The London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (LGLFF) has roots dating back to 1977, when the National Film Theatre?s Richard Dyer programmed ?Images of Homosexuality?, the first ever focused season of gay films anywhere in the world.
Richard went on to work at Warwick University, and in 1986 his influence inspired a former student, by then working for the British Film Institute (BFI), to programme ?Gays? Own Pictures?, a short festival which presented nine films over five days. Now in its 16th year, LGLFF is due to open (and close) at the Odeon West End. It includes 120 screenings over 2 weeks and is followed by a regional tour to 39 towns and cities across the UK.

The fundamental aim of the Festival is to give gay and lesbian work the exposure it deserves, but seldom gets in mainstream cinema distribution. Although it is no longer a novelty for gay and lesbian characters to be portrayed in film, or indeed on TV, the representation of gay and lesbian experience is very limited. The scope of the Festival is far wider, including films such as ?Trembling before G-D?, a study of the challenges facing Orthodox and Hassidic lesbians and gays, ?Daddy and Pappa? which focuses on gay parenthood, and ?The Cockettes?, which looks back at San Francisco in the late 1960s.The LGLFF is also the only festival in the world to present archive material, thanks to its relationship with the National Film and TV Archive, operated by BFI.

As well as raising the profile of gay and lesbian work, the Festival draws attention to gay and lesbian film-makers, who are under-represented in Hollywood. Cheryl Dunye?s second film ?Stranger Inside?, for example, is the only second feature ever to have been made by a black lesbian American. Cultural Diversity is also at the heart of the programme which includes work by film-makers from China, Zimbabwe, Korea, Australia, France and The Philippines, to name but a few.

Sponsorship is vital to the survival of the Festival, and several sponsors, both gay/lesbian organisations and mainstream commercial enterprises, have been committed to it for many years, including Renault, Gay Times, Diva and the Pink Paper. Guy Hornsby of out.com, one of this year?s major sponsors, views the Festival as providing an invaluable platform for exposure in the gay and lesbian community, due to its prestige and status. 21,000 attenders came to London screenings in 2001 ? far more to the regional tour ? and many of these were multiple ticket-buyers. Audience loyalty is very strong, with some attenders being known to regularly take their holidays to coincide with the Festival. They have 180 lesbian/gay film festivals across the world to choose between; so clearly LGLFF has created something very special.

The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival takes place from April 3-17. For more information about the Festival and the subsequent tour w: http://www.llgff.org.uk