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Gay film festivals to benefit GLSTN "Back to School" campaign

Three of the country's foremost lesbian and gay film festivals -- the 21st San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the 15th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the 9th New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival -- will join forces with the Tzabaco Catalog and GLSTN community activists in June and July to make schools safer places for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.

Back to School Campaign

Tzabaco, GLSTN -- the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers Network -- and other community volunteers will provide Safe Schools information at the Festival venues, and will host educational leaders at screenings of important new works that address gay youth topics.

Audiences will see a new PSA advocating Safe Schools produced by Tzabaco, and will be encouraged to complete a postcard to the Secretary of Education urging him to take action to improve the climate for students that are gay, lesbian and bisexual.

"We applaud Tzabaco for instigating this relationship, and we are optimistic about the impact that we can make together," said Michael Lumpkin, executive director of Frameline and director of the San Francisco festival. "We expect 120,000 people to read about the Back to School Campaign in the festival program, and 50,000 attendees will hear about it at our theaters."

At each Festival venue, moviegoers will be encouraged to write a letter to a former teacher or an educational leader using personal experiences to explain what homophobia does to young people, and to prod them to take action that creates change.

"We've found that hearing from a current or former student is the single most effective way to change a teacher's mind," said Kevin Jennings, executive director of GLSTN. "The impact of these letters can be immediate and dramatic, forever changing the way the recipient thinks about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues."

"We're delighted by this show of support from three international institutions that hold such important places in our community's culture," said Jennings, who started the annual grassroots initiative in 1995. "The organizers of these world class festivals are demonstrating that they understand the powerful role that film can play in improving the lives of the next generation of queer kids."

All three Festivals are providing space in their programs and theaters to promote the Back to School Campaign. "Community outreach is an important part of the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and we're proud to endorse the Back to School Campaign," said Wellington Love, executive director of Newfest and the New York festival director.

World Premiere

The Tzabaco Safe Schools Initiative will sponsor the world premiere of the film SURVIVING FRIENDLY FIRE, directed by Todd Nelson, Saturday, June 21 at 3:30pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco. Following the premiere, Tzabaco will host a reception to honor the director, youth advocates and Northern California educators who are working to reduce the school drop-out rate among gay, lesbian and bisexual teens.

Surviving Friendly Fire: There are 1.4 million homeless youths on the streets of America; ten thousand of these youths live on the streets of Hollywood. They are runaways, some are "throw-aways," abandoned or forcefully exiled from their families' homes. The average age of these youths is fifteen. About a third of them are gay, lesbian or transgender.

In their survival these young people endure familial abuse, suicide attempts, drugs and alcohol, prostitution, and life on the streets. In 1992, seventy homeless youths -- of various racial, cultural and sexual identities -- registered for a theatre project in the Hollywood shelter where they lived.

Through this project they were encouraged to share their stories. Over a period of seven months these stories were shaped into monologues, scenes and songs. Of the original seventy, ten completed the project and became performers, playing roles from each other's lives. In 1993, their play, Friendly Fire, was the centerpiece of the prestigious Los Angeles Festival before it toured to high acclaim in high schools throughout the city.

Surviving Friendly Fire is a documentary about ten teenagers who endured incredible cruelties and hardships, and found the courage to tell their story.


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