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Provincetown International Film Festival Touts Genre-Bending Films

John Cameron Mitchell, writer, director and star of 2001 rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and this year’s Filmmaker on the Edge Award recipient at the Provincetown Intl. Film Festival, has never been a “genre-based person.”

“I like to mix,” says Mitchell, who also directed the films “Shortbus,” “Rabbit Hole” and “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.” He went the podcast route with his latest project, “Anthem: Homunculus” — a 10-part semiautobiographical musical featuring Glenn Close, Patti LuPone and Cynthia Erivo — after deeming it “too weird” and genre-crossing for Hollywood. “Life is not a genre then, either. It’s comedy and drama and music and mystery and fear and pain and love and laughter. So my pieces tend to be as varied as my life.”

With “Hedwig,” Mitchell fused rock ’n’ roll, Broadway, drag and performance art, and also pushed the gender fluidity of his German punk-rocker character. Mitchell will appear in conversation with resident artist John Waters and there will be a special screening of the film, winner of PIFF’s 2001 Audience Award.

“He has a very wide breadth of gender-bending and ability to transcend time and space,” says fest artistic director Lisa Viola. “I think he exactly embodies what Provincetown stands for, which is openness and acceptance.”

The 21st annual festival will run June 12-16 in the artsy community on the tip of Cape Cod and showcase narrative features, shorts and documentaries that Viola says will speak to the community.

“We have quite a few films with LGBTQ content,” she says. “We also have a lot of women filmmakers, [and] we try to put an emphasis on emerging filmmakers.”
Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo’s debut feature “Brittany Runs a Marathon” — a Sundance award-winner that Amazon Studios is releasing Aug. 23 — will open the festival. The comedy-drama hybrid, about a woman who reclaims her life through running, stars Jillian Bell, PIFF’s Next Wave Award recipient.

“Normally, this character would be the side character who comes in and cracks jokes,” says Bell, who also stars in another festival selection, Lynn Shelton’s “Sword of Trust.” “I think people will relate to the journey of choosing yourself first … and choosing to make your life bigger than you can imagine.”

Judith Light, who plays a soap star in closing-night film “Before You Know It,” will receive the Excellence in Acting Award. Viola is excited to show features including Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” and Chinonye Chukwu’s “Clemency,” plus documentaries including “Maiden,” about an all-female sailing team, and “Circus of Books,” chronicling the LGBTQ-rooted West Hollywood bookstore.

PIFF executive director and filmmaker Christine Walker is proud that half of the films shown in the festival’s history have been made by women. A female media summit and filmmaker residency programs target gender inequality, and two new mentorship programs will assist LGBTQ filmmakers. She’s just as proud of the film festival’s location.

“We’re America’s oldest arts colony,” says Walker. Provincetown, Mass., will soon celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact. “We’re launching a democracy series to address how filmmakers and artists look at some of the larger questions about democracy.”

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe will kick this off with Casey Sherman, whose book about the Boston Marathon bombing was adapted as the film “Patriots Day.”

That the festival is grounded in its history is why Walker believes it to be special. “When the AIDS crisis hit, [Provincetown] became a gathering place for men who were dying,” she says. “It’s known as a beautiful vacation spot, but it’s also a place that has experienced a great amount of pain and suffering. … It’s a community of diversity and inclusion, and I think it comes from that history.”

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