Roll Out the Rainbow Carpet

Not in My Lifetime. Photo courtesy of Pam Colby

GLBT films bring pride to the annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) is returning to celebrate 37 years of talented international filmmakers. MSPIFF has something for everyone, and this year it is highlighting the GLBT community. “MSPIFF is the culmination of everything we do at the Film Society—a grand celebration of independent cinema from around the globe including what’s in our own backyard. You won’t find a more eclectic mix of movies anywhere in the region—truly something for everyone,” says MSPIFF Programmer Kathie Smith.

Smith has been programming for MSPIFF for five years, and as a member of the GLBT community herself, Smith is excited to showcase the community in a series of four films, TransMilitary, Mr. Gay Syria, The Cakemaker, and A Moment in the Reeds.

“Being queer myself, it’s always been very important to me to select and advocate for films that reflect the world around us…and without LGBTQ content, that would not be an accurate picture. And I know my fellow programmers feel the same way,” she says. “These films show up in a multitude of forms and genres, but many of the LGBTQ films in the festival this year are simultaneously portraits of broader narratives: being a Syrian refugee in Turkey (Mr. Gay Syria) and likewise in Finland (A Moment in the Reeds), and the U.S. political climate (Not in My Lifetime and TransMilitary). These are all cornerstones to MSPIFF.”

TransMilitary, directed by Gabe Silverman and Fiona Dawson, is a documentary about the 15,500 transgender people who have served in the United States military and the ways in which they are required to conceal their gender identities because of military policies banning their service. Chronicling the lives of four troops, TransMilitary tells the story of the brave Americans who go on the line to fight for their country—and their own freedom to express themselves.

TransMilitary. Photo courtesy of TransMilitary

According to Jamie Coughlin, Executive Producer and Co-Founder of SideXSide Studios, where TransMilitary was produced, she’s hopeful that the film will help people realize the simple truth about the trans community: they’re people, too. “According to a recent GLAAD study, only 16 percent of Americans have knowingly met someone who is transgender. My hope is that the other 84 percent of the population can watch this film and understand that transgender people are just people,” she says.

Already successful in other parts of the country, Coughlin says she anticipates TransMilitary to be a hit at MSPIFF this year. ” TransMilitary premiered at SXSW in Austin, TX last month, where it won the Audience Award in the documentary competition. We think this demonstrates that this film is for everyone, whether your LGBTQ, an ally or just curious about who these people serving our country really are, away from the recent headlines,” she says.

Mr. Gay Syria, directed by Ayse Toprak, is another documentary about Husein, a barber in Istanbul who is struggling to find a balance between his conservative family and his gay identity, Husein meets Mahmoud, the founder of Syria’s LGBTI movement and a refugee of Berlin, when they both decide to participate in an international beauty contest to escape their muddled lives.

The Cakemaker, directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, is a narrative film that follows Thomas, a young German baker who is having an affair with an Israeli married man, Oren. After a car accident kills Oren, Thomas travels to Jerusalem to look for answers regarding his death. Thomas takes on a secret identity and infiltrates the life of Anat, Oren’s wife. Thomas starts to work at Anat’s cafe in Jerusalem baking German cakes and cookies. His success at her cafe makes Thomas a monumental part of her life, leaving Thomas more involved than he had anticipated. What will Thomas do to protect the real reason why he has traveled to Jerusalem?

A Moment in the Reeds, directed by Mikko Makela, tells the story of Leevi, a university student in Paris who returns home to Finland for the summer to help his estranged father renovate the family lake house so it can be sold. Not long into the summer, Leevi finds love with Tareq, an asylum seeker from Syria who is helping renovate the lake house. A Moment in the Reeds is one of the first queer films made in Finland. With a focus on both immigrants and emigrants, this film highlights sexual and ethnic minorities in a story about the search for freedom, acceptance, and a place to call home.

In addition to these films, the documentary Not in My Lifetime will be premiering during MSPIFF. Directed by Pam Colby, a lesbian from the Twin Cities, this film focuses on same-sex marriage and the challenges that the community has had to overcome to see the progress they’ve achieved today. “When marriage equality legislation passed, many friends of my generation stated that they didn’t believe that it would happen in their lifetime. I wanted to reflect on how far we have come while honoring and remembering more difficult times,” she says.

Colby says she is hopeful that her documentary will contribute to the festival in the same way as the other four GLBT feature films with a message that will leave everyone full of pride. “Marriage equality was a long time in the making, small steps that led to bigger movements. There is no correct way to have a relationship, marriage or not, we all must have the right to choose to marry, but it is not a requirement,” she says.


The MSPIFF will be April 12-28 at various locations. For more information, go to www.mspfilm.org/festivals/mspiff/.

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