Country songwriters, comics in spotlight at LGBT film fest

Alison Bechdel appears in "No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics." CONTRIBUTED
Alison Bechdel appears in "No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics." CONTRIBUTED

The Neon to feature 17 selections during week-long event

Film buffs will be delighted to learn that this year’s LGBT Film Festival will be held in person at The Neon movie theater in downtown Dayton. The popular event kicks off Friday, Oct. 8 and runs through Thursday, Oct. 14.

The 2021 lineup includes 17 films ranging from documentaries to campy comedies. Thanks to generous sponsors, scholarships will be available for folks who’d like to attend but are strapped for cash. Those interested will need to submit a form on the festival website.

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“Instead of just one weekend in which we screen everything one time, we’re spreading out the festival over the course of a week and offering each selection twice,” explains Jonathan McNeal, manager of the nonprofit movie theater and director of the upcoming festival. “This will allow for spacing throughout the cinema.”

There won’t be an opening night party this year, and guest filmmakers will not be coming to town. Instead some virtual Q&A sessions are being planned.

Dianne Davidson plays for Linda Ronstadt in a scene from "Invisible." CONTRIBUTED/OUTHAUS FILMS
Dianne Davidson plays for Linda Ronstadt in a scene from "Invisible." CONTRIBUTED/OUTHAUS FILMS

Among the films to be shown is “Invisible,” an award-winning documentary. Shortly after the film’s director, T.J. Parsell, moved to Nashville, a friend told him about a network of gay women songwriters in town who’d written for many famous people in the industry.

“I couldn’t imagine a more repressive industry than country music,” says Parsell. “I immediately had a ton of questions I wanted to ask these women. The project took off like a rocket. The women had a lot to say and the more I dug into their stories, the more interesting and complex it became. I think the film will serve as a piercing look into Southern families, religious abuse and the patriarchy of country music.”

After working on the film for five years, Parsell says he was inspired by the women’s perseverance and in awe of their spirit. “They used their trauma, they used their stories, their insights, their vulnerabilities and their grit — and they made a real impact — on me, on their music and on the world,” he says.

Vivian Kleiman directed “No Straight Lines.”  CONTRIBUTED
Vivian Kleiman directed “No Straight Lines.” CONTRIBUTED

Another film, “No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics,” began with director Vivian Kleiman’s attendance at the first international conference of queer comic book artists.

Although she’s certain the film will make audiences laugh, she’s hoping it will do more. “By using comics to chart the historical trajectory and diversity of queer life — the dilemmas, the celebrations, the conflicts, that which is unique to the LGBT experience — I hope the film will serve as a fresh vehicle to tell queer history to a new generation. At the same time, I also made the film for all the young people out there who are struggling with self-acceptance, to understand the power of telling our own stories.”

“Lola” is about a young trans woman who is learning to navigate the world after the loss of her supportive mother. CONTRIBUTED
“Lola” is about a young trans woman who is learning to navigate the world after the loss of her supportive mother. CONTRIBUTED

What’s different this year

As you might expect, COVID-19 has necessitated some significant changes. In addition to requiring masks for theater patrons ages 6 and older, those 12 and up are now being required to present proof of vaccination with a photo ID or a negative COVID-19 test from the last 72 hours. The staff is adhering to the protocols as well.

Other theater changes and upgrades have included building new counters and adding a new point of sale, remodeling bathrooms to become hands-free and adding air recirculation units in the lobby and auditoriums with HEPA filtration and UV light technology, the same systems used by The Cleveland Clinic.

In the short film "Pure," a young Black girl grapples with her queer identity on the eve of her cotillion ball. CONTRIBUTED
In the short film "Pure," a young Black girl grapples with her queer identity on the eve of her cotillion ball. CONTRIBUTED

While the community did support the virtual festival financially last year, McNeal says the rate of people watching the films at home was down significantly from in-person screenings. “The Dayton LGBT Film Festival is meant to create community and provide visibility to our stories — and that’s why we thought it was important to bring the festival back to an in-person event this year,” says McNeal, who is looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces.

Among those faces will be Tim Capehart of Moraine. “My husband and I have only missed a year or two of the Dayton LGBT film festival; both times we were out of town,” says Capehart. “In the beginning, there was not a lot of realistic positive representation of our community in the movies or on TV. That was the main reason we attended.”

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As the years went on, he says, there were even more reasons to attend. “We enjoyed the selections of the committee, supporting LGBTQ Dayton, supporting The Neon, and mingling with the community. We love independent films!”


What: 2021 Dayton LGBT Film Fest

When: Friday, Oct. 8 through Thursday, Oct. 14

Where: The Neon movie theater, 130 E. Fifth St., Dayton

Tickets: $8, online or at the theater. If you wish to sit with friends/family, purchase tickets in one transaction, otherwise an empty seat will be placed between you and the next guest.

Parking: Free parking available across the street.

Safety: Masks and proof of vaccination are required.

More information:

2021 Dayton LGBT Film Fest Line-Up

“No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics” (79 minutes, director Vivian Kleiman)

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10

Five scrappy queer comic book artists journey from DIY work and isolation to the cover of Time Magazine and the international stage.

Preceded by: “My Aunties” (3 minutes, director Richard O’Connor)

In the early ‘80s, Stefan was cared for and loved by a group of adults, largely gay men, who he called his “aunties.”

Preceded by: “Everyman” (11 minutes, director Jack Goessens)

A personal, visual essay about gender transition.

Top Drawer Shorts

1 p.m. Saturday, Oct 9 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct 11

“Beauty President” (10 minutes, director Whitney Skauge)

“If a bad actor can be president, why not a good drag queen?” In 1992, Joan Jett Blakk made history.

“Marlon Brando” (20 minutes, director Vincent Tilanus)

Best friends Cas and Naomi spend every second of their days together. But when their future plans are seemingly different, their relationship wobbles.

“Girlsboysmix” (7 minutes, directors Lara Aerts and Els van Driel)

The story of an intersex child who wonders: where do I belong?

“Heaven Reaches Down to Earth” (10 minutes, director Tebogo Malebogo)

Nothing will ever be the same after Tau comes to a realization about their sexuality.

“Hugo: 6:30″ (13 min, directors Simon Helloco and James MacIver)

Hugo, a young actor, is asked to improvise a story at an audition.

“Pure” (12 minutes, director Natalie Jasmine Harris)

On the eve of her cotillion ball, a young Black girl grapples with her queer identity and questions her purity.

“Little Sky” (14 minutes, director Jess X. Snow)

Haunted by childhood memories, Sky risks their non-binary identity to end the cycle of violence in their family.

“The Test” (8 minutes, director Jessica Smith)

Two women await the results of a test that could change everything.

“Naomi Replansky at 100″ (6 minutes, director Megan Rossman)

This short doc explores the life of renowned poet Naomi Replansky as she celebrates her 100th year.

Invisible” (107 minutes, director T.J. Parsell)

4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12

This award-winning documentary explores a group of gay women songwriters who have successfully navigated the male-dominated country music genre.

“Potato Dreams of America” (95 minutes, director Wes Hurley)

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct 9 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13

Struggling to survive in the USSR during Perestroika, Lena and her gay son escape into the fantasy world of pirated American movies; Elena decides to become a mail-order bride. Based on the director’s childhood.

Preceded by “Flex” (16 minutes, director Matt Porter)

After an unexpected breakup, Charles begins to explore the gray areas of his sexuality.

Lola” (90 minutes, director Laurent Micheli)

4 p.m. Sunday, Oct 10 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14

Just when Lola, 18 years old and transgender, learns that she can finally have surgery, her mother, who is her only financial support, passes away.

Preceded by “All Those Sensations in My Belly” (13 minutes, director Marko Djeska)

While transitioning from male to female gender, Matia struggles with finding a genuine intimate relationship.