With these two films especially, the festival organizers wanted to make sure there would be resources on board for viewers dealing with some of the films' issues. â€œWe want to let people know that this is a representation, but there's also a next step,â€ says Jones, who has a background in social work. They also hope to show those who have no experience or awareness of these issues that they are a reality for some people.
Other short films screening at See Us in the Life tackle subjects ranging from parenting to gay marriage to politics. In Brooklyn's Bridge to Jordan, written, directed and produced by Tina Mabry, the long-term partner of a woman who has been critically injured in an accident struggles to repair her strained relationship with their teenage son, Jordan.
Jumpin' the Broom: The New Covenant tells the personal stories of black lesbian and gay couples whose commitments redefine contemporary notions of love, politics and religion. The film is directed by award-winning filmmaker Debra A. Wilson (Butch Mystique) and features bestselling author Michael Eric Dyson.
In Sarang Song, from director Tamika Miller, the relationship between two women is put to the test when one joins the student protest movement during the politically and socially turbulent early 1970s.
The feature films showcased at this year's festival touch on topics including queer hip-hop, drag and AIDS. The documentary White Shadows, from Mialyn Hanna, profiles celebrity hairstylist Dalee Henderson, a gay, African-American man raised in the segregated, rural South of the 1950s, who grapples with his AIDS diagnosis.
The festival's opening feature is Pick Up the Mic, which has been garnering acclaim on the festival circuit for its exploration of how queer hip-hop is challenging a traditionally homophobic musical genre. Director Alex Hinton's documentary features leading queer hip-hop artists including dyke rappers God-des and JenRo, in performances and interviews. See Us In The Life expects Tim'm T. West and others from the Oakland-based Deep Dickollective to make appearances at the festival.
Another centerpiece is an advance screening of writer and director Maurice Jamal's Dirty Laundry, in which a successful black gay man (Rockmond Dunbar) who lives in New York is suddenly called back to his Southern hometown, where he must confront his religious, traditional family, including his mother (Loretta Divine). The film recently took two top audience awards, Best U.S. Feature and Best Performance by an Actor (Devine) at the American Black Film Festival in Miami.
Devine and Dunbar will be present at the Atlanta screening of Dirty Laundry, which Jones expects to attract a broad audience, including LGBT allies and Devine and Dunbar fans amid the general public.
The closing night feature, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch, is a follow-up to Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning (1990). How Do I Look also focuses on the culture of New York's transgender and gay ball competitions, which Busch and company have been documenting since 1997.
In addition to the film festival, ITLA's Pride celebration features the second annual Southeastern Transgender Wellness Conference, a Black LGBT Pride Health Expo and a poetry slam and performances by Punany Poets, among other events.
See Us In The Life has always attracted a wide variety of attendants, particularly in terms of racial diversity. â€œOne thing I love about Atlanta is that we get support from all aspects of our community when we do things like this,â€ Jones says. â€œOur volunteers this year aren't just black GLBT people.â€
He continues: â€œI'm really excited that we're able to build allies. I doubt a lot of these films would've been made if the filmmakers had to depend on dollars from people who looked or had sex the same way they did. That's an important aspect of our reality.â€
For more information on See Us in the Life, visit the festival's official website.