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Expanded focus: Newly renamed film fest ‘more than gay and lesbian’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fifteen years. That’s how long the Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival has made Albuquerque its home.

With the new milestone, the festival has undergone a name change as well.

Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu star in “God’s Own Country.”

In celebration of its 15th anniversary, the festival will be known as Way Out West Film Fest.

“We changed the name as part of our new look,” says Roberto Appicciafoco, festival director. “It’s been something that has been on my mind for about five years. We needed to make sure it was something more dynamic and more inclusive. The festival is more than gay and lesbian. It’s a big part of it. We wanted to be more inclusive to the rest of the community.”

Guillermo Pfening stars in “Nobody’s Watching.”

The festival begins on Friday, Oct. 13, and runs through Oct. 22.

In addition to the name change, the festival has expanded the number of venues that screen the films.

This year, the Guild Cinema, South Broadway Cultural Center and Flix Brewhouse will all house the screenings.

Appicciafoco is always looking at adding programming within the festival.

Laverne Cox and CeCe St. Cloud in a scene from “Free CC.”

One aspect he’s excited about is the art exhibit opening at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory – “The Alchemical Trace: Transformation and Resilience in Recent Work by LGBTQIA Artists.”

The exhibit is curated by art historian Ray Hernández-Durán and will run through Nov. 3.

He says that with a focus on resistance, adaptation and survival, the exhibition will include recent work by a diverse group of emerging LGBTQIA-identified artists from New York; Chicago; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Albuquerque, who address themes of healing, growth, memory and persistence in their art.

A scene from the film “Chavela.”

In addition to the exhibition, there will be a lecture series, art film screenings, and an exhibition catalog that will be free to the public.

“(Ray) pulled together a number of great artists from around the country,” Appicciafoco says. “It was a big project. Ideally, it would be nice to bring in some special components every year. Next year, it could be something in performance. But the mission of the festival is to bring the best in queer cinema.”

Appicciafoco says there are eight short film blocks included in the festival with more than 50 films.

“The stories have been solid,” he says. “There are more films that represent what is happening in the world. This year, given our political climate, we’ve seen a lot of films that are dealing with activism. We have a shorts block that deals with activism.”

The lineup for the festival is strong, and there’s something for everybody, Appicciafoco says.

“The films are diverse,” he says. “I’m excited about the future with the festival.”