Scene: Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

She’s an up-and-coming artist in every sense of the word, about to release her first studio album, and one of her songs was featured on a fourth-season L Word episode — surely a good sign. After her set, I spoke with her briefly. Sol was incredibly gracious, greeting me with a hug and a smile.

Sol Ruiz

I also met with a few festival workers who were more than happy to discuss that night’s screening of The Edge of Heaven and the overall quality of the women’s films. Surely, we’ve come a long way from the days where the mere presence of lesbians in a film was a reason to cherish it (I’m looking at you, Go Fish!), and the centerpiece women’s films (including The Secrets, The Edge of Heaven and audience choice winner The World Unseen) really proved this point.

It may have been the wine talking, but I couldn’t help but think that this was a sign. I imagined the headline “Lesbian films no longer terrible!” — at least those made outside of North America.

Scene 3: Movies in the Park – Tru Loved and HBO shorts
The Flamingo South Beach
May 2, 2008

One of the most popular events of the festival is the outdoor screening held at the luxurious Flamingo condo overlooking the bay. This year, the coordinators put together a fantastic evening of queer film under the stars, with a premiere screening of three HBO-sponsored shorts and the feature Tru Loved.

The evening began with a little casual schmoozing in the twilight, fueled again by the sponsorship of Absolut. In fact, all of the festival’s sponsors were in attendance, as the Tylenol PM people (“sleepy kids,” complete with cute PJ’s and annoyed marketer expressions) were handing out free samples — best not to mix with the vodka.

I talked briefly with Karla DiBenedetto, director of the sole lesbian-themed short, Trophy, a wonderfully subversive piece about a teen who finds her dad’s new fiancée incredibly appealing. The film was quite funny, with a rather unexpected twist that speaks to the lothario teenager in all of us.

DiBenedetto explained that her script (and two others) were selected by HBO, and the filmmakers were given grants to produce their work for the channel. Like most directors of short films, she’s looking to make the jump into features, and if Trophy is any indication, she’s well on her way.

As for that night’s feature, the festival programmers couldn’t have picked a better film for the easygoing atmosphere than the bouncy, hilarious and surprisingly touching Tru Loved. The film follows Tru, a straight high schooler with the coolest lesbian moms on the planet, who becomes a beard for the school’s star quarterback. It’s a wonderfully inclusive and diverse film, with an interracial lesbian relationship front and center.

The film’s director, Stewart Wade, and several of its stars were in attendance, chomping on popcorn and mingling about in the breezy tropical evening. I saw Najarra Townsend (Tru) and the ever-radiant Nichelle Nichols (Grams in the film, though we all know her as Uhura from the original Star Trek). Nichols looked positively regal and appeared to be having a blast, laughing right along with the audience and giggling good-naturedly at her own appearances. Townsend was subdued and gracious when various audience members came up to congratulate her on her performance.

After the film, Wade, Nichols and Townsend fielded a little Q&A session, in which a few enthusiastic audience members (including one Trekkie) poured on their love for the project.

Nichols (left) and Townsend