Tampa’s International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival returns Thursday with a new name and the usual commitment to same-sex cinema. This year it’s called Clip 19, noting the numbers of years this event has been a mainstay of Tampa Bay culture. The 11-day showcase is centered around Tampa Theatre, with a few screenings at Baywalk 20 in St. Petersburg and several parties in downtown Tampa and Ybor City.
Nineteen straight years of queer cinema; quite an accomplishment when you think back to its origins, when churches and family values groups — even the Ku Klux Klan — regularly griped about or picketed the festival. One measure of how far we’ve come as a society is the relative silence from protesters today.
This year’s celebrity guest is Bruce Vilanch, the go-to guy in Hollywood whenever an awards show or a celebrity speaker needs jokes written. Vilanch was the subject of 1999’s documentary Get Bruce!, in which everyone from Bette Midler and Robin Williams to Steven Seagal and Florence Henderson lauded his wit.
Vilanch will attend Thursday’s VIP warm-up party and opening night screening of Ruby Blue, starring Bob Hoskins as a straight man wooed by a gay neighbor. Vilanch is really here to support Stewart Wade’s teen comedy Tru Loved, screening Friday at 7 p.m., in which he appears. His pre- and post-show remarks should be hoots.