Fest cofounder Ray Murray said films this year address more-mainstream topics such as family and marriage, rather than sexuality.
"Years ago, the films were much more about . . . coming out and dealing with sexual freedom," he said on the phone from Dresden, Germany, where he is scouting for fresh films. "Now, they deal with family relations, marriage equality, and relationships of [gay and lesbian] parents with their children."
Murray, 58, said he's especially proud of this year's selection of foreign imports, including director Subarna Thapa's delicate romance Soongava: Dance of the Orchids, the first film from Nepal to deal with same-sex relationships. The Canadian feature Margarita is a dramedy about an illegal Mexican nanny who faces deportation unless she marries. Bye Bye Blondie, one of the fest's most sensational entries, is the latest feature from controversial superstar auteur Virginie Despentes ( Baise-Moi). It stars Emmanuelle Béart and Béatrice Dalle as former teen lovers who reunite after 25 years.
The fest includes a wide range of documentaries, including Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, a portrait of the author who in 1983 became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, for The Color Purple.
A second literary docu takes us closer to home. Where I Am, from director Pamela Drynan, is about Philly author Robert Drake, who in 1999 became the victim of a vicious gay-bashing incident in rural Ireland. Drynan picks up the story 12 years later when Drake, now in a wheelchair, returns to his old haunts in Ireland.
"Robert was keen to tell his story; there had been a recurring interest in Philadelphia, too, about how he was recovering," Drynan said in an e-mail interview.
Drynan said she was moved that Drake, a Quaker, had forgiven his assailants. "I was struck by [Drake's] ability to reach out and forgive his attackers," she wrote. "Forgiveness, I think, means moving on for Robert."
The Way to Kevin profiles another local artist, the unique, some would say outlandish, North Philly native Kevin Mines, who is a mime, a Christian minister, and a gay porn star - all at once. The film was codirected by Temple and La Salle alumna Erin Davis and her partner, Nathan Edmondson, who spent 18 months following Kevin as he ministered to the world in his unique way.
"I was struck by how sweet of a man he is," Edmondson said on the phone from Los Angeles, where the couple now live.
"He is so charismatic and so kind and he always has a smile on his face."
But he's peddling sex and preaching God's word. Is he for real?
Kevin "wants to preach love and acceptance, even if our lives sometimes take us to places the mainstream doesn't quantify as positive," Edmondson said.
Temple students play a large part in the romantic dramedy The Happy Sad from filmmaker Rodney Evans, who teaches film at the university. Evans recruited 10 students to work on the production.
The picture is about the romantic foibles that ensue when two couples, a black gay couple and a white straight couple, decide to have open relationships.
"It was important to show that the black gay couple had been in a committed relationship for six years," said Evans, "and that they feel secure enough in their relationship that they decide to" experiment.
The relationship drama It Had to Be You is another interesting local find. The debut feature from Philly psychiatric nurse Lary Campbell, it was shot entirely in the so-called gayborhood in Center City and features an all-Philly cast.
The story follows several interconnected gay and lesbian relationships and explores themes including gay clergy in the Catholic Church and the generation gap that separates gay men who came of age during the AIDS crisis and younger men who seem unaware of its devastating effect on the community.
Campbell, 57, who grew up in Hunting Park, said that, above all, the film tries to capture how complicated and messy modern relationships have become. "Negotiating relationship today is walking on eggshells," he said. "There's so much difficulty in dating."
QFest: If You Go
Through July 22, with films screened at Ritz East, 125 S. Second St., and Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.
Admission: Single tickets $11 (regular), $15 closing night; parties and events, $25-$40; festival 10-pass $100, all-access badge $270 (discounts members of Philadelphia Cinema Alliance).
Information: 267-765-9800, Ext. 4, www.qfest.com. Tickets also available at Giovanni's Room, 345 S. 12th St.
Contact Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or email@example.com.