June 20, 2018 at 11:29 am PDT | by Dan Allen
As Outfest sets to launch, here’s what to watch out for

Rising star Harris Dickinson falls in with a pack of art-loving sex workers and bonds with Caravaggio in the gorgeous ‘Postcards from London.’ (Photo courtesy of ‘Postcards from London’)

The 36th edition of Outfest is now just a few weeks away, and while its fearless programmers have done another fantastic job of pulling together the best and brightest in queer filmmaking from around the world, navigating the resulting massive lineup — 221 films spread over 11 days this year — choosing what to see can be decidedly daunting.

So here’s our rundown of the top must-see standouts at Outfest 2018, which runs July 12-22. (And don’t wait — tickets went on sale this week, and will surely sell out for all of these gems.)

Studio 54

Thursday, July 12, 8 p.m.

Orpheum Theatre

842 S Broadway, Los Angeles

What better way to kick off Outfest and its fabulous Opening Night Gala than with the eagerly anticipated documentary about the most dazzling disco of all time, Studio 54? Director Matt Tyrnauer explores the legacy of this nocturnal fortress of ‘70s hedonism, where Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson were just a few of the regulars who rubbed body parts with New York’s most happening gays. As usual, the Outfest opener and its famed after-party go down at the Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, and will include the presentation of this year’s Outfest Achievement Award, to director Angela Robinson.

Wild Nights with Emily

Saturday, July 21, 8:30 p.m.

The Ford Theaters

2580 Cahuenga Blvd E, Los Angeles

Director Madeleine Olnek (“The Foxy Merkins”) presents one of the funniest lesbian comedies in years, pulverizing patriarchal preconceptions about poet Emily Dickinson, and transforming her into a vivacious lesbian romantic — played warmly and beautifully by Molly Shannon — who’s forced to hide her lifelong romance with her best friend Susan for the sake of her literary career.

We the Animals

Saturday, July 14, 6:45 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Hailed as “this year’s ‘Moonlight’” when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (where it received the NEXT Innovator Award), “We the Animals” is the tough but tender story of three young brothers — half white, half Puerto Rican — who tightly bond as they navigate the fallout from their parents’ explosive relationship. Their close sibling unit is tested as the two older brothers begin to follow in the macho path of their father (“Looking’s Raúl Castillo), while the youngest, sensitive Jonah, is more drawn toward their mother — and boys.

Mapplethorpe

Friday, July 13, 7 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

Award-winning director Ondi Timoner presents this appropriately full-frontal biopic about rebel photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose arrestingly gorgeous black and white photographs became iconic ‘70s and ‘80s symbols of unflinching homosexuality — and then tragically, of the AIDS crisis and its fallout. English actor Matt Smith (“The Crown,” “Doctor Who”) plays Mapplethorpe, against the backdrop of New York’s highbrow art and down-and-dirty leather scenes.

Bad Reputation

Wednesday, July 18, 8:30 p.m.

The Ford Theatres

Another ‘70s and ‘80s queer icon — rock bad girl Joan Jett — is profiled in this loud and loving documentary that explores the many stages of her career, from young founder of The Runaways to 60-year-old rock powerhouse. Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Miley Cyrus and Michael J. Fox are just a few of the celebs who share their thoughts on their friend and idol.

Postcards from London

Friday, July 20, 8:30 p.m.

The Ford Theatres

Rising mainstream star Harris Dickinson (last year’s “Beach Rats”) headlines the sexy and arty tale of young Joe, who flees small-town Britain for the bright lights of London — where he promptly falls in with a posse of hip and highbrow sex workers, cherished by their patrons for their ability to carry on lofty post-coital conversations. Shades of Caravaggio, Derek Jarman and Pierre et Gilles permeate this heady homoerotic fantasy.

Game Girls

Sunday, July 15, 9:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America Theater 2

Sunday, July 22, 1:45 p.m., Regal LA Live

1000 W Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

This gritty and moving documentary shines a spotlight on a side of LA queer life that’s rarely seen, following girlfriends Tiahana (who’s just out of prison on a drug-dealing offense) and Teri (who’s coping with mental health issues) as they face the grim realities of living on Skid Row, while navigating a relationship that’s alternately tender and physically volatile.

Mr. Gay Syria

Saturday, July 14, 9 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 2

A big crowd favorite when it was shown at Outfest Fusion earlier this year, this riveting documentary follows a group of gay Syrian refugees as they struggle to both rebuild their lives as foreigners after the devastation of war, and to live authentically within a culture that condemns their sexuality. The film focuses particularly on two young men, Husein (who works as a barber and lives with his toddler and unsuspecting wife in Istanbul) and Mahmoud (who lives in Berlin, and is the organizer of the necessarily semi-secretive Mr. Gay Syria contest).

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

Saturday, July 14, 1:45 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

Matt Tyrnauer — who also directed “Studio 54”, this year’s Opening Night Gala film — presents this dishy and fascinating documentary about the life of Scotty Bowers, gas station attention turned paramour and pimp to the stars. The Golden Age of Hollywood comes to juicy life here, with queer celeb secrets about the likes of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and George Cukor.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Friday, July 20, 7:15 p.m.

Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

It’s cinematic queer nirvana as out gay hunk Luke Evans portrays real-life Harvard psychologist William Moulton Marston, who was inspired to create girl-power comic book icon Wonder Woman by the female sexuality and empowerment of his wife and their polyamorous lover, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). Angela Robinson, winner of this year’s Outfest Achievement Award, directs.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Sunday, July 22, 7 p.m.

The Theater at Ace Hotel

929 S Broadway, Los Angeles

Outfest 2018 closes with this winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, the bittersweet tale of young Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), who — after being caught cavorting with her best friend — is sent to an ultra-religious gay conversion camp. Resistant to “treatment,” Cameron, fortunately, finds like-minded spirits in fellow campers Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), and the three form a bond that helps them rise above the intolerance surrounding them.

This year’s Outfest will also include perennial favorites like the experimental Platinum section and Boys and Girls Shorts collections, and will mark the return of several outdoor screenings to the Ford Theatres, which had been closed for a several-year renovation. Outfest’s Trans Summit will return for its second edition, this year featuring award-winning director and producer Yance Ford as the keynote speaker.
And for the first time, Outfest will include a dedicated Episodic Programs section (highlighting the ever-growing realm of queer series), as well as a special Focus on Taiwan series, showcasing a selection of LGBTQ films from the queer-forward country of Taiwan.

Tickets to all showings can be purchased at outfest.org.

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