The Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (PILGFF) began in 1982 as the Lesbian and Gay Film Series, a project of the Pittsburgh’s Lesbian and Gay Community Center, with the goal of providing opportunities for viewing media by and about lesbian and gay people and their experiences. In partnership with the University of Pittsburgh’s Gay and Lesbian Alliance, the Film Series was stationed in Oakland. In 1985 the Film Series moved off-campus and became a separate event, formed its own Board of Directors, and launched the first film festival in 1986 with the cooperation of Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
In 1987, with Richard Cummings as Executive Director, the Film Festival incorporated, was granted non-profit status, and applied for funding as a major presenter of lesbian and gay media in Pennsylvania and the nation. The annual Film Festival has grown to a ten-day program each October presenting over fifty films and videos in a number of venues, as well as producing, hosting, and participating in a wide array of cultural and community events throughout the year. Originally only hosting audiences at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Oakland Screening Room and Fulton Theatre, the Film Festival has expanded into a multi-venue event and presents at several theatres, including Pittsburgh’s Byham and South Side Works theatres. With an increase in programming and attendance, the Film Festival has continued to augment funding and media coverage, receiving grants from the Chicago resource Center, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Lambda Foundation.
The Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival highlights major feature films of interest to the lesbian and gay community, as well as provides a venue for independent film and video from the United States and abroad. The Film Festival also sponsors an educational symposium featuring an internationally acclaimed figure in lesbian and gay media. Past speakers have included independent filmmakers Isaac Julien, Peggy Gilpin, Cheryl Dunye, Rob Marshall, and art critic and AIDS activist Douglas Crimp.
In 2006, the organization changed its corporate name to the Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society in order to show its dedicated commitment to become an organization that provides year round activities. The Pittsburgh Lesbian and Gay Film Society is now the presenter of the Annual Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.