By Heidi Simmons

The Palm Springs International Film Festival consistently presents and celebrates a line-up of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer films.  Over the years, the LGBTQ themed movies have reflected political and social concerns while making audiences laugh, cry and sometimes scream at the screen.

Listed in the current PSIFF program under LGBTQ are thirteen movies.  Three are documentaries and the rest are narrative films showcasing the lives and culture of the LGBTQ community.

“LGBTQ films are part of the incredible diversity that makes up the Festival.  It is so important for people, especially minority communities, to see their lives and experiences reflected on film.  These films are also important for the broader community as the stories of LGBTQ individuals, and our struggle to overcome centuries of discrimination, provide hope to anyone who feels alone or disenfranchised,” said Palm Springs Councilmember Geoff Kors. 

Writer/director Tom Brown has a film in the Festival called “Pushing Dead: An AIDS Comedy.” It’s about a man, Dan, who has been living with HIV for over two decades.

Depressed, feeling alone and unlovable after the death of his long-term partner, Dan works as a sympathetic but incompetent club bouncer and part-time slam poet. 

When his mother sends him a check for $100 to help lift his spirits on his birthday, his government-subsidized health insurance is canceled because his bank statement reflects an increase in his monthly revenue.

Now, he can no longer afford his HIV medicines that have been keeping him alive and relatively healthy.  Faced with a $3000 co-pay, Dan must go without his drugs.  Not wanting to burden anyone with his dilemma, Dan does his best to cope until he can somehow resolve the matter.

“We showed the film in Middle America and I wasn’t sure how they would react,” said Brown.  “After the screening, people came up to hug me and tell me about their own similar situation whether it was their son or daughter, cancer or a problem with the healthcare system.  I don’t think they saw it just as an LGBTQ film.  You can substitute the word AIDS with almost any other disease.” 

Filmmaker Brown says that unlike so many LGBTQ films, “Pushing Dead” is a humorous film about living life with HIV, rather than someone dying of AIDS.  The title reflects the inevitable landmarks of life as in pushing 40, 50 or 60 years old.  The character Dan is “Pushing Dead” with humor and as much grace as he can muster, considering his circumstances. 

The “Pushing Dead” cast includes James Roday, Robin Weigert, Danny Glover, Khandi Alexander and Tom Riley.   Brown’s debut feature was filmed in his hometown of San Francisco.

So far “Pushing Dead” has been in screened 20 film festivals with 12 more festival invitations.   The film took Brown 16 years to get to the screen.  “Pushing Dead” screens Friday, January 13, 4:00 pm at the Camelot Theater.

 “LGBTQ themed movies should reflect an accurate picture of the world,” said PSIFF Artistic Director Michael Lerman.  “Until this country comes to a place of acceptance of all cultures, genders, sexes, and orientations, then you can’t go wrong with continuing to expose audiences to the humanity behind all sorts of people.”

“The City of Palm Springs is proud to be the Title Sponsor of the Film Festival which puts a global spotlight on Palm Springs and provides our residents and visitors a truly unique and amazing experience,” said Kors.  “The LGBTQ films are stories of our common humanity which are sorely needed at this time.”

Check the PSIFF schedule (www.psfilmfest.org) for other LGBTQ films.

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