Swaying the court of public opinion

The ninth Annual Dayton LGBT Film Festival

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Photo: Fabio Audi as Gabriel and Ghilherme Lobo as Leonardo in “The Way He Looks”


It seems somewhat fitting this October marks a degree of anticipation as Supreme Court watchers await word as to whether the High Court will hear cases dealing with same-sex marriage. With several cases pending (seven currently), it appears the Court might be stalling to see if additional cases make their way up the judicial chain of command, before the justices decide to tackle the issue head-on. It is intriguing, thus far, the appeals courts have all ruled state bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional, but the silence from above speaks volumes.

While the Supreme Court may be the final arbiter of justice in the land, we live in an age when public opinion certainly has the power to influence hearts and minds in our local communities, and what could be more persuasive than a collection of moving stories, told from a variety of perspectives? What better forum is there, to speak directly to the people who matter most – friends, family, co-workers and neighbors – than an event like the Dayton LGBT Film Festival, which runs from Oct. 10–12 (with screenings taking place at The Neon)?

It should be noted it was not the intention of festival programmers to curate based on any particular political agenda, nor is the aim to reach out only to the faithful members of the Dayton LGBT community. As noted in the festival blurb posted on The Neon’s website, “Just like you don’t have be Jewish to enjoy the Jewish Film Fest and you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, you don’t have to be gay to enjoy the great films of this year’s Dayton LGBT Film Fest – you just have to have an open mind and heart and enjoy great movies.”

But being open-minded means embracing ideas and perspectives that can challenge established beliefs and/or delicate sensibilities. In truth, especially when it comes to film, that openness is about a willingness to take a journey to an unfamiliar place in potentially uncomfortable shoes.

Imagine, for instance, what it might be like to be Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), the blind protagonist in the festival opener “The Way He Looks,” as he attempts to forge an independent path for himself – deciding to travel abroad for school – a choice that disappoints a very close friend, until the arrival of a new student forces Leonardo to reconsider his plans. “The Way He Looks,” expanded from a short (“I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone”), which screened at the festival back in 2011, captures emotional and situational complexities that, at their root, are not even that unfamiliar to audiences, but may create subtle shifts in understanding and awareness.

On the bolder, more confrontational end, “Out in the Night,” a documentary from writer-director Blair Doroshwalther explores the stunning legal drama that results when a group of four African-American lesbians, enjoying a night out in a gay-friendly New York City neighborhood, are violently and sexually threatened by a man on the street. Defending themselves and venturing on past the initial skirmish, the women soon find themselves caught up in a legal battle when police respond to 911 calls from the scene, and arrest the women. Eventually, they are found guilty of assault and dubbed a “Gang of Killer Lesbians” in the media. Obviously feeding into questions of who is the victim of abuse (an even larger issue currently, in light of the domestic abuse concerns in the NFL), “Out in the Night” is exactly the kind of story that will challenge audiences to develop a broader view of stereotypes and biased assumptions and the abuse of power by a majority (white male) system that has always attempted to use morality as a weapon without questioning its own values.

The real lesson, regarding the Dayton LGBT Film Festival, is to leave your preconceived notions at the door, enjoy a great and diverse program of films and carry these stories with you when you leave.

For more information about the festival program, special event and tickets, please visit daytonlgbt.com.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at terrencetodd.wordpress.com.

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Reach DCP Film Critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at TerrenceTodd.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ttsternenzi.

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