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MoFest: Annual gay and lesbian film festival expands its reach, its audience and its duration

Expect mo' features and mo' fun at the third annual MoFest! -- the Modesto International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

For the first time, the festival will span two weekends, screening an assortment of award-winning features and shorts Saturday and April 7 at the State Theatre. Sponsored by the Modesto/Stanislaus chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), MoFest! focuses on films about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.

The festival, which started in 2004 and was on hiatus during 2005 due to the State Theatre's renovations, has grown each year both in audience and film selection.

This year, both nights will have two feature-film presentations, in addition to a selection of shorts.

MoFest! coordinator Chuck Silva said the mission of MoFest! is less about raising awareness and more about having fun.

"It's not really being billed as an educational or statement event," he said. "It's just entertainment. It's watching some good movies that give you some laughs or give you something to think about. It's just fun."

Last year, close to 500 people attended both nights of the one-weekend festival. This year, Silva said he hopes to draw close to 700 viewers over the two weekends.

He said this year's films are "pretty mainstream, not edgy." Film selection was important, with an emphasis on new, unreleased projects. Unlike years past, none of the short films have screened on television before and the feature presentations have traveled only festival circuits.

"There is such accessibility to anything you want now with Netflix, Blockbuster and TV," Silva said. "People interested in this type of film want to see things that are new. We didn't want to show anything you could just get at Blockbuster."

The shorts include a documentary about the Soulforce Equality Ride. Soulforce promotes equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people through nonviolent resistance.

Some 30 of the riders on the bus tour, who travel to colleges and universities with anti-GLBT policies across the county, will stop in Modesto for a gathering from 4 to

6 p.m. Saturday at McClatchy Square Park. The riders also will attend the festival's first night to answer questions after the documentary's screening.

The features lineup:

SATURDAY

7:15 p.m., "Back Soon" -- A romantic story with a supernatural twist features two straight men who feel an inexplicable connection. Director Rob Williams will be in attendance and will answer audience questions during the intermission. This will be the film's first screening for a primarily gay audience.

9:08 p.m., "The Gymnast" -- The winner of 19 awards (including 12 best feature honors) at film festivals internationally, the movie chronicles the journey of two women who find strength and love as part of an aerial dance troupe.

APRIL 7

7:13 p.m., "Go West" -- Set in war-torn 1990s when Yugoslavia fell apart, the story follows two male lovers (one a Serb, the other a Muslim) whose lives are torn by the aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

9:11 p.m., "Long Term Relationship" -- Another feature by director Williams, this light romantic comedy is about a gay Los Angelino who meets a nice Southern boy and wonders if he is the one.

Silva said the festival's community support has grown over the years. This year, both Bacchus and Nosh restaurants will have special "Dinner and a Double Feature" promotions with priority seating and specials for festival attendees from 5 to 7 p.m. each night.

Silva said MoFest! has the potential to make a name for itself in the valley's GLBT film circuit.

"Fresno's Reel Pride (film festival) is a big thing down there and it goes on for two weeks. Sacramento's is equally as large," he said. "I think Modesto has a place in that. We have a large enough community to support that."


WHAT: MoFest! — Modesto International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

WHEN: 6:15-11 p.m. Saturday and April 7

WHERE: State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto

TICKETS: $10 per night

CALL: 527-4697

ONLINE: www.modestofilmfestival.com

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