When Robin Jones, director of film programming for The Grand in Ellsworth, was approached with the idea of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film festival, his initial thought was “You mean there’s not one already?”
Jones, who grew up in a small town in the South, has predominantly lived in urban areas since about 1977, where LGBT communities hold pride parades and have a number of places to congregate and network.
Partnering with Down East AIDS Network and The Make Beautiful Tribe and with the help of Blackstones, Maine’s oldest neighborhood gay bar, “It Gets Better — the First Annual LGBT Film Festival” is ready for opening night on Thursday at The Grand.
Jones knew exactly what he wanted from the festival, even if he set the bar relatively high. “It has got to be a celebration … look how far we’ve come, look at where we are now and look at what we have to face in the future. And that’s the way that the films kind of lined up.”
Jones said that over the past year there has been a wave of teenagers in the LGBT community who have killed themselves because of bullying that has gone unaddressed. The title “It Gets Better,” he explained, comes from a YouTube movement started by Dan Savage and his partner, Terry, with testimonies from the LGBT community, including celebrities, to encourage young people that no matter how bad things may seem, it does get better.
The festival will also show “It Gets Better” video shorts before screenings to help underline its focus.
Where the rural Maine landscape can often feel more isolated than more populated urban areas, Jones said that having a place where the LGBT community and its supporters can gather annually will be one of the primary goals of the festival. He also hopes that people outside the LGBT community — or even those who have had issues with the community in the past — will come out to watch some of the films and maybe learn something.
“All that hits our mission statement for Down East and eastern Maine. To enrich, entertain and educate with diverse unique quality programming,” he said.
Jones also stressed the importance of having fun at the festival.
“Every single thing we have ends on an up note, no matter how serious it is.”
In addition to screening movies throughout the weekend, which include Lisa Cholodenko’s Oscar-nominated “The Kids are All Right” and Christophe Honore’s French musical “Love Songs,” the festival will feature a panel discussion, free to attendees, at 5 p.m. Saturday, titled “Reflections and Inspirations: Cinema and the LGBT Community.”
“It’s an opportunity for everybody to come in a fun setting, show up, learn a little bit [and] be able to maybe see themselves represented in some way,” Jones said.
For more information on “It Gets Better — The First Annual LGBT Film Festival,” visit www.grandonline.org.
Joel Crabtree works on the BDN’s digital media desk. You can visit his blog at www.joeltalksmovies.com.