AGLIFF (the All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival) returns for its 32nd year Aug. 22-25.
The colorful theme for the 2019 edition of the festival, which will be held at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, is "prism" — selected to show how the event "can refract a single beam of art into multiple viewpoints, showcasing all the voices in the spectrum of our LGBTQ+ community," according to the official description.
This year's opening night slot goes to "Gay Chorus Deep South," which won the documentary audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival when it premiered earlier this year, at 7 p.m. Aug. 22. After harsh rhetoric during the 2016 election left many in the country feeling divided, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus decided to hit the road in an attempt to find common threads that unite us all. Along with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, more than 300 singers performed in Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas and talked to the people in these communities to spread a message of love and acceptance.
In addition to 28 feature films, AGLIFF is offering 56 shorts as part of this year's lineup. On Aug. 22, the Late Night & Sexy Shorts program includes the U.S. premiere of "Conversion Therapist," an edgy short film from Austin-based transgender filmmaker Bears Rebecca Fonté, who also runs the Other Worlds Film Festival.
A few favorites from South by Southwest will have encore screenings at AGLIFF, including "Becoming Leslie" at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 24 (my own festival review called it a fitting tribute to Leslie Cochran, one of Austin's most famous former residents who died in 2012) and "Saint Frances," which won an audience award and special jury recognition for breakthrough voice at SXSW, at 4 p.m. Aug. 23.
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You can catch AGLIFF's secret screening, always one of the most anticipated events of the festival, at 9:15 p.m. Aug. 23.
A handful of excellent repertory screenings are also on deck this year to celebrate iconic LGBT cinema. Director Rose Troche will present a 25th-anniversary screening of her breakthrough 1994 feature, "Go Fish," at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 25, as well as show her 1998 film "Bedrooms & Hallways" at 9:15 p.m. Aug. 24. Director Jim Fall's "Trick" celebrates its 20th anniversary at the fest with a 12:30 p.m. Aug. 24 screening, and AGLIFF will also ring in the 30th anniversary of Marlon Riggs' "Tongues Untied" at 4 p.m. Aug. 24. The experimental documentary short about gay black men caused controversy when PBS aired it in the summer of 1991; conservative politicians called for the defunding of PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts, which had helped to fund the film.
On Sunday, AGLIFF's closing night film is "Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts." A camera crew followed the "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant — real name Brian Firkus, who won the reality competition's third "All Stars" season — for nine months. The resulting documentary covers Mattel's life as a performer, including the perils of a growing fanbase and touring to promote the drag queen's country music albums. Filming also coincided with a dark period when Mattel's comedic partner, Katya Zamolodchikova (aka Brian McCook), left their Viceland TV show to enter rehab. Director Nick Zeig-Owens will be in attendance for a post-film Q&A. The movie screens at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 25.
Film badges are on sale starting at $125 at agliff.org; student passes are $50. Individual tickets will also be available at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar for screenings, pending theater capacity.
Critic's picks: 5 films to catch at AGLIFF
"The Archivettes" (1:15 p.m. Aug. 24)
This documentary examines the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York and just premiered a few weeks ago at Outfest in Los Angeles. Run by volunteers, the cross-generational collective helps to save all types of ephemera to document lesbian history. It's a heartfelt mission to gather books, diaries, photographs, news articles and a lot more, which are lovingly donated and preserved. Megan Rossman's doc clocks in at a breezy 61 minutes and should be a perfect mid-fest pick.
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"End of the Century" (6:45 p.m. Aug. 24)
This is a love story from Argentina that follows a couple from their fateful meeting when one of them is on holiday in Barcelona through their love affair over two decades. It was a selection of the prestigious New Directors/New Films series presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art earlier this year. This Texas premiere will be co-presented by Cine Las Americas. In Spanish with English subtitles.
"Song Lang" (11 a.m. Aug. 24)
Winner of the narrative feature audience award at San Fransisco's Frameline festival earlier this year, Leon Le's debut film tells the story of two men living in 1980s Saigon leading very different lives. One works for a loan shark collecting debts; the other is an opera singer. After their paths cross, an unlikely friendship turns into more. This Texas premiere will be co-presented by the Austin Asian American Film Festival. In Vietnamese with English subtitles.
"Straight Up" (9 p.m. Aug. 23)
James Sweeney wrote, directed and starred in this new comedy, which premiered earlier this year at Frameline and was recently acquired for distribution by Strand Releasing. Sweeney plays Todd, a young (probably gay) man saddled by internalized homophobia who enters into a loving but sexless relationship with a woman named Rory that makes him question everything. Co-starring Randall Park ("Fresh off the Boat") and Brendan Scannell (Netflix's "Bonding"), this won't get a proper release until next spring, so make sure it's on your radar while it hits AGLIFF.
"Transfinite" (1:30 p.m. Aug. 24)
Seven standalone short stories make up this sci-fi omnibus feature that is in AGLIFF's narrative competition this year. It was created entirely by transgender and queer writers and actors. In fact, the film's logline simply says, "Supernatural trans people from various cultures use their powers to protect people." In English, Spanish, Swahili and Navajo with English subtitles.