Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival celebrates 30 years

Acacia Coronado

Long before South By Southwest and Austin Film Festival stepped out on the Austin festival scene, a film movement focused on LGBTQ issues arose in a small theater on the UT campus. Today, the short movie series that drew lines outside the doors of Dobie Theater on move-in weekend has come to be known as the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival — one of the longest-running cinema festivals in the city. 

This year, aGLIFF will celebrate their 30th anniversary from Thursday to Sunday. Though the first year began with just four films and a handful of shorts, by the fourth year it was in the process of becoming a non-profit with a full-fledged board, and today the festival is made up of a variety of films by an international array of filmmakers. 

aGLIFF founder Scott Dinger, who worked for 17 years with the festival, said the idea to start the event came to him when he worked at the Dobie Theater programming films. The inspiration, he said, came after seeing a 1987 British film on gay issues that had premiered in Los Angeles. He wanted to play the film at the Dobie, which led to the founding of the festival.

“We didn’t have all of the gay and lesbian representation in television,” Dinger said. “The only place that you could see (many of these films) was at the film festival because there wasn’t Netflix. This was the first place to meet people and have this community.”

In recent years, Dinger said new technologies have allowed for a wider representation of viewpoints, expressions and ideas to be portrayed in film. With greater accessibility to filmmaking, he said the diversity of the film submissions has only grown. Now, for $50, filmmakers can submit their independent creations
for consideration. 

Current aGLIFF program director Jim Brunzell III said he seeks originality and diversity in storytelling when researching films for the festival. 

“It is a variety, niche film festival,” Brunzell said. “There is a lot of great LGBTQ artists and producers that have stories they are passionate about, and when you see them up on screen you see why it is important that we have an LGBTQ film festival in Austin.”

Rebecca Adler, whose Austin-based documentary “Trans Youth” will be premiering at aGLIFF, said her film will focus on issues such as hormones,
relationships, coming out to family and employment. 

“(It is about) all of the issues that people go through in life that are exaggerated in terms of having to do that in a world that isn’t always so supportive,” Adler said. 

For Adler, the inspiration of the film came after meeting a transgender student while working as a therapist and witnessing their struggle in a harsh environment that wasn’t very accepting of their identity. 

“I hope (the film) helps to bring to the forefront of people’s minds that trans individuals are people first and being trans is just one part of someone’s identity,” Adler said. “I hope it starts some conversations about the further realization of empathy and learning more.”

As the festival continues to expand, Dinger said he hopes it will maintain a community atmosphere and continue allowing visitors to get together with friends, discuss films and meet new people. 

“For those five days you can immerse yourself in the queer community here in Austin,” Dinger said.  “I think it is still about community, I think that is the main thing that has remained.”