Italian LGBTQ Festival Favorite ‘Fireworks’ Due on DVD, Digital Jan. 18

Cinephobia Releasing has announced North American home release dates for the Italian LGBTQ festival darling Fireworks, from writer-director Giuseppe Fiorello.

The film — based on a real-life incident that jump-started the Italian Gay Rights movement in 1981 — will be released Jan. 18 on DVD and through all major digital platforms for rental or purchase.  

The film is set in a Sicilian town in the summer of 1982 and follows two teenagers who fall in love, much to the disapproval of those around them. Gianni is a handsome but shy teen who works as a car mechanic at his stepfather’s garage and is mercilessly taunted by the macho townsmen for being a homosexual. With his family life no better, Gianni withdraws into himself until one day he meets Nino, a curly haired boy with an infectious smile. As the two become close and fall in love, the moral rumblings from their families and neighbors begin to erupt. With all against them, the boys decide to make a stand.

“I was attracted to Fireworks because it is more than just another ‘gay film,'” said Ray Murray, president of Cinephobia Releasing. “The story is just as interested in the lives of the boy’s parents, neighbors and friends as it is with the two young lovers. It truly is a snapshot of a 1981 pre-gay rights Italian village.”

Fireworks held its North American premiere at the Lincoln Center’s Open Roads Film Festival, and went on to have a healthy festival life with screenings at Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, Cinema Diverse: Palm Springs LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival, and Reel Q – Pittsburgh’s LGBT Film Festival.

The film stars Gabriele Pizzurro, Samuele Segreto, Fabrizia Sacchi, Simona Malato, Antonio De Matteo, and Enrico Roccaforte. It is produced by Riccardo Di Pasquale, Gabriele Oricchio, and Eleonora Pratelli.

‘Sweetheart’ Director Discusses Her Lesbian Coming-of-Age Film, Due on DVD and Digital May 16 From Film Movement

Director Marley Morrison’s feature debut Sweetheart is an uplifting lesbian coming-of-age romance, something that was a rarity she says when she was growing up.

The film — due on DVD and digital May 16 from Film Movement — follows socially awkward lesbian teenager A.J. (Nell Barlow), who begrudgingly joins her British family on a seaside vacation. She finds herself constantly at odds with her painfully “normal” mother and older sister, neither of whom can understand why she doesn’t smile more or “dress like a girl.” Her anticipated “week of hell” takes an unexpected turn when Isla (Ella-Rae Smith), a free-spirited and sun-loving lifeguard, catches her eye.

The film’s accolades include British Independent Film Awards for Breakthrough Performance (Nell Barlow) and Breakthrough Producer (Michelle Antoniades), as well as nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Jo Hartley), Best Debut Screenwriter (Marley Morrison), and the Douglas Hickox Award (Marley Morrison); Frameline SF Int’l LGBTYQ FF nomination for Outstanding First Feature Award; Glasgow Film Festival winner of the Audience Award and Best First Feature; Inside Out Toronto LGBT FF winner of the International Juried Award (Marley Morrison, Hazey Jane Films); L.A. Outfest award for Outstanding Performance in an Int’l Narrative (Nell Barlow); London Critics Circle Film Awards nomination for Breakthrough British Filmmaker of the Year. 

Director Marley Morrison

Media Play News asked Morrison about the themes and aims of her feature film debut.   

MPN: What is the genesis of your feature film debut?

Morrison: I wanted to make an uplifting film about what happens after a young lesbian has “come out,” highlighting the nuances and painfully honest and awkward inter-family relations that a young gay female has to navigate whilst going through life. I also wanted to make something that the young gay community could relate to and specifically for young gender nonconforming lesbians to see themselves reflected on screen in a film that is uplifting.

MPN: This is also Nell Barlow’s feature film debut. How was she cast? What surprised or impressed you about her performance?

Morrison: Nell was cast through our casting director Carolyn McLeod, who was amazing in sourcing some great actors for us. There was something about Nell that was authentic, raw, engaging — and also hilarious. Her comedic timing is great, and she embodied A.J.’s sense of awkward masculine energy in such a naturalistic way, but also a vulnerable way. I think I saw a lot of my younger self in her. Nell is an incredible young actor and I’m so proud of her for trusting me and dedicating herself so honestly to this role.

MPN: How does the film contribute to bringing visibility to the lesbian perspective?

Morrison: Growing up, I watched a lot of films featuring LGBT+ people suffering or dealing with trauma. I always liked the idea that people could see a story with a lesbian character that is uplifting and joyful. To see yourself reflected on screen is intrinsic to owning your sense of self. To see a coming-of-age romance centered around two young women is something I never saw growing up and would have helped me understand that being gay isn’t all trauma and sometimes you can have a happy ending. Just by this film existing in the world it contributes to lesbian visibility as for so long we have been told our stories are not important.

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MPN: What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?

Morrison: I hope it brings back some old nostalgic memories of first loves and summer holidays. I hope it reminds them of the community and joy that can be found in being working class. Mostly, I hope people feel uplifted after seeing it, and it helps bridge those gaps in family communications and helps us understand each other better. I hope it makes young lesbians feel seen and heard, and I hope it helps people understand that everyone is living their own lives and rather than fight against the world we should work to be part of it.

 

LGBTQ+ Coming-of-Age Film ‘Sweetheart’ Due Digitally Feb. 10 From Film Movement

The LGBTQ+ coming-of-age film Sweetheart will be released via VOD and digital sellthrough Feb. 10 from Film Movement.

The film follows socially awkward lesbian teenager A.J. (Nell Barlow), who begrudgingly joins her family on a seaside vacation. She finds herself constantly at odds with her painfully “normal” mother and older sister, neither of whom can understand why she doesn’t smile more or “dress like a girl.” Her anticipated “week of hell” takes an unexpected turn when Isla (Ella-Rae Smith), a free-spirited and sun-loving lifeguard, catches her eye. Full to the brim with teen angst and romantic fumbling, Sweetheart wryly captures the bittersweet pangs of adolescent yearning, self-realization and personal connections, all against the hilarious ups and downs of the quintessential British family holiday.

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Director Marley Morrison’s feature debut, the film’s accolades include British Independent Film Awards for Breakthrough Performance (Nell Barlow) and Breakthrough Producer (Michelle Antoniades), as well as nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Jo Hartley), Best Debut Screenwriter (Marley Morrison), and the Douglas Hickox Award (Marley Morrison); Frameline SF Int’l LGBTYQ FF nomination for Outstanding First Feature Award; Glasgow Film Festival winner of the Audience Award and Best First Feature; Inside Out Toronto LGBT FF winner of the International Juried Award (Marley Morrison, Hazey Jane Films); L.A. Outfest award for Outstanding Performance in an Int’l Narrative (Nell Barlow); London Critics Circle Film Awards nomination for Breakthrough British Filmmaker of the Year.      

Doc ‘Being Thunder’ Headed to DVD and Digital Jan. 10 From Film Movement

The documentary Being Thunder will be released on DVD and digital Jan. 10 from Film Movement.

The film, an Official Selection of Frameline, NewFest, The American Indian Film Festival and the Inside Out Film Festival, introduces the Native American role of a two-spirit person, who embodies masculine and feminine qualities through many gender expressions informed by Indigenous traditions and community roles. The film focuses on the life and advocacy of Sherente Mishitahin Harris, a two-spirit genderqueer teenager from Rhode Island’s Narragansett tribe. 

Wearing traditional female dress, Sherente joyfully performs a traditional female dance in competition at Powwows around New England, but not everyone accepts Sherente’s inclusion in the “girls” category. Being Thunder is the stirring story of Sherente’s persistence, aided by love and unconditional support from peers and family. From facing biased Powwow judges to tackling college applications, Sherente shines through as a role model for youth worldwide to go against the grain and live their authentic selves with tenacity and grace.

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French filmmaker Stephanie Lamorré quietly documents Sherente’s life and family interactions over the course of several years, revealing the struggles and triumphs faced by the determined teen courageously navigating questions of identity, expression, and how to be one’s authentic self.

Being Thunder is a rare example of a three-dimensional, Indigenous LGBTQ+ BIPOC story, demonstrating the need for far more on screen representation, according to a Film Movement release.

 

Dark LGBTQ+ Comedy ‘Waking Up Dead’ Now Available for Home Audiences

Breaking Glass Pictures has released Waking Up Dead, an LGBTQ+ dark comedy from writer and director Terracino (Elliot Loves), to home audiences.

The film is available on DVD and through various digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, Vimeo, as well as cable and satellite providers.

Starring Gabriel Sousa and former adult actress Traci Lords, Waking Up Dead tells the story of washed-up actor Danny Maldonado, whose once-promising Hollywood career has flatlined.  When he receives a call to audition for the lead role in the most talked about new series in Hollywood, Danny vows to clean up his act.

Waking Up Dead had its World Premiere at Cinema Diverse / Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival, where it took home multiple awards, including Festival Favorite and Director’s Choice.

Rotten Tomatoes Partners to Launch LGBTQ Scholarship

GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics and content recommendation resource Rotten Tomatoes have launched The Crimson Honors scholarship.

It’s a new college film and TV criticism scholarship program for LGBTQ women and nonbinary students of color in Southern California pursuing a career in journalism or entertainment criticism.

GALECA will award more than $6,000 in financial assistance, funded by Rotten Tomatoes. 

The Crimson Honors scholarship is open to qualifying community or state college students in the Southern California area who are seeking a career in entertainment criticism. A select panel of GALECA members will review and consider all student submissions of film/TV criticism and/or commentary featured in a campus media outlet in 2022, ultimately honoring three students who demonstrate excellence in their craft.

The grand prize winner will receive $3,000, with two finalists each collecting $1,500. All three winners will also receive $100 Fandango and Vudu gift cards to watch movies in theaters or at home, and a complimentary yearlong GALECA membership, with opportunities to meet editors and Advisory Board members in the group.

Rotten Tomatoes’ support of GALECA’s Crimson Honors scholarship is the latest initiative in the brand’s Grants and Scholarships program, established in 2018 to increase inclusion in entertainment criticism and support the next generation of critics through donations to educational programs, film festivals’ inclusion initiatives, and other industry efforts. 

Eligible candidates — including nonbinary persons or women of color who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender or queer — must be students studying journalism, cinema/TV studies or communications at a public two-year community or four-year state college in the Southern California area.

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Applicants may submit to GALECA up to three reviews or essays relating to film and/or TV, each originally published or posted in 2022 by an official campus media offering (newspaper, magazine, website, radio station, podcast, TV/radio program). In addition, applicants must also include a resume as well as a personal 300-word statement on why they hope for a career as a critic and entertainment journalist. 

Applicants can submit all materials here. Materials must be received by 11:59 p.m. PT on Dec. 31, 2022. All entrants will be notified that their submissions were received with winners being announced on Feb. 27, 2023.  Criteria and rules for the Crimson Honors scholarship can be found here.  

Spanish Queer Giallo ‘Cut!’ Headed to DVD and Digital Sept. 27 From Ariztical

The Spanish queer giallo comedy Cut! will be released on DVD and digital Sept. 27 from Ariztical Entertainment.

In the feature, Marcos, a rather unsuccessful film director, is immersed in the shooting of his new film, when a series of terrible murders starts to happen in Barcelona, and all of them seem to be traced back to him. Vampirized by cinema, and despite being hated for his films, Marcos needs to keep making them in order to live.

The film stars La Prohibida, Marc Ferrer, Marga Sarda, Maria Sola, Saya Solana, Alvaro Lucas Estada, Gregorio Sanz, Paco Serrano and Samantha Hudson.

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Cut is a comedy about my experience as a film director opposed to both artistic and cinematographic standards and conventions,” director Marc Ferrer said in a statement. “It is at the same time a homage to and a parody of the giallo, an Italian terror genre which became popular in Italy’s ’70s, with high doses of homoeroticism and characters that fall within the queer imaginary. The film is about love and hatred. Hatred as a way of loving.

“The soundtrack is very important in my films, where songs carry the weight of the narration. For Cut!, Adrià Arbona (Papa Topo) and me have composed four original songs: ‘Mueres Por Mi,’ performed by La Prohibida, ‘Mal Herido,’ performed by Zaida Carmona and Papa Topo, ‘Acorralada,’ performed by Belinda and Delfina, and ‘Por Espana,’ performed by Samantha Hudson.”

‘As Long as I’m Famous’ Due on VOD July 19, DVD Aug. 16 From Ariztical

The LGBT drama romance As Long as I’m Famous will be released on VOD July 19 and on DVD Aug. 16 from Ariztical Entertainment.

It’s the story of private, often forbidden romances of legends from Montgomery Clift to Richard Rodgers, told through the perspective of 24-year-old Sidney Lumet. The film is inspired by true events and paying homage to the Golden Age of Broadway during the summer of 1948.

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Directed by Bruce Reisman, the film stars Aaron Fors, Gavin Adams, David Chokachi (Baywatch TV Series), Camille Montgomery, Nicholas Luna, Eric Lutes, Chelsea Jordan, Tracy Nelson and Michael Paré.

 

Roku, Mast-Jägermeister U.S. Announce New Limited Streaming Series, ‘The Lesbian Bar Project’

Roku June 15 announced a partnership with brewer/distributor  Mast-Jägermeister U.S. to create a new limited streaming series, “The Lesbian Bar Project,” directed by Erica Rose and Elina Street and hosted by Lea DeLaria (“Orange Is the New Black”), who also serves as executive producer along with The Katz Company.

The series will spotlight lesbian bars and the communities that they serve across the countries. The three-episode docuseries is slated to launch in October 2022 on ad-supported The Roku Channel and during LGBTQ History Month in many countries around the globe.

In the 1980s, there were roughly 200 lesbian bars in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 25. As these bars disappear, co-directors Rose and Street established “The Lesbian Bar Project” to celebrate, support, and amplify the remaining lesbian bars. Each episode of “The Lesbian Bar Project” series will tell the stories of different lesbian bar owners and patrons in Houston, Phoenix and Chicago.

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“Our mission is to create a better TV storytelling experience and help marketers win the entire streaming journey,” Brian Toombs, director and head of content for Roku Brand Studio, said in a statement.

Chris Peddy, chief marketing officer at Mast-Jägermeister U.S., said the partnership with Roku provides an opportunity to raise awareness for the cause by sharing meaningful stories with a broad and engaged audience.

“We are honored to continue highlighting the critical need to support LGBTQIA+ establishments,” said Peddy.

Street is a French-American director and writer based in New York City. Street’s storytelling focuses on childhood, with an emphasis on female and non-binary gender expression. Rose is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker with a focus on queer and female-driven stories.

Netflix Introduces ‘Shine With Pride’ Collection for Pride Month

Netflix is celebrating Pride Month with a slew of offerings shining a spotlight on LGBTQ+ stories, identities and self-expression with the collection “Shine With Pride.”

With more than 460 titles, the collection features documentaries, dramas and comedies, including “Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness,” “Heartstopper”  (just renewed for two more seasons), “She-Ra and The Princess of Power,” “Elite” and more.

Inspired by the range of color and symbolism present in the Pride flag, illustrator Ben Nichols created the collection artwork. Throughout the year Netflix will be unveiling new collections in collaboration with new artists.

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New series and other upcoming content include:

    • “Stand Out,” due June 9, is the largest-ever gathering of LGBTQ+ comics hosted by Billy Eichner. Highlights included icon Ani DiFranco introducing Margaret Cho, Sarah Paulson introducing Tig Notaro, Lily Tomlin introducing Sandra Bernhard, Lena Waithe introducing Wanda Sykes, and Rosie O’Donnell closing the night and inviting the rest of the performers joining her on stage for a new rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “GAYS Just Want to Have Fun.” Other featured talent included Bob the Drag Queen, Eddie Izzard, Solomon Georgio, Sam Jay, River Butcher, Patti Harrison, Matteo Lane, Marsha Warfield, Mae Martin, Judy Gold, Joel Kim Booster, James Adomian, Guy Branum, Gina Yashere, Trixie Mattel, Scott Thompson, and Todd Glass.
    • “First Kill,” available June 10, is about teenage vampire Juliette, who when it’s time to make her first kill so she can take her place among a powerful vampire family, sets her sights on a new girl in town named Calliope. But much to Juliette’s surprise, Calliope is a vampire hunter, from a family of celebrated slayers. Both find that the other won’t be so easy to kill and, unfortunately, way too easy to fall for. 

 

  • Halftime, due June 14, is an intimate peek behind the curtain revealing the grit and determination that makes Jennifer Lopez the icon she is. The documentary focuses on Lopez in the second half of her career.
  • “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend,” available June 15, is the legendary “Iron Chef” series reborn with a supersized approach to the culinary competition. Five new Iron Chefs welcome Challenger Chefs to the reimagined Kitchen Stadium, where they’ll face off. The competition’s most successful Challenger will return to battle in a grand finale for the chance to be named the first-ever “Iron Legend.” Hosts are Alton Brown and Kristen Kish, and the Iron Chefs are Curtis Stone, Dominique Crenn, Marcus Samuelson, Ming Tsai and Gabriela Camara.
  • Season one of “Dead End: Paranormal Park,” due June 16, is based on creator and executive producer Hamish Steele’s horror-comedy graphic novels “DeadEndia” and web short “Dead End.” It follows the adventures of Barney, Norma and magical-talking-dog Pugsley, as they balance their summer jobs at the local theme park haunted house while battling the totally real supernatural forces that dwell within it. Together with their guide to the underworld multiplane, a sardonic thousand-year-old demon named Courtney, they’ll face zombie mascots, demonic game show hosts, sleep-sucking witches and the scariest thing of all — their first crushes.
  • “Joel Kim Booster: Psychosexual,” available June 21, is Joel Kim Booster’s Netflix comedy special debut.
  • Season three of “The Umbrella Academy,” due June 22, follows the group after putting a stop to 1963’s doomsday. The Umbrella Academy returns home to the present, convinced they prevented the initial apocalypse and fixed this timeline once and for all. But after a brief moment of celebration, they realize things aren’t exactly how they left them. Enter the Sparrow Academy. Smart, stylish, and about as warm as a sea of icebergs, the Sparrows immediately clash with the Umbrellas in a violent face-off that turns out to be the least of everyone’s concerns. Navigating challenges, losses, and surprises of their own — and dealing with an unidentified destructive entity wreaking havoc in the universe (something they may have caused) — now all they need to do is convince Dad’s new and possibly better family to help them put right what their arrival made wrong.
  • “QUEEN,” releasing June 23, follows Sylwester, a retired tailor who now moonlights as a drag queen. He left Poland fifty years ago and has been living in Paris ever since. One day he gets a letter, asking him to donate a kidney to his ill daughter, who he left behind all these years ago and has never seen. Reluctantly, he embarks on a journey back to his motherland, to the coal mining town to which he swore never to return. The journey takes an unexpected turn, forcing Sylwester to confront the past and use his artistic skills to mount a stage production to save this small coal mine town.
  • “The Upshaws” (season two, part one) debuts June 29. The multi-camera comedy centers on a working-class African American family in Indiana. It follows Bennie Upshaw (Mike Epps), the head of a Black working class family in Indianapolis, a charming, well-intentioned mechanic and lifelong mess just trying his best to step up and care for his family — wife Regina (Kim Fields), their two young daughters (Khali Spraggins, Journey Christine) and firstborn son (Jermelle Simon), and the teenage son (Diamond Lyons) he fathered with another woman (Gabrielle Dennis) — and tolerate his sardonic sister-in-law (Wanda Sykes).
  • “Uncoupled,” due July 29, follows Michael (Neil Patrick Harris), who thought his life was perfect until his husband blindsides him by walking out the door after 17 years. Overnight, Michael has to confront two nightmares — losing what he thought was his soulmate and suddenly finding himself a single gay man in his mid-forties in New York City.