LGBT Film Festival: A chance to see films you can’t see anywhere else

Oakwood native who’s appeared on Broadway is among featured guests at The Neon

Over the past 13 years, the Dayton LGBT Film Festival has introduced nearly 200 movies to the Miami Valley, films you’re unlikely to see elsewhere.

This year’s festival, slated for Oct. 12-14 at The Neon movie theater in downtown Dayton, will bring seven feature films and 10 shorts to town. The special weekend also includes an opening night party and a number of speakers.

We thought it would be interesting to hear from a few of the people responsible for creating the weekend and helping to make it successful.

>> Best festivals in Dayton this weekend

Interaction with filmmakers a draw

One of the draws of any film festival is the interaction between audience members and those affiliated with the films who come to discuss the project. More than 20 guest artists have appeared at the LGBT festival over the years.

This year, the roster includes film directors and the subject of one of the documentaries.

>> Daytonian of the Week: Jonathan McNeal

Dayton is also fortunate this year to host Broadway star Micah Stock, who appears in the documentary “Every Act of Life.” The new movie, which screens at 3 p.m. Sunday, focuses on the life of noted playwright Terrence McNally.

Stock, who grew up in Oakwood, has appeared in two McNally plays, including the hit comedy “It’s Only a Play” for which he earned as Tony nomination as Best Featured Actor. “I consider myself a veteran McNally interpreter,” says Stock. “Though to Terrence’s knowledge I’ve only done two of his plays, the truth is that I performed almost his entire body of work in the basement of my childhood home in Dayton years before we ever met. I was introduced to him when I was 15 by a teacher at Oakwood.”

>> PHOTOS: Micah Stock, from Muse Machine to Broadway

Stock calls his association with McNally his most fruitful professional collaboration to date. “That’s entirely due to Terrence’s immense talent, wit and generosity.”

The new film also features Angela Lansbury, F. Murray Abraham, Larry Kramer, Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Edie Falco, Christine Baranski, Patrick Wilson and Billy Porter.

>> Oakwood actor nominated for Tony award

Stock says the documentary is not a linear biography, but includes a timeline of McNally’s life explored through the lens of his work. “The focus of the documentary is who Terrence McNally is and what he did for the cultural landscape and specifically for the LBGT community,” explains Stock. “It’s an exploration of the people in his plays — with parts of the plays interwoven through the documentary.”

From the first moment he started writing, says Stock, McNally was not only talking about things on stage people hadn’t ever talked about before, but was unapologetically writing about the LGBT community without shame and without agenda. “He never understood why anyone should hide their sexuality from the world,” Stock adds. “Before it was a national conversation, he understood that could be detrimental to some’s individual spirit and detrimental to society as a whole.”

Beyond that, he adds, McNally wrote characters from all walks of life and people of all different classes, creeds, races and make-up. “He has a knack for capturing the human psyche and the human heart,” says Stock. “The way I felt about his plays as a teenager and the way I feel now are different. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about his writing. The first thing that struck me was how funny and clever he was. As I got older, I realized he was not only hilarious and biting but that he had a lot to say underneath as well.”

Stock, who says he’s looking forward to the Q&A session following the local screening, is featured in a Showtime mini-series premiering in November. In “Escape at Dannemora,” directed by Ben Stiller, he’ll play the son of actress Patricia Arquette.

Picking the films

New to the film committee is Dr. Bob Brandt Jr., a longtime supporter of the festival who’s now semi-retired. He doesn’t consider himself a film buff, but enjoys hearing other people’s stories. “These films depict lots of different stories. We get to see a lot of films from different countries and different cultures.”

He says the LGBT community faces different challenges in different nations. “Some places, like Europe, are more accepting than the United States, but there are other places — such as the Middle East or Asia — where they are not.”

Among his favorite films for this year’s festival are “Dear Freddy,” the true story of an openly gay Jewish man who persuaded Dr. Josef Mengele to set up a day care center for children at Auschwitz death camp during World War II which provided more than 600 children their final moments of happiness. Brandt labels the Israeli documentary “exemplary.”

He also recommends “Transmilitary,” which chronicles the lives of four individuals who put their careers on the line by coming out as transgender to top brass officials in the Pentagon in hopes of attaining the equal right to serve.

“Many of the issues in these films are very contemporary like those related to the military,” says Brandt, who adds it’s important to him personally to make certain some of the films have an HIV-related theme. “By the time I retired I had taken care of more than 2,000 HIV patients. We don’t hear as much about it as we used to, but it is still a problem.”

Making it possible

As with other film festivals, sponsorship is critical to success. Brent Johnson, owner of Square One Salon and Spa, says his business has supported the LGBT Festival since its inception.

>> Popular spa wins big in national competition

“We jumped on board because we knew there was a need for inclusive dialogue around gay/lesbian/transgender topics,” he says. “In addition, we knew Jonathan McNeal (festival director) as a hard-working, detailed and creative person who could deliver a great festival.”

Johnson says the weekend brings a diverse group of gays, lesbians, transgender and straight community together to have a shared experience through film. “The films and topics offer varying perspectives on life and help people engage in conversations around those subjects,” he says. “The quality of what has been delivered in the past at the festivals makes me proud to be associated with it. Being a sponsor also speaks to our policies of acceptance and inclusiveness at Square One. We want everyone to feel welcome regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender or race.”

Concludes Brandt: “Dayton is a community of great people and this festival is yet another way for people of varying cultures and backgrounds to learn and appreciate their neighbor’s journey. A way to gain insight and understanding as to what ‘other people’ live through every single day. I love it!”


What: LGBT Film Festival 2018

When: Friday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Oct. 14

Where: The Neon movie theater, 130 E. Fifth St., Free parking across the street from the theater.

Tickets: Single tickets are $9. Note that SOLD OUT doesn't always mean you can't get a ticket! Call The Neon at (937) 222-8452 to see if any tickets are available for purchase. Attendees without tickets may join a "Rush Line" to purchase any unclaimed tickets up to one hour before the screening.

For more info:


Friday, Oct. 12

  • 7:30 p.m. "Miseducation of Cameron Post." Preceeded by "Pop Rox." Attendees are invited to an Opening Night Party at the Greater Dayton LGBT Center, 24 N. Jefferson St., Suite 200. Complimentary light fare and cocktails.

Saturday, Oct. 13

  • 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. "Top Drawer Shorts" — a selection of short films from across the country and around the world.
  • 3:15 p.m. "Transmilitary, USA." Preceded by "The Toothmans." Special guests are Fiona Dawson, co-director of "Transmilitary" and Laila Ireland, one of the subjects of the documentary. Also: Hansen Bursic, director of "The Toothmans."

7 p.m. “Wild Nights with Emily.” Preceded by “Untitled Short Film about White People.”

9:30 p.m. “Mapplethorpe.” Preceded by “Set Me as a Seal Upon Thine Heart.”

Sunday, Oct. 14

  • 1 p.m. "Dear Freddy"
  • 3 p.m. "Every Act of Life" A Q&A with actor Micah Stock — who is from Oakwood and in the documentary — will follow.
  • 5:30 p.m. "Retablo"

About the Author