MGLFF's Mark Gilbert on Pioneering Miami's Gay Scene: "I Had to Step Up"

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Like shooting a Fassbinder film, running a film festival can be a frenzied, grotesque circus. It comes as no surprise that only one person stepped up when Franc Castro, former Executive Director of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, stepped down last year.

"I was the only one who applied. I have loved this festival since the first day I became involved," says Interim Executive Director and Festival Chair Mark "Marky G" Gilbert, who is guiding the festival through its sixteenth year. "I had to step into the role to give back to the community that gave so much to me."

See also: Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2014: Six Must-See Films

The position of film festival ringmaster may be new to Gilbert, but MGLFF is an acronym he's as familiar with as his initials. Gilbert has served as a member and co-chair of the MGLFF's board of directors on and off for more than a decade. In the process, he's watched the Festival grow from floundering film freshman to homecoming screen queen.

He may be running a motion picture madhouse, but he picked up the nickname "Marky G" on the radio. Gilbert's stints on WHYI (Y-100) and WPYM (then Party 93.1 FM), gave him a voice - and he used it to help bring MGLFF out of the celluloid closet.

"My dear friend Phil Michaels Trueba [WPYM's program director] was savvy enough to have an idea to allot his PSA slot to gay issues. I thought it was a perfect fit and felt it was time to hear the word "gay" on the radio and so did they," Gilbert recalls. "They sponsored us doing promos and commercials all day about the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. No hiding, in your face, real conversation. That was a first for FM radio - a first."

Trueba asked Gilbert if he knew anyone who would be interested in doing an early morning show, and of course he did.

"I said I would do it, being the ham that I am," Gilbert laughs.

The show, "Issues Over the Rainbow" attracted the likes of Cher, Cyndi Lauper, Yoko Ono, and Sir Ian McKellen.

"More importantly," he points out, "we touched thousands, and delivered our message in a unique, non-threatening manner that changed perceptions."

After the program proved successful, "Marky G" was approached to develop the "South Beach Dance Party" show for Y-100.

"We went to number one in three weeks in their top three demos," Gilbert says.

Marky G was considered the "Voice of the Community" and asked to host hundreds of local events, an epoch he fondly recalls.

"I loved what this community was doing to bring not only equality and political awareness, but also the incredible caliber of the organizations that were bettering our quality of life."

Gilbert expects MGLFF to also improve the lives of LGBT people - locally and globally, but how does he intend to make that happen?

"To tie a community together through film," Gilbert explains. "To give thousands the opportunity to experience gay film with others that share the experience in a similar way. To educate, inspire, and generally share various aspects of who we are as a community -- our ups, downs, joys, wishes, loves, values, and so much more."

Overseeing a ten-day film festival that features more than 65 films isn't anyone's idea of an easy gig, but somebody has to do it.

"As an executive director, you have to deal with all the minutia - and I do mean every single detail," Gilbert says. "Being both the board chair and executive director is the best of both worlds, because I give myself orders and then yell at myself when they are not done."

Gilbert promises festival attendees "one hell of a good time" regardless of sexual orientation.

"We have one of the best programs in this Festival's history," he adds. "Gay, lesbian, bi, trans, straight, black, white, brown, yellow, purple, green, left-handed, right-handed. There is a film this year that will entertain and inspire you."

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