Filmmaking Close to Home and Global

St Pete Filmmaker's Latest
Premieres at Tampa Bay International
Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

October 5-8
Details here

The 34th Annual Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is a thoughtfully curated event gathering films from as close as Tampa Bay and as far away as Germany and Nigeria – and offering the possibility, at least, of being able to catch every single film.

The festival runs from October 5 to October 8, opening at Tampa Theatre and then with screenings at AMC WestShore.

We could all use a good laugh, and several of feature-length comedies are on TIGLFF’s program, including the warm-hearted The Mattachine Family and the campy NOLA musical horror flick Big Easy Queens.

Lagueria Davis’s documentary Black Barbie promises a compelling exploration of race and empowerment. And talk about timely!

You’ll also find foreign-language films, like the romantic drama All the Colours of the World are Between Black and White from Nigeria in English and Igbo.

Feature films Lie With Me (Arrête avec tes mensonges) and The Lost Boys (Le Paradis) are in French, and Mexico and Germany are represented in the short programs.

My ten-minute film Flag Act will have its US premiere on Saturday, October 7, at TIGLFF. 

In Flag Act, free-spirited Simone gets a surprise knock at her door one evening. Turns out she has run afoul of the FLAG Act, a new (fictional … really) law that prohibits the flying of “provocative” flags.

Simone coolly defends her right to free speech, including the flying of a rainbow flag. The porch-side conflict escalates beyond annoyance to absurdity, with Simone’s sass remaining intact to the end.

I’ve been politically active for more than 40 years, advocating for equity and equality before the law and the right each of us has to have a say in our government. More and more, life in beautiful Florida does present some unique challenges for basically anyone who’s not a straight white guy.

While I take seriously the lessons Ta-Nehisi Coates and Timothy Snyder and Heather Cox Richardson have shared, I believe humor can be an outstanding ally in the battle against anti-democratic impulses. So imagine “be as brave as you can be” and “don’t obey in advance” meet Bugs Bunny in live action, and you’ve got the spirit of Flag Act.

. . .
Each of my three short narrative films has focused on the experiences of women, and Flag Act is no exception. When I started writing the script in 2021, I had the structure already in mind – an absurd escalation with law enforcement over flags. Sure, you could say, “it’s just a piece of cloth,” but consider the harm a certain starred saltire can cause, or ask the surviving nine children of Laura Ann Carleton, who was murdered in California for flying a Pride flag.

Simone is based on an amalgam of a number of  formidable women – a couple of Chicago lawyers and Tampa Bay activists Jan Roberts and Diane Daniel, whose daring with hair color showed up in the storyboards. Simone probably represents my own hopes to be agile and unflappable.

Storyboard image from Flag Act – by Susana Darwin

We shot the film over the course of two days in January, when there is some chance the weather in St Petersburg might be cooperative. Kate Young, an actor who divides her time between the west coast of Florida and Chicago, brought perfect comic timing and a charming knowingness to the role of Simone.

KP Powell and John Leggett, who play the two police officers, were perfect foils for each other and Simone, and Jemier Jenkins brought an expressive physicality to her role that rounded out the story powerfully.

photo by Sheree Johnson

The Flag Act crew is all Tampa Bay-based, and some had worked on my prior short film Longer, which starred Eugenie Bondurant as a jazz singer with an ill-concealed crush.

Flag Act leads off Afternoon Delights Shorts, which runs at 4:15 pm on Saturday, October 7 at AMC Westshore Theater 7.

A couple of other films also intrigue me, even if in a contrarian way. TIGLFF’s description of Chasing Chasing Amy puts it right out there – “many lesbians of a certain age hated Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith’s 1990’s romcom about a straight white guy who falls in love with a lesbian.”

I am of that certain age, and I was not a fan, but learning what a difference a film makes in an individual’s life is irresistible – trans documentarian Sav Rodgers actually recorded a Ted Talk about how Chasing Amy literally saved his life when he was growing up in Kansas, and for Chasing Chasing Amy, Sav had access to director Kevin Smith and Chasing Amy star Jody Lauren Adams for the making of the documentary. 9 pm on Friday, October 6 at AMC Westshore Theater 7.

Chasing Chasing Amy director-producer Sav Rodgers and actor Joey Lauren Adams – photo courtesy of

And speaking of Amy … they – whoever They are – are probably going to take away my card or my toaster for admitting publicly that I’ve never been a fan of the Indigo Girls. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect Amy Ray and Emily Saliers and the enduring impact Indigo Girls have had on the lives of many lesbians.

In the documentary It’s Only Life After All, Alexandria Bombach goes deep, drawing Amy and Emily out about how their lives have intertwined and diverged, and exploring the band’s effect on their fans. And anyway, who among us could resist singing along with “Closer to Fine” in Barbie? 3 pm on Sunday, October 8 at AMC Westshore Theater 7.

And if you just can’t get enough, following It’s Only Life After All comes Glitter and Doom, a story of aspiring musicians set to covers of Indigo Girls songs. 6:30 pm on Sunday, October 8 at AMC Westshore Theater 7.


Tampa Bay International
Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
October 5-8
You can find ticket information here.

The TIGLFF will continue in St Pete – January 25-28

photo by Sheree Johnson


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