Each year, the Louisville LGBT Film Festival brings Louisville the latest and greatest in LGBT films — movies that might not have hit the big screens at the local megaplex or even the small screen of your Roku or Firestick. The fest is a mixture of short and long films, spread out over three days, all screened at Village 8 Theatres.
Travis Myles, one of the event’s organizers, talked with Insider about this year’s offerings. He also introduced us to a couple of the filmmakers responsible for two of the films — Josh Howard, director and producer of “The Lavender Scare,” and Jennifer Kroot, director of “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin.”
One notable feature of this year’s fest is the addition of an extra documentary.
“We don’t typically do that,” said Myles.
The festival usually only includes one non-narrative feature, but the quality of both films made it impossible for the selection committee to leave one out.
“We had so much trouble choosing between them,” Myles admitted.
So they kept both.
“The Lavender Scare” documents a terrifying and frequently forgotten time for LGBTQ folks, a chapter in American history frequently overshadowed by The Red Scare.
“It was something I knew nothing about,” said director Josh Howard, “the extent to which the government went to get rid of gay people was something I knew nothing about.”
When Howard stumbled upon a book about that time in history, he was immediately drawn in.
“The thing that first attracted me was the story itself,” he said. “The film is based on the book called ‘The Lavender Scare,’ which is based on a doctoral dissertation by David Johnson … and I just happened to come across this book.”
Howard got Johnson’s permission to use the information and got right to work.
“I did work with David, and he gave us full access to his research and his files, but we found a couple of extra interviews that weren’t included in David’s book,” said Howard.
“We tell the story of people who were fired and who lost their jobs,” he said. “But then we also have interviews with the government officials who were responsible for instituting the policy.”
The policy, officially known as Executive Order 10450, stemmed from the idea that LGBTQ people were more likely to be communist spies because of the way their sexuality opened them up to blackmail.
The order was technically on the books long after The Red Scare ended, and Howard and his team discovered some pretty alarming and amazing facts about the policy’s bigoted legacy.
But you’ll have to buy a ticket to find out more.
“The Lavender Scare” should be of particular interest to theater fans who enjoyed Actors Theatre’s recent productions of “Angels in America.” That play featured a character named Roy Cohn, who was an actual historical figure. And while Howard and his team didn’t feature Cohn’s story in the film, Cohn was one of the people in charge of this government persecution.
“I was a longtime fan, I grew up in the Bay Area, so when I was a kid, my parents and their friends talked about ‘Tales of the City’ when it originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle,” said filmmaker Jennifer Kroot. “It really captured the essence of San Francisco.”
Kroot also was interested in Maupin’s conservative upbringing.
“I was, like, how can that be? There are a lot of interesting coincidences in his life, and just this massive transformation from extremely conservative because of his upbringing and trying to please his father, to the most openhearted progressive, openly gay person, before any one else was doing that,” said Kroot.
If you are more interested in narrative features, you’re all set: There are still plenty of feature films, including “God’s Own Country.”
“It’s kind of billed as the UK version of ‘Broke Back Mountain,’” said Myles.
Featuring stories set in rural areas is another way of representing unheard voices, according to Myles.
“Those stories are often overlooked. If people come to the festival from outside Louisville or rural Kentucky, they don’t really see their story on the screen,” he said.
Fans of zany romantic comedies will likely enjoy “Family Commitments.”
“It’s a really funny comedy about these guys who are getting married,” Myles said, noting that one of potential husbands needs to deal with his conservative family. “There are lots of twists and turns.”
He also recommended “Princess Cyd,” a coming-of-age tale of a young woman looking for love in Chicago.
The seventh annual Louisville LGBT Film Festival runs Oct. 20-22 at Village 8 Theatres, 4014 Dutchmans Lane. Tickets start at $8 per film, or $40 for a weekend pass. For a full lineup of films, download the whole schedule.