The Two Gay Geeks were present at Festival de Cannes this year and here is our report on the LGBTQ presence at The American Pavilion.

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Ten Short Films featuring LGBTQ+ Emerging Filmmakers were Showcased at the American Pavilion during the Cannes Film Festival Market.

William Stead, writer and director of ‘All the Young Dudes,’ wins Best LGBTQ+ Short Film, his First AmPav Cannes Title

(Cannes, France) – May 29th, 2022

The American Pavilion, celebrating over 30 years of bringing professionals and developing filmmakers together, is thrilled to be back with its annual showcase for LGBTQ+ emerging filmmakers at the Cannes International Film Festival, after two years of pandemic.

The ten short films in the showcase played to packed audiences. This year’s films include:

Cans Can’t Stand directed by Matt Nadel and Megan Plotka, Yale University, USA

All the Young Dudes written and directed by William Stead, Florida State University, USA

Carino written and directed by Carlos Taborda, Roshel Amuruz, Ashley Williams, School of Visual Arts, USA

Cupids directed by Zoey Martinson, USA

Don’t Let Go written and directed by Mel Orpen, University of Southern California, USA

Dotting the “I” written and directed by Doug Tompos, USA

Imperfectly Complete written and directed by Bruce Chiu, University of Southern California, USA

Noah’s Song produced, written, and directed by Damián Bonito Zapien, Vassar College, USA

Second Team directed by Ria Pavia, USA

The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night directed by Fawzia Mirza, USA

Photo by Devon Sniegocki of ChicArt PR exclusively for The Two Gay Geeks


The American Pavilion

Each year, The American Pavilion hosts a series of emerging filmmakers throughout the two weeks of the international film festival. Included in this year’s categories were LGBTQ+, Student, EFS, and EFS High School Film. A variety of themes were evident in the LGBTQ+ showcase – systemic injustice, familial approval, the classic coming of age, and a humorous yet confronting approach to heterosexual culture.

CANS Can’t Stand, directed by Matt Nadel and Megan Plotka, follows a group of Black trans women in Negativew Orleans fighting to repeal Louisiana’s Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) and to advance trans liberation across the state. Nadel and Plotka met Wendi Cooper, the central figure in the film, at the New Orleans Video Access Center, a community documentary organization. There, Cooper told them their story, and the directors walked away from the meeting knowing the story needed to be told. “I think if people knew about this, they would want it to change as much as Wendi [Cooper] does,” Nadel says.

Inspired by their own personal experience, Mel Orpen’s Don’t Let Go, is about a couple, Sam and Reggie, engaged to be married. After a car accident puts Reggie into a coma, Sam must face Reggie’s homophobic mother who refuses to accept their relationship and advocate for their place to be with their partner in the hospital. By telling this story, Orpen hopes to start a conversation with those who are struggling to accept the LGBTQ members of their family and to “encourage that we are more the same than different.”

All the Young Dudes, a coming of age film set in 1973 in the state of Georgia, started as Stead’s thesis from Florida State. In the film, Billy proclaims his love for glam rock by dressing in extravagant clothing and makeup in stark contrast to his conventional peers. Cannes was the last stop for this glam art film’s tour, showing at 42 festivals over two years. Stead hopes to make the award-winning short into a feature one day.

Photo by Devon Sniegocki of ChicArt PR exclusively for The Two Gay Geeks

Many of the films showcased here were produced during Covid, which had a unique set of challenges, isolation being one of the greatest. Several filmmakers, in fact, expressed their gratitude at finally being able to share their art in rooms full of people, thanks to the generosity of the American Pavilion.

The Two Gay Geeks were able to meet with L.A. based filmmaker Mel Orpen, writer-director of Don’t Let Go, who explained that being part of this selection is going to catapult her career to the next level. She is using the awareness she is getting during her presence at Cannes to leverage her upcoming feature film projects.

The excitement in the packed screening room at AmPav was palpable and the showcased was followed by a cocktail reception where the Queer filmmakers and industry leaders could mingle and continue the discussion.



2022 LGBTQ+ Emerging Filmmaker Showcase Short Films:


2022, 18:42 min., USA
Director: Matt Nadel, Megan Plotka
Producer: Matt Nadel, Wendi Cooper
Cast: Wendi Cooper, Milan Nicole Sherry, CANScan’tSTAND Activists

Summary: Trans woman Wendi Cooper takes the camera along on her path to help Black trans women negatively impacted by Louisiana’s enforcement of the Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) law. CANS Can’t Stand shows the everyday struggle that these men and women go through trying to survive, support each other, and fight to repeal the law in court.

2020, 8:39 min., USA, Florida State University
Writer/Director: William Stead
Producer: Cameron Greco
Cast: Blake Lafita, Richie Gambardella

Summary: Billy, an eclectic rocker trapped in a traditional lifestyle, attracts an unlikely friend who dares to join him on his path of rebellion and glam in the 1970’s suburbs.

2021, 3:46 min., USA, School of Visual Arts
Writer/Director: Carlos Taborda, Roshel Amuruz, Ashley Williams

Summary: A young boy spends his day on a wild chase around the town of Cartagena to find a token of love for his crush.

2021, 10 min., USA
Director: Zoey Martinson
Writer: Zoey Martinson, Julie Sharbutt
Producer: Korey Jackson and Devin E. Haqq
Cast: Melanie Nicholls-King, Toryn Isabella Coote, Julius Sampson, Scarlett London Diviney

Summary: Three elementary students spend their last bus ride home before break trying to find a soulmate for their favorite school bus driver.

2021, 9:33 min., USA, University of Southern California
Writer/Director: Mel Orpen
Producer: Mehmet Gungoren
Cast: Tessa Hope Slovis, Joyce Lee, Lauren Lynn King, Susan Harmon

Summary: Tragedy strikes shortly after couple Sam and Reggie become engaged. Sam must prove her place next to her fiance, who has fallen into a coma, all while dealing with Reggie’s mother who does not approve of their relationship.

2022, 11:14 min., USA
Writer/Director: Doug Tompos
Producer: Doug Tompos, Risa Bramon Garcia, Steve Braun
Cast: Jeff Lorch, Miguel Perez

Summary: Two colleagues engage in an after hours night of finding the true meanings of love and lust.

2021, 14:46 mink., USA (Subtitles), University of Southern California
Writer/Director: Bruce Chiu
Producer: Victor Tsao, Chrissy Aung
Cast: Chrissy Aung, Zaw Myo Htet

Summary: Trans woman, Lucy, is caretaker and partner of blind musician, Owen. When Owen has the opportunity to get surgery to reverse his condition, Lucy struggles with revealing the truth about her life to Owen.

2021, 2:57 min., USA, Vassar College
Producer/Writer/Director: Damián Bonito Zapien

Summary: Abstract illustrations depict a transgender man revealing his true self to his partner.

2020, 10:27 min., USA
Director: Ria Pavia
Writer: Anni Weisband
Producer: Mayon Denton, Julia Armine, Robert E. Arnold, Anni Weisband
Cast: Francia Raisa, Danielle Savre, Gigi Zumbado, Greer Grammar, Phill Lewis, Chester Lockhart, Sally Brooks, Akil Jackson, Alexander True Synder, Catfish Jean, Melissa Greenspan

Summary: The crew of a sitcom tv show watches from behind the camera as two previously in love stand in actors make the script their own during rehearsal.

2021, 11 min., USA
Director: Fawzia Mirza
Writer: Kausar Mohammed
Producer: Amalia Mesa-Gustin, Kausar Mohammed
Cast: Kausar Mohammed, Vico Ortiz, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Pia Shah, D’Lo Srijaerajah

Summary: A Pakistani woman brings home her Puerto Rican partner for Christmas, facing nervous jitters and the awkward encounters of introducing her partner to her family for the first time.
Reporter Note: This is an incredible trans film made in Pakistan, but fully funded by US producers. It’s the first time Pakistan was selected in Cannes. It’s a very important film considering that they shot it for about 45 days clandestinely because Pakistan is very strict around LGBTQ. The country wouldn’t have supported this film and that’s why the filmmaker had to produce it out of the USA.
I watched it and it was very impactful for me.

Editor Note: Our two intrepid reporters and representatives at The Festival de Cannes 2022 were our own Patricia Chica and her delightful assistant, Sophia Benalouane.

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