The festival is needed to make Hollywood ask these questions, said Richard Jennings, executive director of Hollywood Supports. Set up by last year by former Fox Inc. CEO and Chairman Barry Diller and MCA President Sidney Sheinberg, the organization's mission is to combat "AIDS phobia and homophobia" in the entertainment industry.
"The number of non-stereotypical portrayals of gay and lesbians have been minimal," Jennings said. "It's important to let Hollywood know what can be done. I think it's really important that the festival happens in this town. The 'Basic Instinct' protests really got Hollywood's attention."
Although he likes to think the festival has had a positive effect on Hollywood, Horne said he's wary of gay themes being embraced by the movie industry.
"I have gay executives saying, 'We're looking for our gay John Singleton,' " said Horne, referring to the African-American director whose low-budget "Boyz N the Hood" was both a critical and commercial success for Columbia Pictures last year. "Hollywood looks for formulas."
But, Horne said he thinks films about gay and lesbian life are more "threatening" than the current rash of films about the African-American community because "people have so much ingrained homophobia."
"African-Americans and gays are in a similar boat in their portrayals in Hollywood. But the mainstream accepts parts of black culture and images. We don't even have that acceptance yet," Horne said.
And he worried that if Hollywood adopts gay concerns, "it will be about mainstreaming of a cultural trend . . . taking the threat out."
"I wonder when people have $25-million budget, what kind of constraints will be placed on them to present a certain view," he said.
Van Sant, the openly gay director of "My Own Private Idaho," said that more gay films will be made if they start to make money. But he questioned what a big-budget film about a gay couple will signify: "The only thing going down in L.A. are $25-million films. Except if you are in L.A., do you care?"
* The Los Angeles International Gay and Lesbian Film and Video Festival begins today at the Directors Guild and runs through July 18. Information: (213) 650-5133.