The MiFo LGBT Film Festival —known until two years ago as the Miami (and Fort Lauderdale) Gay & Lesbian Film Festival —is rebranding itself again, just in time for its 19th season opener on April 21.
“Outshine Film Festival,” board chairman Mark Gilbert said.
“The unique thing about this is that for the first time in our 19-year history, we’re not using the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian,’ but more accepted innuendo, like ‘out,’ Gilbert said. “The word ‘out’ in ‘Outshine’ covers all the bases for us. It makes us shine like a community, we’re out and shiny like our community. All the elements of being LGBT are there without necessarily having to say LGBT.”
The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, begun in 1998 by filmmaker Robert Rosenberg, quickly became one of the nation’s leading festivals for LGBTQ film programming. Eventually, the single 10-day spring festival in Miami and Miami Beach morphed into two, as the board also launched a fall film festival in Fort Lauderdale.
Then came the first name problem — Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival vs. Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
“Our goal was to bring our two communities, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, to be one big festival,” Gilbert said. “The word ‘MiFo’ did wonders. It did exactly what wanted it to do, it left the old behind and allowed us to rebuild, start over with a fresh name.”
Next problem: Out of context, no one knew what “MiFo” meant.
“It worked well when we said ‘MiFo, Miami/Fort Lauderdale.’ But who wants to do that all the time?” Gilbert said.
“We also realized the name had no pop, no sizzle to it,” he added. “One night, I came up with the name Outshine and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I said, ‘OMG, this is the name to take this organization into the future.’”
First, though, he had to convince others who were just getting used to the name “MiFo.”
“I also knew this was going to be a challenge,” Gilbert said. “We just went through a difficult transition and the board looked at me like I was crazy. I fought for it and slowly everybody joined the ship and came onboard.”
This year’s Miami festival will open 8 p.m. April 21 at Scottish Rite Temple, 471 NW Third St. At the opening, the festival will screen “Handsome Devil,” a 2016 Irish film about the relationship of two young men in a boarding school.
Also opening night, the festival will honor its 2001-06 co-directors, Carol Coombes and Jaie Laplante, with Angel Awards. Today, Coombs is director of cultural arts for World Outgames Miami and Laplante is executive director of the annual Miami Film Festival.
More than 65 films will be screened over 10 days at the festival.
“There are comedies. Some of them are serious. Some of them are downers. A little bit of everything to choose from,” festival board member Michael Schneider said. “The [festival] website is great because you can see the trailer for the films and description, you can decide which ones appeal to you and which ones don’t.”
Schneider, administrator for Take Shape Plastic Surgery in Fort Lauderdale, said being active in the festival has given him access to filmmakers and producers, and that he’s now even writing a script himself, a comedy about plastic surgery.
“By getting involved in the festival, you gain access to the talent and the movers and shakers who are putting the films together,” he said. “Just like Andy Warhol said, we all have our 15 minutes of fame. We all have our stories and the way the internet and social media are moving, we’re all expressing those stories. When you get more exposure and understanding how films are made and what goes into them, you might pursue projects you never dreamed of yourself.”
The 2017 Outshine/MiFo LGBT Film Festival program is now online at http://bit.ly/2oui9Yr.