Now that the mainstream has turned pink - what with the Boys Don't Cry and Madonna and Rupert Everett's The Next Best Thing - is there such a thing as lesbian and gay film? And does it deserve its own festival?
On Thursday, Punks - an all-gay, all-black romantic comedy - opens the 14th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, an event which jokingly aims to "happily promote homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable way of being", through its programme of the world's "best new queer cinema".
All very worthy, but now that we live in a supposedly post-gay era, is there any point? Mark Simpson, author of Anti-Gay - a homosexual critique of gay orthodoxy - believes that events such as the festival have lost their relevance.
"Does it have any point? Not for me," he says. "The question is, how does this festival differ from any other special interest group activity, like a Star Trek convention?"
Lesbian and gay film-makers, Simpson believes, would be better off working within the mainstream, rather than at the industry's margins. "It's true that these film-makers exist in an incubator for a wider culture that needs them, but the only interesting species are the ones who manage to survive outside that incubator."
The festival programmer, Briony Hanson, begs to differ. "It would be wonderful for these film-makers to show their work to a wider market, but the truth is the vast majority of these films would never get screened," she says. "Some films don't have a place in mainstream or independent cinemas, but that's not to say that they don't have a valuable life within this festival."
Each year the festival attracts around 25,000 people and, after its closing night gala (13 April), goes on tour in 25 UK venues. But how good are the films? The problem with gay culture, says Simpson, is that critical analysis is replaced by the question, "how gay is it?" "Rather than coo and purr and stroke it, we need to ask the festival to justify itself. Being gay is not enough," he says.
There are gems - like the offbeat But I'm A Cheerleader and Francois Ozon's dark, transgressive Criminal Lovers - but there are also too many light, fluffy comedies.
Hanson believes that what may seem like superficial films still serve a purpose. "Yes, Punks is glitzy and fun but it's …