it gay and lesbian because it’s important to have those words out there; so we’re not in the closet.”

And although the festival focuses on the LGBTI community, it also holds appeal for non-LGBTIs.  “We have a small but significant straight audience,” says Murphy.  “When we ask people why they come, they say it’s because we show films that are better than what’s on circuit.”

While Out in Africa (OIA) is about LGBTI representation in mass media, it’s also about equal opportunities within the community. “We show a wide array of films, but more films are made for and by boys rather than lesbians,” Murphy says. “What’s important for us is representation. Five of the ten films are for the lesbians… We have films for the boys and films for the girls. What we do struggle with is black representation.”

One of the films, Leave It on the Floor, features an all-black cast and is one of the festival highlights, says Murphy. “It has the most gorgeous black gay boys you have ever seen,” she says. “It’s a beautiful film with a good heart. It’s very nice to see a film which features, exclusively, black people, with such high production value.”

Another film Murphy singles out is We Were Here, which chronicles the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 1980s San Francisco. “It’s a very important film and I think everyone should watch it,” she says. “It’s about community. It shows people’s reactions to [HIV/ AIDS]. The boys were dying. It brought the gays and lesbians together because previously, although they were both queer, they were isolated from each other.”

One of the documentaries on show is Waited For, a local production about an interracial lesbian couple trying to adopt a baby. “It’s the most touching film and it’s real,” says Murphy. “It’s very heartwarming.”

The OIA festival used to be an annual event, but has in recent years been broken up into segments every few months. This was done with the finance of revellers in mind. Says Murphy: “It’s a lot easier on the pocket. It’s better to spend R200 every few months than R600 at one time.”

While Murphy acknowledges that festivals around the world have been experiencing difficulties due to the financial crisis, she believes that attendance for OIA will be impressive. “I’m very hopeful,” she says. “But of course, I’m always nervous – ‘Is anyone going to come?'”

Films will be screened in Johannesburg (Hyde Park) and Cape Town (V&A Waterfront). Ticket prices are R47 in Johannesburg and R42 in Cape Town.

The festival runs until 21 August.

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