The biggest and queerest release of the 2017 spring movie season is Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” Based on the classic 1991 animated movie, this version uses CGI to bring the enchanted objects to captivating life. Dan Stevens (“Downtown Abbey”) and Emma Watson (all those Harry Potter movies) play the title couple; Emma Thompson sings the title song.
Besides a substantial LGBT fanbase, the new release has a significant gay pedigree. The late Howard Ashman (“Little Shop of Horrors”) wrote the lyrics for the songs in the animated movie. (Alan Menken composed the score and Tim Rice wrote the additional lyrics.) The film is helmed by Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls” and “Gods and Monsters”), who’s openly gay as are actors Luke Evans as Gaston and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth.
No word yet on a D.C. screening, but “The Freedom to Marry,” a documentary from Eddie Rosenstein that features Evan Wolfson (long-time marriage activist) and attorney Mary Bonauto is in theaters now in New York and slated to open next weekend in Los Angeles. Details at freedomtomarrymovie.com.
Also on the marriage front is “Love v. Kentucky,” released in February and streaming now on Amazon, iTunes and others. It’s billed as an “intimate account of how two Kentucky attorneys with no background in vivil rights navigate their passionate opponenets and wrangle their reluctant allies” to the U.S. Supreme Court. Alex Schuman directs. Details at lovevkentucky.com.
The D.C. Shorts Film Festival & Screenplay Competition returns in September, but the team has two events coming up this spring. In March, the MENTORS Series will offer workshops for filmmakers. In April, the D.C. Shorts LAUGHS program will pair local comedians with funny films from past festivals. One of the funniest matches will be between Matty Litwack and “The Bench Project: Lost and Found,” a film with a delightful gay twist. Details pending. Check back later at laughs.dcshorts.com for details.
This spring, Reel Affirmations offers an exciting slate of films through XTRA, its monthly LGBT Film Series. Friday, March 24 offers the newly released “BWOY” and the 20th anniversary screening of “Watermelon Woman.” Directed by Sundance sensation John G. Young and starring Anthony Rapp, “BWOY” tells the story of a man rebuilding his life after the death of his son. In “Watermelon Woman,” writer/director/star Cheryl Dunye creates a fascinating fictional documentary about the (nonexistent) history of African-American women on film.
On Friday, April 21, XTRA tells the story of Ugandan transgender activist Cleopatra Kambugu in “The Pearl of Africa.” “The First Girl I Loved” (Friday, May 12) is a remarkable lesbian coming-of-age story that won the “Best of Next!” Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. And on Friday, June 16, the screening room turns into a ballroom for “Kiki,” the new documentary described as a sequel to “Paris Is Burning” that captures the youth-led expansion of New York City’s ballroom scene.
In addition, Reel Affirmations will host the Reel Trans Film Festival on Saturday, May 20 at the Studio Theatre. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy will be on hand to discuss a documentary about her revolutionary life.
Several other regional film festivals will also bloom this spring. While they haven’t announced their 2017 schedules as of press time, they have all been included rich LGBT fare in recent years. The Annapolis Film Festival runs March 30-April 2 and the Washington Jewish Film Festival runs from May 17-28.
Filmfest D.C. runs April 20-30 and will include “Play the Devil,” a thrilling coming-of-age story set in Trinidad. Organizers promise more information soon.
Legendary filmmaker and Baltimore native John Waters, recently presented with the Timeless Star Dorian Award by the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, is staying mum about the film he will be hosting for the 2017 Maryland Film Festival which runs in Baltimore May 3-7. He and a slate of exciting films will be on hand to welcome guests to the revitalized SNF Parkway Film Center (5 W. North Ave., Baltimore).
AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring, Md., continues to present the latest indie films from around the world, along with curated explorations of classic films from Hollywood and international cinema. A highlight of their spring schedule is All About Almodóvar which runs March 4-April 27. The tribute to the legendary queer Spanish director includes a wide sampling of his films from his early anarchic films released in the heady days after the fall of Franco (“Labyrinth of Passion”) to his delicious delirious farces (“I’m So Excited”) to his more recent melodramas (“Volver”).
A special evening for dedicated Almodóvar fans will be the double bill of “Matador” (1986) and “Law of Desire” (1987) on Tuesday, March 21. Both films feature outstanding performances by a young Antonio Banderas and Almodóvar muse Carmen Maura.
For the whole family, AFI offer series on the Muppets (March 4-April 23) and the Marx Brothers (March 24-April 20). There’s also a centennial tribute to actor Kirk Douglas who founded a Hollywood dynasty while helping to break the Hollywood Blacklist in the 1950s.
Also at the AFI, “Little Men,” the moving story about a budding bromance between two Brooklyn teens by openly gay director Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”), will screen March 6-9. Also look for the director’s cut of the dystopic “Blade Runner” (March 31-April 2), John Hurt and Richard Burton in “1984” (April 20) and Angela Lansbury’s terrifying performance in “The Manchurian Candidate” (April 23 and 26). Lighter fare includes the steamy “Ramen Western” “Tampopo” (April 2) and Mel Brooks’ comic masterpiece “Blazing Saddles” from April 7-9.
One of the few studio releases with queer content this spring is “Raw” which opens on Friday, March 24. Some audience members at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival fled the theater during the screening, but others hailed the first feature film by French director Julie Ducournau for its confidence and decadent style. The plot centers on a college freshman (Garance Marillier) whose life changes when a bizarre hazing ritual awakens sexual and culinary appetites in the former vegetarian.
On Friday, April 7, Landmark E Street Cinema is host to bad boy French director François Ozon. In a departure for the openly gay director, “Frantz” offers a somber tale about the aftermath of World War I set in the quiet German countryside and shot in black and white.
From April 21-23, Dan Savage’s HUMP! Film Festival comes to the Black Cat (1811 14th St., N.W.). HUMP! is a celebration of sexual expression that includes an amazingly diverse array of short amateur porn videos.
Some mainstream releases of note include:
• “The Last Word” (March 10) with Shirley MacLaine as a retired businesswoman who hires Amanda Seyfried to write her life story.
• “T2 Trainspotting” (March 24), reunites the original stars in a sequel to the classic 1996 movie.
• “Song to Song” (March 24) stars Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman’s as two entangled couples in Terence Malick’s tale of seduction and betrayal set against the backdrop of Austin’s contemporary music scene.
• “Unforgettable” (April 21) stars Katherine Heigl in a dramatic turn as Tessa Connover, a woman who becomes obsessed with her ex-husband’s new wife (Rosario Dawson).
Just in time for Mother’s Day, the cinematic mother-daughter team of Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn romp their way through “Snatched” (May 12). The comedy is scripted by Katie Dippold, who wrote last year’s “Ghostbusters” remake, and features lesbian comic Wanda Sykes.
And on the superhero front, there are some major entrances and exits coming this spring. On Friday, March 3, longtime LGBT ally Hugh Jackman steps away from the Wolverine franchise in “Logan.” On Friday, June 2, Gal Gadot grabs the golden lasso for her first solo feature film as “Wonder Woman.” And on a lighter note, Groot and the gang return in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” on May 5.
And for those who don’t have regular access to theaters that screen LGBT-affirming works or if you just want to someone else to curate a series for you, check out Frameline, a San Francisco-based media arts non-profit that releases LGBT-affirming films monthly on its YouTube channel. Search “Frameline” on YouTube to find out more. About 50 films hosted over the last five years are available for viewing there.
The fifth annual D.C. Web Fest is Saturday, April 1 from 4-11 p.m. featuring web series, online short films, apps and online games.