In 2006, Malcolm Ingram’s award-winning documentary Small Town Gay Bar (Frameline30) explored gay bars in rural Mississippi. Gay bars are often the only safe communities for small-town LGBTQ people in the Deep South’s Bible Belt, and bigoted forces—Fred Phelps, Tim Wildmon, and more—have long tried to shut them down. Now, after the election of Donald Trump has emboldened anti-LGBTQ hatred in the region, Ingram returns to document the travails of running a gay bar in Mississippi, with a profile of lesbian bar owners in Biloxi and Hattiesburg.
Lynn Koval, the white owner of Just Us Lounge, the oldest gay bar in the state, and Shawn Perryon, Sr., the black owner of the nine-year-old Club Xclusive, decide separately to hold their cities’ first Pride celebrations in 2017, as a rebuke to the “open-season” mentality encouraged by Trump, as well as to Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack, and the murders of three Gulf Coast transgender women shortly after the 2017 inauguration. Just Us Lounge restored their community after Hurricane Katrina leveled Biloxi and nearly destroyed the bar. Can they and Club Xclusive organize a Pride event in the face of homophobia and racism? Months of preparation yield fundraising fiascos, unexpected road repairs, and the comical hustling of indifferent spring breakers. But the power of community should never be underestimated, and the brave efforts of the two gay bars are an inspiring example of real Southern pride.
— FRAKO LODEN
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
- Premiere Status: West Coast