Pride month in C-U is starting off perfectly this year with the UP Center’s Third Annual LGBT Film Festival, which happens this weekend. I’m particularly bitter about it because I’ll be out of town, so I’ll have to miss it, and this year’s selection is the best we’ve had yet.

UP Center Board Members Ann Hettinger, Jeff Chandler, Kevin Bowersox-Johnson, and Caroline Nappo made up this year’s committee, and when I spoke with Bowersox-Johnson recently, he told me that “film selection is absolutely the hardest decision a committee has to make.” But they had help this year through a “phenomenal” $1,000 grant from the Acorn Equality Fund. This grant was extremely significant because the UP Center’s costs for the festival include “renting The Art Theater and the viewing rights to the films, which can run anywhere from $250–$500 per film, per view.” In the past, the festival relied entirely on donation of films. This year, because of the grant, the films were all but paid for: “The purpose of the grant was to grow the festival in quality of films and attendance. We’re hoping that one will translate to the other.”

Minneci’s Ristorante has also generously donated to the festival this year. Anyone who buys an individual ticket to a movie can take his/her ticket stub that day and receive a free dessert. Those who buy a festival pass ($35) can get a free appetizer. A $50 pass will get the moviegoer entry to all movies and an appetizer, entree, and dessert at Minneci’s. “We’re very excited to be partnering with Acorn Equality Fund and Minneci’s to bring a better movie-going experience to the entire community here,” said Bowersox-Johnson.

In their selection process, Bowersox-Johnson told me that the committee works hard to get a full representation of the entire queer community:

This year we’re showing BearCity, a community that we haven’t reached out to in any of our programming. And so the film fest seems like a great place to start. In regards to the lesbian community, we’ve got Edie & Thea and Saving Face. There’s Tomboy, which is about a transgender youth. In the Family is about a gay couple adopting, and we have twin gay brothers in Hollywood to Dollywood.

We really do try to be very cognizant of the film choices that we make, to ensure that they span the different aspects of our community. We’ll never get it fully in one day, but as we grow into having a multiple-day festival, we’ll be able to do that even better than we are now.

Brief descriptions and trailers of all the films showing at the festival are below. Reviews of many of the films will be published throughout the week.

The festival begins at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 9. Tickets are $7.50 per movie. Details are at the end of this article.

Poster of Hollywood to Dollywood
Hollywood to Dollywood

Documentary. Twin brothers Gary & Larry Lane have written a script that contains a role for their idol, Dolly Parton. A decision to hand deliver the script to her personally leads to a cross-country journey that begins at the Hollywood Walk of Fame and ends in Pigeon Forge, TN. This film features cameos from Leslie Jordan, Beth Grant, Chad Allen, Ann Walker, Dustin Lance Black, and, of course, Dolly Parton.

Best line from trailer: “I don’t know what the sodomy laws are in Tennessee, but bless their hearts.”


Poster of Edie & Thea
Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement

Documentary. Edie and Thea met and fell in love during the 1960s. Their engagement lasted 40+ years, until their marriage to each other in Toronto. In this documentary, we get to know them, as they reminisce about their relationship, the civil rights movement, and their life together.

Best line from trailer: “It was about 1962, and I suddenly couldn’t take it anymore and I called an old friend of mine and I said, ‘If you know where the lesbians go, please take me there.’”


Poster of Tomboy

Drama. When his family moves into a new neighborhood, 10-year-old Laure (who has until now, lived as a girl) presents as a boy to the neighborhood children. Tomboy highlights “the significance of gender identity in social interaction from an early age [and] the difficulties of being transgender and young.” In French, with English subtitles.


Poster of In the Family
In the Family

Drama. Cody and Joey live in Martin, Tennessee, where they are raising their son, Chip. When Cody dies suddenly in a car accident, it’s discovered that he named his sister as Chip’s guardian in his will. As happens so often with same-sex couples, Joey’s in-laws turn against him, and the laws in Tennessee are not on his side.

Best line from trailer: “Really think about who or what is in your way. Live with these questions awhile. … You’ll just have to go over them again and again, until you’ve mastered the mess.”


Poster of Saving Face
Saving Face

Romantic comedy. A semi-closeted Asian-American woman has fallen in love, but is hesitant to come out to her traditionalist mother. What she doesn’t know, however, is that her mother has something to hide as well. In English and Mandarin (with English subtitles).

Best line from trailer: “You talked to your mother about us? Does she know we have sex?!”


Poster of BearCity

Romantic comedy. Set in New York’s bear scene, this film follows a group of lusty, brazen, fun-loving, close friends as they get ready for an upcoming party weekend. The summary for this film says that it takes its cue from Sex and the City, and I hope that’s not true.

Best line from trailer: “Who wants to eat my ass?”


Reel It UP LGBT Film Festival

Date: June 9
Time: 10:00 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
Location: The Art Theater


10:00 a.m.: Hollywood to Dollywood
11:45 a.m.: Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement
1:05 p.m.: Tomboy
2:40 p.m.: In the Family
5:30–7:30 p.m.: Dinner Break
7:30 p.m.: Saving Face
9:25 p.m.: BearCity


  • $7.50 / movie at the door (ticket stub gets you a free dessert at Minneci's)
  • $35 for a pass to all movies (includes a free appetizer at Minneci's)
  • $50 for a pass that includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert at Minneci's the day of the film festival

Passes can be purchased through The UP Center of Champaign County's website.