aGLIFF brings the best of LGBTQ films to Austin

When I heard that the documentary Queering the Script would be playing at this 32nd annual aGLIFF, I knew I had to get on a plane and get myself to Austin, Texas to represent. The screening of QtS was terrific, and so were many other wonderful selections that made it into this year’s aGLIFF. aGLIFF stands for All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival and brought in a selection a diverse and inclusive films from around the world. While I would have loved to have seen all of them, here are reviews of the queer women-centric films I did get to see at the festival (and through screeners).

Conversion Therapist (Directed by Bears Rebecca Fonte – 2019 – U.S. Premiere

This horror short, written and directed by aGLIFF board member Bears Rebecca Fonte, turns the tables on a man who has made his name as a conversion therapist. Justine (Sara Fletcher) poses as babysitter to get close to the wealthy Ira (Michael Dickson) who has made his money by the harmful practice of conversion therapy. Justine drugs and kidnaps Ira, and brutally punishes him for what he did to one of her partners, Salina (a very good Evalyn Jake). It’s not for the faint of heart. What director Fonte creates is an atmosphere of terror and emotional brutality that mirrors the horrors of conversion therapy.

Bit (Directed by Brad Michael Elmore – 2019)

This fun and fiercely feminist vampire feature is led by Nicole Maines (Supergirl) and has a delightful ensemble who really dig into the material with aplomb. Maines plays Laurel, a young trans woman leaving her home in the Pacific Northwest for a summer in LA with her older brother. Soon she finds herself catching the eye of a pack of woman vampires, and is turned by vamp Izzy (Zolee Griggs) after a romantic encounter. Laurel is invited to join the group by head vamp, Duke (Dianna Hopper). Maines does a terrific job as the disaffected teen who has compartmentalized a lot of her trauma, and finds a freedom and power in becoming one of the undead. As Duke, actress Hopper is a real stand out, stealing every scene with the curl of her lip or a flick of her cigarette. This is a must see, especially for the upcoming Halloween season.

Vita and Virginia (Director Chanya Button – 2018)

2019 is certainly the year of the lesbian/bisexual period piece. With the stories like the luminous Gentleman Jack, Tell it to the Bees, Wild Nights with Emily, we’re seeing stories about women way before the queer revolution. In Vita and Virginia, the love story between the two brilliant and famous English writers is explored. Both women were married to men, but were drawn to each other and carried on a love affair, then a friendship for many years. Gemma Arterton plays Vita Sackville-West, who was already whispered about in London circles for her many affairs with women. Vita, who is full of vigor and daring, falls for the shy and reserved Virginia Woolf, first through her writing, then in person. Vita pursues Virginia with a fervor, and soon enough, the women amass a collection of love letters that will stand the test of time. Elizabeth Debicki, who is quickly becoming a Hollywood go-to for strong characters, plays Woolf with a quiet intensity and vulnerability that really draws you in to this love story.

The Archivettes (Director Megan Rossman – 2019)

The Lesbian Herstory Archives has been an institution for more than 40 years, and the story of how it came be is given its due in this charming doc. With interviews with current and former achivettes, including founders Deborah Edel and Joan Nestle, viewers get to see how the archives began as a humble home library, to now the largest and most extensive record of lesbian and queer women’s history in the world. After seeing this film, you’ll want to add a visit to your next NYC itinerary.

I Know Her (Directed by Fawza Mirza – 2019)

This 3 minute short appeared as part of the Comedy Shorts program and packs a lot of punch into a very small amount of time. After two queer women hook up, they realize they have waaaay too many connections in common, including one really big one. The reveal had the audience screaming with laughter. Check it out if this short pops up near you.

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