Frank Benedetti, left, and Gary Trowbridge, right, stand with their minister,
the Rev. Charlie Davis, at their 40th anniversary re-commitment ceremony. 
Photo courtesy RiverRun International Film Festival

Longtime LGBT activists and local arts supporters Frank Benedetti and Gary Trowbridge will be honored at this year’s 15th annual RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem. The festival, featuring over 140 different award-winning feature films, documentaries, animated films, foreign films and shorts, will include two screenings of director Madeline Carlin’s “We Will Prevail,” a short documentary following the couple both before and after the May 2012 passage of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment.

“Originally it started with a young lady from Elon College,” says Benedetti, 73. “She was working on a class project and asked if we would help her with it. She came out and visited with us and came back another time and took pictures and we said, ‘Okay, that’s the end of that.’”

Months later, the couple received a package in the mail with a DVD and a thank you note. Later, they learned the film was submitted to the festival.

“We review films for RiverRun and we heard this was one of the films submitted,” Benedetti says.

Trowbridge, 72, adds, “Of course, they wouldn’t let us review that one.”

The couple says feedback for the film, which was also screened at last year’s North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Durham, has been positive.

“They (RiverRun screeners) enjoyed watching it very much and said there’s probably a genesis of a much larger story in that and they hoped she would pursue that.”

The film on the couple, who are longtime advocates for marriage equality, comes as the Supreme Court hears and considers two important marriage-related cases this spring and summer. On March 26, the court heard oral arguments in the cases on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment, Proposition 8. A ruling could come as soon as June.

Benedetti and Trowbridge say they have fears and concerns about the pending Supreme Court cases.

“I have a fear about it because of the composition of the court,” says Benedetti. “I think they are overwhelmingly Catholic and overwhelmingly ultraconservative. I’m afraid their ideology will get in the way of constitutional rights.”

“I feel like if there is a bishop or cardinal who says if you vote this way or you do this, we’re going to withhold communion from you, they are going to listen to them,” adds Trowbridge, saying precedent has already been set for religious meddling in marriage debates. “Look at what the Mormon and Catholic churches did with Proposition 8. They financed the whole thing.”

The couple knows marriage equality is inevitable — “The train has left the station,” Benedetti says — but don’t hold out as much hope that change will occur quickly enough to impact them.

“We have seen things change very slowly,” says Benedetti. “When we were your age, it was a whole different world. We are confident [it will happen], but we don’t think we’ll live long enough to see this.”

The couple’s short documentary will screen on April 14 and April 19 at Hanesbrands Theatre at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, 209 N. Spruce St. For more information and tickets, visit : :

Canadian drama centers on trans story line

Melvil Poupaud stars as the title character in ‘Laurence Anyways.’
Photo courtesy RiverRun International Film Festival

RiverRun International Film Festival will also screen the 2012 Canadian drama, “Laurence Anyways.” The film, directed by Xavier Dolan and filmed in French, stars Melvil Poupaud as transgender character Laurence Alia and Suzanne Clément as Laurence’s love interest Fred Belair. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, the film follows Laurence as he reveals himself to Fred and explores how the couple navigates Laurence’s transition. The story line is a rocky one, as Fred and Laurence eventually break up, Fred moves away and marries and their paths cross later in life. The film will be screened on April 13, 16 and 20 at various venues at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and in downtown Winston-Salem.

For more information on the film and tickets, visit

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.