With the Pulse massacre still fresh in the minds and hearts of Orlando residents, there’s perhaps never been a more relevant time for the Global Peace Film Festival. And this year’s event, which began yesterday (Monday, Sept. 19) and runs through Sunday, Sept. 25, will address that tragedy head-on with a screening of Vicki Nantz’s short film, We Are Gay, We Are Proud, We Are Orlando on Thursday night, followed by a ceremony to honor LGBT activists Billy Manes and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan.
“The Pulse massacre affected me on a deeply personal level, although I didn’t know the victims and I wasn’t there,” says Nantz. “A couple of days after Pulse, I took my camera downtown just to document things, not even thinking about an actual project when I set out. I just knew that this horrific event should never be forgotten or minimized. … The short is my personal reflection of the awful attack in my own words. It follows the initial shock and grief that we all felt, but I also express my anger about our culture that still demonizes gay and transgender people, and now makes assault weapons available for the mass murder of gay and transgender people.”
“A lot of [the festival] aligns with healing after Pulse,” says GPFF executive director Nina Streich. “That’s why [we chose] Love Is Strange as the opening-night film. And we have several films in the festival, including Vicki Nantz’s film [that address Pulse-related issues]. We’re showing it with Puzzles: When Hate Came to Town, which is about an attack in New Bedford, Massachusetts … at a gay bar. The film is about all the different factors that went into that and the community coming together.”
But with a total of 29 films (25 documentary features, two narrative-fiction features and two shorts), the 14th annual event has much more to offer at its eight venues scattered throughout Orlando, Winter Park and Maitland. It’s even offering an art exhibition (the K-12 Peace Art Exhibit at City Hall) and, for the first time, a live one-man play (Tom Bird’s Bearing Witness on Wednesday at Mad Cow Theatre).
“Though the title is Global Peace Film Festival, I see it as much broader than that,” Streich says, adding that she’s overjoyed to be able to present Bearing Witness, which tackles war and the Holocaust. “This is a unique opportunity.”
Surprisingly, the movie total is significantly lower than that of last year’s event, which screened 57 films. However, Streich doesn’t see that as a problem.
“We aim to show everything twice,” Streich says. “This year we’ve cut down drastically. … We couldn’t devote enough attention to each film individually [last year]. We felt we had too much, [so] we felt that it would be better for both filmmakers and audiences to cut down.”
The total may seem small when compared to other festivals because the GPFF includes almost no shorts, mostly because of the difficulty of sensitively pairing a short with a feature when both films tackle difficult topics in their own right, says Streich. But when comparing the number of features between GPFF and the Florida Film Festival, which is twice as many days long, GPFF isn’t vastly smaller.
The five main film venues are the Bush and SunTrust auditoriums at Rollins College, the Gallery at Avalon Island, the Cobb Plaza Cinema Café and Winter Park Public Library. In addition, Valencia College West Campus, Valencia College Winter Park Campus and the Enzian Theater will each hold one screening. Enzian hosts the opening-night film and party tonight (Tuesday, Sept. 20). The only Monday event was the opening of the aforementioned art exhibit, making Tuesday the film kick-off day.
Highlights of the film lineup include Memories of a Penitent Heart (directed by University of Central Florida graduate Cecilia Aldarondo, who will be in attendance) and Newtown, which address issues similar to We Are Gay, We Are Proud, We Are Orlando. Also notable are CARE (about elder care and featuring a panel discussion after the Saturday showing), The If Project Documentary (about recidivism in women’s prisons), Letter to a Terrorist (one of the two shorts), Why Can’t I Be a Sushi (about Sunni and Shiite friendship), Speed Sisters (about the first all-female racecar-driving team in the Middle East), Sustainable (about the food industry) and RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope.
With annual paid admissions of about 2,000 and attendance at all events around 6,000, according to Streich, the GPFF is arguably the third-highest-attended film festival in Orlando, behind the Florida and Orlando film festivals. A Gold Pass, which offers priority access to everything, sells for $199. A Silver Pass, which is the same as the Gold, just without priority access, goes for $99. The festival also offers a Weekend Pass for $50 and a Weekday Pass for $25. Individual films cost $8. For more information, visit peacefilmfest.org.