Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Annual Award Winners

28th Annual (2017) Audience Awards

Best Narrative Feature


Best Documentary Feature



Best Short Film



2017 Jury Awards

Narrative Feature

Director: Dome Karukoski, 2017, FINLAND

Tom of Finland shows how Touko Laaksonen’s real life experiences influenced his art. A compelling film on a largely unknown figure in LGBT history. (David Johnson)

Tom of Finland is a gorgeously textured film about the artist whose work prescribed the gay male standard of beauty and fetish fashion of the 1970’s and beyond. In Touko (Tom) Laaksonen’s illustrations, authoritarian figures are not despotic gay-bashing bullies, but rather hot and heroic guides of love. In spite of a flamboyant subject matter, the movie maintains a beautiful minimalism of detail and dialogue, depicting Tom as an unassuming man whose private need to render an imaginary utopia dripping with benevolent authority figures engaging in homoerotic acts, unknowingly spurred an empowered mass rebellion against repression and shame on another continent. In the film’s culminating moment, Tom realizes that far away from the room in which he has been secretly toiling, he has achieved a sort of super-hero status. The film is thus more than a genius biopic, but is also a dramatic fantasy in which the viewer is invited to hope that someday an ordinary life might prove to be something more extraordinary than one could have envisioned. (Karin Wolf)

Runner-Up: THE WOUND
Director:  John Trengrove, 2017, South Africa

Interesting look at aboriginal culture and how it continues to survive in modern, urban environments near and around Johannesburg. (David Johnson)

The Wound is a very important film from a promising new director, John Trengrove. The story is set during a philosophical detente between the past and the future, the city and the wilderness, conformity and individuation, a tenuous peace occurring within the space and time of a Xhosa rite of passage ceremony. To a foreign viewer, the shock of witnessing male circumcision taking place without sterile conditions and anesthesia might seem a brutal price to pay for passage, but to keep perspective, it is helpful to consider our own coming of age rituals centered around unsupervised, disorganized, isolated, unceremonious roulette experiences that often result in death from suicide, murder, or some drug or alcohol related tragedy. From that lens, it seems enviable that in South African rural Xhosa communities, boys are collectively escorted into manhood by adult males via time-tested cultural rituals. Besides its importance as a ground-breaking film that provides the world of viewers the opportunity to witness a culture other than their own, The Wound is outstanding in its depiction of sexuality between men as a natural expression of love and desire. Ironically, as the filmmaker is outing this secret Xhosa ritual, the charged tension throughout this film is the threat of exposure of the central gay relationship by a young man for whom this particular experience of transition stands in agonizing contradiction to modern values that are powerfully alluring him away from the traditions of his ancestors. (Karin Wolf)

Documentary Feature

Director:  Catherine Gund & Daresha Kyi, 2017, USA

The documentary beautifully captures the intimacy and emotion of Chavela, mirroring the vibrant spirit of her life and music. (PJ Raval)

Fantastic old photographs and wonderful story work by the filmmakers to remind us of the great Chavela and her lasting influence. The film, tracing her adventurous rise and drunken fall, is filled with unfinished stories, old lovers. A great attempt to pluck Chavela from fading memory. (Prudence Browne)

Short Film

 Ryan White, 2016, USA

CRUISING ELSEWHERE is a formally daring – and thoroughly embodied – exploration of gay desire and the utopian possibility of that desire existing unabashedly in public. (Jules Rosskam) 

CRUISING ELSEWHERE is a gorgeous film, period. Through its narration as well as the formal choices the director makes, there’s both a reclamation of a hidden history, as well as a reckoning with ghosts that persist in the present. (Nzingha Kendall)

Fabien Gorgeart, 2016, France

The acting is extraordinary and the period costumes and locations synch perfectly with the outstanding cinematography. (Nzingha Kendall)

Alan Ira Dusowitz Emerging Filmmaker Awards

The Friends of the Festival Fund was established in 2009 through the estate of Alan Ira Dusowitz. This endowment trust helps fund film programming content for TIGLFF.  In honor of Alan, TIGLFF will give annual awards for Best Emerging Film-maker in the categories of Full Length Feature Film and Short Film.

    Feature Film Winner


Dating My Mother has great dialogue and very real characters with a really interesting family dynamic. Cute, funny, real. An accomplishment in directing. (David Johnson)

    Short Film Winner


FOREIGN LOVERS captures the immediacy of desire and connection, especially when these things emerge simultaneously and without warning. It speaks to the ways in which lovers can open us to the world in new and life-affirming ways. (Jules Rosskam)

What I really enjoyed about the film was how timely it is in depicting the frustrations that people have with trying to connect. While it seems that technology has facilitated our ability to connect more often with more people, FOREIGN LOVERS shows how these connections can also be profoundly alienating. The chance meeting of the two main characters presents an opportunity for a real-life connection. What struck me was the suggestion that such connections don’t necessarily have to last forever; nonetheless the fleeting nature of their encounter is not a reflection of its depth. (Nzingha Kendall)


27th Annual (2016) Audience Awards

Best Narrative Feature


Best Documentary Feature


Best Short Film



2016 Jury Awards

Narrative Feature

Winner: PARIS 05:59: THÉO & HUGO
Director:  Olivier Ducastel et Jacques Martineau, 2016

THÉO AND HUGO emblemize contemporary relationships and offer hope for love in a new era. This film captures the essence of limerence and demonstrates that that fleeting and involuntary feeling of naive hopefulness will never die. (Karin Wolf) 

THÉO AND HUGO has an impressive, atmospheric production design. The mood is sometimes dark, but the lighting is neon. It has an artfully stylized neo-noir feel, which is appropriate to the sensitive, yet provocative subject matter. I love the real-time development of this casual affair. The stylized, formalistic depiction of sex in the club is juxtaposed with a messier reality of an interaction that immediately follows in “the real world.” Sex in the club is straight-forward, carnal, and somewhat exploitative, yet it feels more personal and romantic (tender?) than I feel we’ve seen in many previous queer films. It comes off as more sensual than is probably accurate, but that is consistent with the post-coital discussion of “pure love creation” and so it’s rather refreshing. What’s euphoric and romantic quickly becomes strained and complicated by very honest and present concerns. The fellas have authentic chemistry, which is too often missing in contemporary gay cinema. The lead actors are appealing, particularly Geoffrey Couet as Théo, who is both a sexy and adorably vulnerable presence onscreen. Overall, THÉO AND HUGO is a fulfilling cinematic experience and is an important story for our time. (Joseph Cook)

Runner-Up: ARIANNA
Director:  Carlo Lavagna, 2015

There is something in our primitively wired brains that is responsible for our desire to categorize. But as essentialized notions of sex and gender have blown up in our collective faces, we are recognizing the damage of this urgent drive and how it has served to reinforce sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. The medical pathologization of intersex individuals is a tragic consequence of society’s rigid allegiance to binary notions of sex and gender. What I think is most insidious about the “well intended” decisions made by Arianna’s parents and her doctors, is that in their act of concealing information about her body and the invasive measures to which they went to alter Arianna to fit their ideals, they deeply deceived her. Discovering that the two people she trusted most in the world lied to her about something so fundamental to her existence shattered her reality and her belief in her own perception and experience. It gutted me to watch this film as I felt the pain of every deception I’ve ever survived. But survive she will, you see it in the beautiful blue eyes of Ondina Quadri whose acting is enough justification to make this film a TIGLFF award winner. And then there is the fact that even if Carlo Navagna had made this film about making pasta, it is gorgeous enough to eat. (Karin Wolf)

ARIANNA is an absorbing tale of transformation –of birth and rebirth. At less than 80 minutes, it is also efficiently told. Ondina Quadri, in the lead, gives a brilliant performance of the perplexing, deliberate, and thoughtful young Arianna. The actress’ eyes mesmerize and her body language conveys multitudes. The Italian lake house setting is gorgeous and serene (you can almost smell the basil!), but is marked by primitive threat, too. The lush setting is a smart contrast to the emotional storm and inner turmoil the characters experience. Arianna is at impressionable age where she is trying to construct a young adult life in relation to her past and her fading childhood. The movie’s rumination on memory (and even ghosts) complements the plot. ARIANNA’S themes and images resonate and the film generates a slow burning intensity as it proceeds. (Joseph Cook)

Documentary Feature

Winner: REAL BOY
Director:  Shaleece Haas, 2016

REAL BOY earns the award for the brutal honesty of Bennett and his mother, and for the film’s excellent editing, which foregrounded the abstract concept of the power of music. (Samantha Mitchell)

REAL BOY illustrates the complex relationships between a young transman, whom I think many LGBTQ people could identify with, and his biological and chosen family. The relationships with his friends, his mentor and the support they offer while his mother begins to come around is uniquely well told. (Jaimes Mayhew)

Director: Jennifer Abod, 2016

THE PASSIONATE PURSUITS OF ANGELA BOWEN is inspiring, touching and important. This film provides a gritty, beautiful portrait of a person who needs to be documented, whose story should be shared and celebrated. (Jaimes Mayhew)

THE PASSIONATE PURSUITS OF ANGELA BOWEN shows intense deep research into a perspective which is rarely touched on in contemporary media. Or media of any time, for that matter. It animates a forgotten subject with detailed vibrancy. (Samantha Mitchell)

Short Film

 Toby Fell-Holden

BALCONY is a complicated and emotionally complex story of cross culturally stereotyping – and its tragic consequences. The film is brilliantly acted and follows a strong beat-by-beat script. (Eric Cotten)

BALCONY is strong, dynamic, culturally rich, and wittingly questioning of society, norms and expectations. As a viewer, I begin to question myself, my expectations, the lense through which I view the world. The story is clear, yet full of twists. (Desiree Moore)

Runner-Up: 1985
 Yen Tan

1985 is a uniquely compelling story with nice allusion to the past and the future, without unnecessary flashbacks. The character became more whole through the perfect timing of this film. (Desiree Moore) 

1985 is an amazingly well conceived and executed film about a man suffering from HIV and the facial markings associated with his advancing symptoms. (Eric Cotten)

Alan Ira Dusowitz Emerging Filmmaker Awards

The Friends of the Festival Fund was established in 2009 through the estate of Alan Ira Dusowitz. This endowment trust helps fund film programming content for TIGLFF.  In honor of Alan, TIGLFF will give annual awards for Best Emerging Film-maker in the categories of Full Length Feature Film and Short Film.

    Feature Film Winner

       Deb Shoval for (AWOL)

To be a great filmmaker you have to get a lot of things right: artistic direction, lighting, sound, charismatic and believable actors, etc. But most importantly you have to tell a good story. If you are telling a story about something that has been told many times before – like a love story – then you better be able to tell it in a distinctive and compelling way. In AWOL, Deb Shoval’s account of the not-uncommon lesbian love story between a straight-in-the-streets femme fatale and a baby butch, she makes this story new and poignant. It is a love story that is born in depression. The story is literally located in a depressed town with characters who are in depressing situations. Like many lovers do, her characters bond over their fear that they are not deserving of love or happiness. Theirs is the kind of dysfunctional love that makes risking one’s life for another person seem like the only thing to do. Viewers can simultaneously identify with being a fool for love and with the community that wants to try to save them from themselves. But there is a reason love is called the strongest force on earth and there is a reason that it is uniquely difficult to capture cinematically. Deb Shoval nails this phenomenon in a way that makes us want her to give us more and more important stories like this one. (Karin Wolf)

    Short Film Winner

       Vera Sjunnesson for (INFANTILE)

For her insightful investigation of identity amidst the confusing state of puberty. I enjoyed the ambiguity of the intentions of our main character. The subtle nature of probing by the main character seemed true to young children’s exploration of the world around them. (Desiree Moore)

Sjunnesson expertly directs a slightly creepy, but very sensitive drama about an innocent-looking girl who has a crush on her swimming coach and the tricks she will play to get close to her. This piece has that weird touch of realism we all can relate to. (Eric Cotten)


View prior winners of the Annual Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival