The best film festival I ever ate

The recent Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival offered a tasty menu of international cinema. But those festival-sponsored dinners at South Beach restaurants were delicious too. Another festival diary by the Advocate’s arts and entertainment editor.

BY Alonso Duralde

May 19 2006 12:00 AM ET

Saturday, April 29 

After another
great night’s sleep, I meet up with Marcus and Melvil
for breakfast at Puerto Saguas, which Dobson has
highly recommended. The restaurant serves a delicious
and reasonably priced breakfast, including
“Cuban toast” (a lengthy section of baked
bread split lengthwise and packed with butter) and a
reverse of the American way of serving
coffee—the cups come filled most of the way with warm
milk, and we get little pitchers of hot coffee to pour
in. When we enter, we see Ruby already there, chatting
with documentary filmmaker Lesli Klainberg, who’s
at the festival with Fabulous! The Story of Queer
Cinema.
(Full disclosure: I’m interviewed
in it. So are Ruby and Marcus, for that matter.)

After eating,
Marcus and Melvil and I walk through Miami Beach to the
theater, where I’ll be doing a tech run-through for
my 101 Must-See Movies program later in the
day. The humidity, thankfully, has cleared up, so even
though it’s a lengthy walk, it’s not a death
march. While Miami Beach is undeniably touristy,
there’s a unique local flavor here, thanks
greatly to the huge Cuban population. Even with the
occasional beach-towel-and-flip-flops souvenir store, Miami
Beach doesn’t look like any other seaside area
I’ve ever visited.

The tech
run-through goes smoothly. There’s a moment of panic
when it becomes apparent that the festival’s
somewhat vintage-y DVD players won’t
freeze-frame when paused, but the tech guys get new players
in no time at all, and everything is set to roll.

While waiting for
the DVD player issue to be resolved, I duck into a
“Meet the Festival Programmers” panel
discussion. Having been a programmer myself—at
Dallas’s USA Film Festival—I enjoy hearing the
Miami folks give answers to the questions I often wish
someone had bothered to ask me. Carol Coombes talks
about how each individual film requires lengthy
negotiations and has a unique set of
complications—Will the movie be done on time?
Has the distributor decided not to do any more
festivals? Are they locked into a premiere at another
festival at the same time? People tend to think that
festival directors have every movie in the world
sitting in front of them, and it’s just a matter of
saying, “I want that one and that one, but not
that one.” Trust me, it’s lots more
complicated than that.

Before my
presentation, there’s a screening of Fabulous!
I’ve watched the film on TV, but I’m
morbidly curious to see what my absurdly large head
looks like on the big screen. (And I’m not just being
self-conscious, mind you—I’ve literally had to
order headgear from a Web site called
BigHatStore.com.) The audience loves the film, and I guess
the cinematographer took pity on me, since I don’t
wind up looking like one-fourth of Mt. Rushmore during
my interviews.

Then I do my
101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men show, and
frankly, it’s all a blur to me. But people are
effusive afterward, so I hope that means that it went
well. Melvil tells me, after seeing the clip of Ryan
Dunn putting a condom-covered toy car up his nether regions
in Jackass: The Movie, that he understands why
I included the film in my book. And a quick shout-out
to Miami’s Books and Books for handling my
postscreening book signing.

And then
it’s off to another festival dinner, this time at
Tamara, on the back patio of the National Hotel. Ruby
observes that the lush foliage of the hotel’s
back courtyard is very reminiscent of Cuba, and since
she’s one of the few people I know who’s
actually been there, I take her word for it.
Tonight’s dinner takes place at a huge table, so I
can’t begin to ID everyone, but in addition to
the previous night’s folks, we’re joined
by the gregarious Jaie LaPlante, Another Gay Movie
costar and executive producer Jonah Blechman, and by a
cadre from the film Boy Culture, including
actor Darryl Stephens of Noah’s Arc fame,
producer Steven Israel, and writer-director (and
Advocate columnist) Q. Allan Brocka. Once
again, great food, great conversation. Part of me
always feels like an interloper at the grown-ups’
table at events like these, but we all have a blast.
Afterwards, the streets of Miami Beach are jammed with
tourists and taxis, so Darryl and I decide to forgo
grabbing a taxi and to walk back to our hotel. We’ve
never met prior to this evening, but the chat flows
freely, and before we know it, we’re back at
the Park Central.

Tags: Film

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