With eleven films to see and review, the 2013 lineup of short films screened at the Desperado LGBT film festival on Saturday, January 26 provided an opportunity to experience a newer and more optimistic side of LGBT filmmaking. Previous festivals offered a bevy of films dealing with acceptance, politics and gay rights, especially when gay marriage was concerned. While this was still the main theme of the short films being shown, this year, the rainbow flags were put away, the closets were empty and the parade streets were deserted. Nothing left to do now but to make it through life on a daily basis just like everybody else. The films offered a variety experiences, from the struggle to adopt a child to fear and rejection from friends and family. The production values continue to improve, with the films becoming more refined, and the topics are certainly more focused. Here are the films I saw in the order they were screened.

Second Chance – Lee Quarrie
Johnny (Kevin Herrmann) is served divorce papers by his longtime lover Kurt (Jonathan Medina). Fearing he can never move on, Johnny seeks solace and advice from the friendly delivery guy (Jim Coates), who delivers boxes filled with memories from the time Johnny and Kurt were together. At first, anger leads to revenge, but soon melts away into acceptance and empowerment, as Johnny realizes this is not the end, but a second chance. Extremely well photographed, acted and edited in only 24 hours, once again providing evidence of my theory: the less time a filmmaker has to work on a film, the less time they have to screw it up. Made for the 2012 A3F 24 hour film challenge. Final Take – Special delivery.

Deflated – Dustin Shroff
A child in the store can get anything he wants, but a ball in the giant bin full of pink balls is what he really wants. Tossing aside the identical inflatables, he discovers one that is different, deflated, lonely and green. Possessing the power of levitation and inspiring imagination, this is the one to take home. Deflated is a simple, fun story of acceptance and understanding, expertly filmed in rich colors with almost no dialog. Final Take – Having a ball.

Wrong – Tessa Millesse
Several young Australian girls relate their experiences of anger and rejection by everybody they have come out to; their parents hate them, their schoolmates beat them and the mailman, well, he’s actually o.k. with it, scratch that. But the TV repairman and the woman at the grocery store: no way! An intense, frenetic black and white documentary-style film offering only hatred, prejudice and rejection by everyone on the planet when the girls reveal their preference. Happiness and acceptance is only found when the film turns to color and all of the ‘odious’ women attend a picnic together. Ice pick imagery with an isolationist conclusion. Final take – On so many (filmmaking) levels.

The Commitment – Albert M. Chan
An interracial gay couple experience the apprehension and tension of adopting a child. After a mildly awkward meeting with the birth mother, the couple prepares for their new life of raising a child. With mild reservation and reflection of their own childhood and upbringing, they anxiously await the day they can become parents. Their hopes and dreams are shattered when their adoption plans are drastically changed. Excellent photography, sound and acting keep the viewers attention, but the story is as original and dramatic as an old episode of E.R, bringing nothing new to the table in the way of the agonizingly bureaucratic, extremely emotional struggle a childless couple faces when trying to adopt. Final Take – Baby blues.

I Still Love You – Henrique Faria
Two girls meet and fall in love. They ride bikes around Amsterdam and get it on. One becomes ill and dies, leaving her lover grieving at the cemetery. This intriguing film offers zero dialog and tells a complete and tender story in only four minutes. The conclusion is surprising and mildly disturbing; was it only a dream? Just a fantasy? Perhaps a secret life deliberately kept from society, forcing her to compromise after the loss of her lover. Great story and music. Excellent photography. Final Take – Memorable.

Genderbusters – Sam Berliner
Can’t decide which restroom to use? Don’t know what gender to mark on that job application? Always a bridesmaid but never a groomsman? Have no fear, Genderbusters are here! With a biff, a pow and a zap, the Genderbusters stamp out gender-binary issues throughout the city, making life safe once again for the citizens of San Francisco. Clever SFSU student film with gags and jokes delivered via 14400 dial-up. Final Take – Gender is the night.

Dawn – Leon Le
Two boisterous, violently heterosexual thugs follow a man off the subway and to his car. After beating the man, they decide to be charitable and let him keep his car and settle for just stealing his wallet. The man pleads for the return of his credit cards at least, since they are such a hassle to cancel and all. The dangerous gangsters with a heart of gold return the cards to him, so naturally Peter push-my-luck decides this is an excellent opportunity to engage in a verbal tête-à-tête with the potential killers, covering topics ranging from racism to gay rights. In a startling twist, the photos found in their victims wallet force one of the thugs to confront his own prejudice and intolerance. Well made, well acted film with predictable results. Final Take – Dawn be cruel.

Make It Out – Grygiel
Music video featuring artist Grygiel and created by the Reel to Reel film school in Lynn, MA, depicts images of violent bullying, angry parental rejection and the heartache that one only discovers after looking for love in all the wrong places. Great imagery, well acted with a catchy tune. Final Take – Keep it reel.

Modeled – Don Bapst
Stark images of men covered in black paint wearing S&M and leather bondage gear are photographed by G. Elliot Simpson while an emotionless narrator (director Bapst himself) at first describes his interpretation of the artist and the images, and then, in disaffected detail, relates how the images remind him of a story of a man who’s preference for violent brachioproctic insertion caused severe physical damage, resulting in crippling injury. Bapst’s film is brutal, harsh, confrontational and excellent. When images of (often violent) sex are graphically depicted on a regular basis in the mainstream media (and certainly in AZ indie film), Bapst forces the viewer, gay or straight, to confront their own interpretation of what is and is not permissible, acceptable, viewable or viable. In an extremely clever contrast, the leather-garbed, black swathed models seem to slowly vanish into a black background, only their eyes remaining visible. As the lurid details of the violent sex acts are revealed, the stark images of the models become tame, demure and inconsequential. The images no longer represent the acts, nor are the acts representative of the images. A film and a story of continuously contrasting interpretation. Final Take – Model citizen.

The Bus Pass – Narissa Lee
Internal monologue of a girl on the bus as she nervously ponders the pros and cons of asking a fellow passenger for her phone number. Easygoing film made just for fun. Final Take – Next time take the train.