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2012 Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival to offer some family-friendly fare

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

In addition to the usual adult titles like Naked As We Came, this year’s Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival will also offer some G-rated fare.

“We’ve gotten a lot of questions: How did The Muppets Take Manhattan end up in a gay and lesbian film festival?” festival executive director Franc Castro says.

The 1984 Muppets classic — featuring quasi-gay cameos including Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch — will be screened “for nontraditional LGBT families,” Castro says.

Another festival highlight is also youth oriented: Country music star Chely Wright will receive the first Lavender Heart Award, for her activism since publicly identifying in 2010 as a lesbian and her autobiographical documentary, Wish Me Away.

“We were really impressed by the coordination of her coming out process. she coordinated her coming out with a book release, album release and a film release,” Castro says. “She continues to be a great advocate for our youth, with the opening of her Like Me center in Kansas City.”

Wright’s Like Me campaign (it’s also the title of her 2010 memoir) is aimed at young people. So is Wish Me Away, which will be screened Saturday at the festival.

“You get to meet her family, learn her history and how close she came to suicide because she couldn’t live her life closeted any more,” says Castro, adding that half the tickets to the screening will be given free to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people through local youth groups, schools and colleges.

Wright, 41, will attend the festival’s opening night Friday at the Colony Theatre and the Saturday screening at the Regal South Beach, both on Lincoln Road.

The singer, who is also on the national board of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is a bit uncomfortable about the film festival honor.

“An award for doing what so many have done with no awards, seems a little, I don’t know — I don’t want to belittle the award,” Wright says. “I’m awfully glad to get it.“

Another topic to be addressed at the festival: the LGBT handicapped.

“We’re showing Habana Muda, a film about a bisexual deaf mute,” Castro says. “And Austin Unbound, about a transgender female-to-male deaf mute, as well.”

The festival will show 65 films from 15 nations, according to Castro, who served as board member for six years and executive director since 2010.

Also being honored at this year’s festival: Mark “Marky G” Gilbert, a one-time South Florida radio personality, longtime gay activist and former festival board member. Actress Sharon Gless (Cagney and Lacey; Queer As Folk) is scheduled to present Gilbert with the festival’s 2012 Angel Heart Award.

“Every year we want to recognize somebody who’s done something significant for the festival or for the LGBT cultural arts community,” Castro says. “Marky G was a critical board member at an important time in the history of the festival, and remained as one of the longest-standing members for seven years. Marky’s commitment and passion for the festival remains at one of the highest levels I’ve ever seen of any person in South Florida.”

IF YOU GO

The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival runs Friday through May 6. Visit www.mglff.com for details and schedule.

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