Event to open with 'Next,' close with 'Cheerleader'

ROME — Bucking the trend of gay fests given over almost exclusively to U.S. indies, the 15th Turin Intl. Gay & Lesbian Film Festival this year casts a wider net, assembling a competition lineup that looks beyond California and New York to take in gay-themed productions from Germany, France, Peru, Spain and the Philippines.

Also known as From Sodom to Hollywood, fest kicks off April 13 with John Schlesinger’s “The Next Best Thing,” starring Madonna and Rupert Everett, and wraps April 19 with Jamie Babbit’s “But I’m a Cheerleader.”

Highlighting a number of films dealing with sexual confusion and identity crises, the feature competition includes Rosa von Praunheim’s “The Einstein of Sex” (Germany), Maryo J. De Los Reyes’ “Efren’s Paradise” (Philippines), Francisco Lombardi’s “Don’t Tell Anyone” (Peru), Alfonso Albacete and David Menkes’ “I Will Survive” (Spain) and Vincent Dieutre’s “Tenebrae Lessons” (France).

Films from the U.S. are by no means absent, however, with Patrik-Ian Polk’s “Punks,” Jamie Yerkes’ “Spin the Bottle,” Harvey Marks’ “Swallows,” Jochen Hick’s “No One Sleeps” and David Moreton’s “Edge of Seventeen” all unspooling in competition.

Tackling subjects such as gay discrimination and persecution, the docu competition includes Martin Bedogne and Brent Scarpo’s “Journey to a Hate-Free Millennium,” inspired by the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard; Oscar-winning team Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Paragraph 175,” about pink-triangle persecution in Nazi Germany; and Zackie Achmat’s “Apostles of a Civilized Vice,” on treatment of gays in South Africa.

Among the fest’s customarily diverse lineup of sidebars is a retrospective on gay representation in British cinema, showcasing the bold portrayals of actors such as Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde, Oliver Reed and Quentin Crisp and films that range from classics like Basil Dearden’s “Victim,” Schlesinger’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and Ken Russell’s “Women in Love” to cutting-edge experimental work like Derek Jarman’s “The Angelic Conversation.”

Offering a provocative riposte to the Holy Year celebrations currently under way in Italy, the fest includes “What Jubilee?,” a special program that examines the rapport between homosexuals and the Church.

The regular Icons section this year spotlights Andy Warhol hunk Joe Dallesandro and ’60s Europop star Dalida, whose film appearances include 1986 feature “The Sixth Day” from leading Egyptian director Youssef Chahine. Hollywood gets a look via mini-retros on Greta Garbo, George Cukor and celebrated MGM costumer Adrian.

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