Elite members of the film world may have been rubbing elbows at the globe’s most prominent film festival in Cannes as recently as last week, but for filmmaker Chris Durant and his team of volunteers, the only film festival that truly matters right now is being held not an ocean’s length away, but within our collective backyard.

Today, Durant and his crew open the doors of Minneapolis’ Saint Anthony Main Theater to present the Second Annual Out Twin Cities Film Fest.  The only film festival in the Twin Cities area committed overtly to offering a platform for local and international LGBTQ filmmakers, last year’s inaugural screening of the OTCFF was best characterized by its modest selection of films, screened within the intimate confines of the historic Heights Theater.  With a larger venue and a greater volume of submissions and volunteer support, however, attendees can anticipate a far more ambitious effort in this Festival’s sophomore year.

“There are four days this year whereas [last year’s Fest] only had two,” says Durant, who is serving his second year as Festival Director.  In all, this year’s Fest has scheduled ten features, over a dozen short films and four music videos to be screened throughout the four days.  Of those submissions, Durant laments that only seven titles come from Minnesota filmmakers.  “This is either because not many local queer filmmakers are aware of the festival,” Durant explains, “or not many films were made this year.” Durant elaborates that maintaining the tone and the quality of the Fest also required the preclusion of a few local submissions.

The OTCFF additionally will offer platforms for several filmmakers to speak to Festival attendees.  Slated to speak Saturday evening is adult filmmaker Buck Angel.  Director Mike Skiff is also scheduled to make an appearance; he will host a Q&A following the screening of his film Kink Crusaders.  Attendees who hold out to the Festival’s final day will be treated to a screenwriting workshop, led by Au Pair, Kansas writer/director JT O’Neal.  Au Pair, Kansas is set to close the festival following O’Neal’s workshop.

Last year, the Film Fest was notable for showcasing a great deal more than just movies, and this year should be no different.  “This year’s festival is truly about community and ‘Making It Better,’” Says Durant, referencing the theme to this year’s OTCFF, itself an obvious play on the “It gets Getter” mantra that many in the community have supportively embraced.

Indeed, if the announced lineup for this year is any indicator, OTCFF 2011 appears as resolute in its commitment to the progress made in the Twin Cities LGBTQ community outside of the cinema as it is committed to the filmmakers being showcased.  Scheduled at tonight’s opening, which is free to the public, is a screening of the Bill Brummell and Geoffrey Sharp timely film Bullied.  The film will be bookended by the announcement of the Rainbow Health Initiative Photo Contest winners and a tribute to the family of Justin Aaberg, who killed himself last fall due to homophobic bullying at school.

The Film Festival will also offer a platform to Minnesota State Rep. Steve Simon, famous most recently for his memorable quip in opposition to Minnesota’s Marriage Amendment.

Holding a sophomore film festival with this kind of scope and ambition is sure to cause as many obstacles as it does opportunities.  Durant concedes the journey to realizing this year’s festival has not been easy, with challenges ranging anywhere from obtaining sponsors to finding out how best to utilize the talents of a much larger body of volunteers.  But Durant remains optimistic about the quality of films he and his team have lined up for this year’s attendees.  “We have sought out a wide array of amazing films and events to make this festival provocative and diverse.”

Will the Second Annual Out Twin Cities Film Fest make good on its goal of “Making it Better” through community and through cinema?  We will have to see what this weekend has to offer.

The Out Twin Cities Film Festival will be playing at the Saint Anthony Main Theater from June 2 and June 5.  The Official Event Schedule is available here.

For more information on the Out Twin Cities Film Festival and to purchase tickets, visit the Festival’s official web site.

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