In a thrilling victory, “Open Dialogues: Queer Allies” emerged triumphant as the “Best Doc Short” at the prestigious 2023 Orlando Film Festival, surpassing formidable contenders like the Florida documentaries “Two Women & The Pavilion” and the poignant Ukrainian War film “We Support You?” The film’s win not only speaks to its compelling narrative but also sheds light on Director Freddy Rodriguez’s mastery of storytelling.
While “Open Dialogues: Queer Allies” might not specifically address Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Law,” it is possible to draw connections between the film’s themes and the broader context of LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance, including the challenges posed by such legislation. Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Law” restricts discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in schools, particularly related to sexual orientation and gender identity. In this context, “Open Dialogues: Queer Allies” could be seen as a response to such restrictive laws by providing a platform for open conversations about LGBTQ+ experiences, struggles, and the importance of allies.
The Art of Storytelling:
Produced by the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood and masterfully directed, shot and edited by the Cuban-born award-winning filmmaker Freddy Rodriguez of 66 Films, “Open Dialogues: Queer Allies” delves deep into the lives of individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ (Queer) and the unwavering support from their loved ones, teachers, and school counselors. The documentary encapsulates moving narratives and powerful performances, emphasizing the pivotal role of allies in empowering young people during their coming-out experiences.
The 25-minute black-and-white documentary short features a poignant reading by Terry Dyer from his book “Letters to a Gay Black Boy,” coupled with a mesmerizing contemporary dance piece performed by Dance NOW! Miami, skillfully executed by David Harris and Anthony Velasquez in their rendition of “Safe Words.” “Queer Allies” stands as a testament to the transformative power of human empathy, showcasing how it can profoundly change lives.
Through candid interviews with six South Florida LGBTQ+ community members, the film unflinchingly explores the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth and sheds light on the crucial role parents and teachers play in providing safe spaces, both at home and in schools. For those lacking such support, the documentary portrays how queer youth often become their own best allies when their sexual identities are rejected by their parents. Tatiana Williams, a cast member, eloquently captures this struggle, stating, “Oftentimes parents don’t want to really look inside and see if their child is really different… So, for me, it was good for [my mom] to let me know that I was in a safe space.”
“Can I trust you…Should I trust you? You’ve let me down before” – Paulino Mejia, Queer Allies
The Impactful Support:
“Open Dialogues: Queer Allies” not only shines as a beacon of LGBTQ+ representation but also stands as a testament to the importance of allies in creating safe spaces and fostering acceptance. Its victory at the 2023 Orlando Film Festival is not just a win for filmmaker Freddy Rodriguez and producing team at the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood and 66 Films, but a triumph for the entire South Florida LGBTQ+ community and their allies, emphasizing the power of empathy, understanding, and acceptance in shaping a more inclusive world.
“Open Dialogues: Queer Allies” was made possible through a grant from the Community Foundation of Broward, under its Art of Community initiative. This initiative employs the arts as a powerful tool to raise awareness and drive positive change on social issues within Broward County, Florida. The film received crucial support from various funds at the Community Foundation of Broward, including the Helen and Frank Stoykov Charitable Endowment Fund, Frederick W. Jaqua Fund, Deinhardt Charitable Fund, Ruth H. Brown Fund for the Arts, and Anna Bloeser Fund.