Palm Springs is well-known for its star-studded International Film Festival, held every January. However, the city also hosts a well-regarded annual LGBTQ film festival, known as Cinema Diverse—and it’s taking place at the Camelot Theatres Sept. 17-20.
Local comedian Shann Carr has been affiliated with the festival since its start, beginning as a volunteer eight years ago.
“Every city in America had an LGBTQ film festival, and Palm Springs is known for having its very own international film festival, and we were the only town without an LGBTQ film festival,” she said. “For a gay town, that’s pretty surprising.”
Through the years, Carr has seen trends in festival submissions come and go from year to year. For example, she said films on the subjects of gay marriage and equality are starting to wane.
“You watch the crest of what’s on the front-burner of our community at the given time. In the past couple of years, it’s been all gay marriage and babies,” she said. “… Now, it’s, ‘Enough about the weddings! Enough about gay rights!’ Right as we gained marriage equality, those submissions dropped right down. Television and film is how a lot of the world learned that gay people aren’t scary people. It really is about education.”
What’s a current trend in festival submissions?
“The transgender issue has now come up,” she said. “… I haven’t seen a lot of (the films focusing on transgender issues), but I know there are a handful of them, as well as some shorts. Last year, one of the most talked-about shorts was called Brace, and it was about a transgender man who was at a bar, and this guy started liking him, and they started liking each other—and then the other guy found out the man was transgender.”
Carr has seen the festival’s Opening Night centerpiece film, Eisenstein in Guanajuato.
“The opening film is amazing. It’s about a Russian gay man, and it’s beautiful,” she said. “He speaks with a thick Russian accent throughout the entire film, and so much amazing stuff comes out of it. It’s a story about a Russian filmmaker in the ’30s who comes through the United States and learns he can make a film for next to nothing in Mexico. He spends a visa period filming 200 miles of film and discovering his sexuality—and he’s a virgin at 33. There’s a bit of frontal nudity, and as a lesbian watching it, I thought, ‘Innocent, playful penis!’ It was a beautiful, interesting, artistic penis.”
Carr said there is something she wishes there was less of at the festival: the divide between the sexes. However, she conceded the divide is real.
“I didn’t want to see a men’s compilation and a women’s compilation,” she said. “As I took a handful of people into a screening … as soon as the guys got down to it for a sex scene, the women were like, ‘Do I have to watch this?’ The guys are all like, ‘LET’S GO! WOO HOO! … As much as I was trying to push them into that progress, they weren’t having it at all.”
Considering all the positive changes taking place in the LGBTQ community, I asked Carr whether an LGBTQ film festival will still be necessary and needed in a decade.
“I think so, because humans are like this, and animals are like this: They see their reflection, and they want to belong, be affirmed, be enlightened,” she said. “… It’s an explanation of the changes we’re seeing, but I don’t see us completely going to the cliff and falling over. Ethnic groups still want to see each other and congregate with each other.”
Cinema Diverse takes place from Thursday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 20, primarily at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets range from $13 for individual screenings to $159 for an all-festival pass. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit cinemadiverse.org.