After screening 87 films from all over the world (including a rare gem from the Bahamas!), hosting numerous visiting filmmakers and actors, and selling more than 8700 tickets, ImageOut secured yet another victory with the huge success of our annual October film festival, now in its 18th year. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this Festival just keeps getting better each year.
Opening Night set the tone for the 10-day event with energy and enthusiasm. Both featured Gala films sold out, forcing procrastinating ticket buyers to form long lines for limited “Rush Only” admission. Granted, our second feature of the evening sold out long before the Opening Night festivities began, but hopefully anyone who didn’t score themselves a seat will remember the lesson next year! Following the screenings of The Four-Faced Liar and Howl, guest actors headed by writer Marja-Lewis Ryan and Academy-Award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Friedman engaged and embraced their audiences in entertaining and informative Q&A sessions. Mr. Friedman and his absent co-director Rob Epstein are also this year’s recipients of the prestigious ImageMaker Award for their outstanding contribution to LGBT cinema. The festive and joyous atmosphere continued at the nearby Eros Bar & Restaurant for the Opening Night Party, stretching this already long day into the wee hours of the morning.
The rest of the Festival schedule kept the pace zooming along with great films screening to packed audiences and garnering their highest approvals. Most importantly, people enjoyed seeing friends from the community, not to mention, meeting new ones, and being able to mingle with our fabulous guest artists. ImageOut has truly become a cultural force to reckon with around these parts.
Here are some of this year’s highlights:
- The impressive list of guests included hot and popular LGBT personalities like Casper Andreas, Jesse Archer, Cathy DeBuono, and Jill Bennett, along with new-to-the-scene artists such as Paris P. Pickard, Adam Huss, Keith Hartman and Israel Luna.
- Oscar-nomination hopeful Undertow received an enthusiastic and emotional reception, helping it win the ImageOut Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.
- Local short films are back with a vengeance receiving high marks during the Flower City Flicks Program. An independent jury gave Judgment Day the Mary Elizabeth Knight Award for Best Local Short. The crowd votes favored both You Belong With Me and Hens and Chicks in a rare tie for the Audience Award for Best Short Film (of the entire festival!). The Rochester area is bursting at the seams with artistic talent!
- The personal struggles bravely shared in the Archive Night documentary, Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, still resonate with the audiences of today.
- Making the Boys, Audience Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, brought back memories from a tumultuous era and gave our younger audience members some good lessons to carry home with them.
- Festival selections screened in 5 venues this year including theatres at RIT and U of R, enforcing our commitment to reaching out to everyone. The screening at U of R was a wonderful way to help the University celebrate their Meliora weekend and the 40th anniversary of the campus student pride group.
- 5 sold out shows including both Opening Night and the Closing Night films.
While potentially disastrous problems like digital equipment malfunction and a last-minute party venue change threatened to disrupt the Festival proceedings, our resourceful and hardworking team of volunteers ensured that everything ran as smoothly as possible. Kudos to each and every one of you!
Unfortunately, there is not really a lot of time to bask in this year’s achievements as planning for our 19th year begins immediately. Let’s hope we continue the tradition of besting the previous year’s accomplishments as we get even closer to celebrating two full decades of success. Check the ImageOut festival website and blog to see how you can help make next year an even bigger successful event!
~ Michael Gamilla