Hey all you queer cinemaphiles out there, Los Angeles Outfest is just around the corner, ready to showcase an impressive array of new and exciting LGBTQ films.
We know you want to fit as many screenings as possible into your schedule – and your budget- but with so many exciting titles on the program, how can you ever know which ones to choose?
No need to fret, we’ve got you covered. Though every movie in the festival is undoubtedly worthy of your attention, we’ve compiled a list of highlights that can serve as a jumping off point for any taste.
We’ve mostly stuck with feature-length narrative films here, with a couple of important exceptions thrown in; but it should be noted that Outfest also offers a host of short films, documentaries and special events that are highly recommended to round out your Outfest experience.
In any case, once you’ve got your bases covered, you can dive deep into the schedule (available for perusal, along with specific venues and ticket info, at https://www.outfest.org/) and add as many more selections to your gay agenda as your time and money will allow.
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (July 6th) – Kicking off the festival at the Opening Night Gala is this Sundance favorite from first-time filmmaker Francis Lee. A gritty tale of unlikely romance between an English sheep farmer and Romanian migrant he takes on as a hired hand, this drama is described as “an unflinching and compassionate plea for unity in these divisive times.”
THE PASS (July 7th, July 9th) – Another Brit drama, this one features Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene as a pair of rising soccer stars whose encounter in a hotel room the night before a big game triggers a cascade of consequences. Tovey’s status as a “gay heartthrob” is sure to make this one a hot ticket.
THE CITY OF THE FUTURE (July 7th) – A Brazilian offering, this bold drama follows the efforts of a polyamorous bisexual trio as they shun convention and build their own vision of a happy family as they prepare for the birth of their child. Directed by Claudio Marques and Marilia Hughes Guerreiro, it’s a must-see.
RIFT (July 7th) – This Icelandic entry for horror fans, this is a story of two boyfriends being terrorized by someone (or something) in a secluded cabin. Promising to “keep you guessing and leave you haunted,” this Erlingur Thoroddsen-directed thriller looks like a real nail-biter.
100 MEN (July 8th) – A documentary by New Zealander Paul Oremland, who looks up 100 men he’s had sex with over the past 40 years. Tracking the changing attitudes towards homosexuality over the years, it’s described as “a personal, often humorous look.”
THE REVIVAL (July 8th) – Jennifer Gerber’s drama takes on religious fundamentalism through the story of a young preacher whose efforts to open the minds of his Arkansas congregation are complicated when a handsome drifter enters his life. With its “simmering resentments and repressed emotions,” it’s sure to be controversial in all the right ways.
SATURDAY CHURCH (July 8th) – With its clear debt to the iconic Paris Is Burning, this film about a Bronx teen who flees his sternly religious aunt and finds refuge in a West Village church where “voguing is more important than sermons,” is threaded with “dream-like musical interludes.” With its message that a holy space is somewhere you can be yourself, this will surely be another crowd-pleaser.
THE WOUND (July 8th) – A South African drama about a young man undergoing a tribal rite of passage into manhood, this one explores the difficulties of reconciling traditional expectations of masculinity that is at odds with individual sexual identity. Offering a thoughtful performance by Xhosa singer Nakhane Touré, promises to be less harrowing than inspiring.
BECKS (July 9th) – Starring Lena Hall (who won a Tony for the recent revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Mena Suvari, this romance by Liz Rohrbaugh and
Daniel Powell is the story of a down-and-out singer songwriter who moves back into her childhood home and finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a “lonely housewife” from the neighborhood. It also features original songs by Hall herself.
4 DAYS IN FRANCE (July 9th) – A French movie with subtitles, directed by Jerome Reybaud, it’s a “road picture” in which a young man tracks his boyfriend across the countryside by following him on Grindr. According to the description, it’s “full of charming and unexpected moments,” as the two men make their way through a series of anonymous encounters towards an “unexpected destiny.” It sounds delightfully Euro.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON (July 9th) – Sure to be another hot ticket, this documentary by David France (How to Survive a Plague) explores the mysterious death of Stonewall heroine and trans icon Johnson, using it as a springboard to address the risks that still face the trans population today.
IN BETWEEN (July 9th) – Maysaloun Hamoud’s multi-lingual film pushes against a lot of taboos with its story of three very different Palestinian women sharing an apartment as they attempt to break free of societal expectations. With its cast described as “charming,” this is likely to be a smartly iconoclastic exploration of clashing cultures.
A MILLION HAPPY NOWS (July 9th) – The bittersweet story of a soap opera actress with early-onset Alzheimer’s who retires to spend the time she has left with her longtime partner, this Albert Alarr-directed lesbian tear-jerker promises to provide “a million reasons why we all need to appreciate love to the fullest.”
PATHS (July 8th) – This German film with subtitles follows a pair of longtime male partners who grow apart as their son grows up, despite their continuing love for one another. Directed by Chris Miera, it promises to “avoid flashy melodrama” in favor of a tender and moving portrayal of the couple’s deteriorating relationship.
PROM KING, 2010 (July 9th) – The story of a 20-year old college boy whose pursuit of love is hampered by the idealized vision of romance in the classic films he loves, this feel-good entry is probably a sure-fire hit for gay cinema nuts. The sumptuous widescreen cinematography of its New York locations makes it even more appealing.
BODY ELECTRIC (July 10th) – Brazilian Marcelo Caetano, another first-time director, takes us on an odyssey through his country’s “changing sexual landscape” with this story of a young factory worker named Elias who spends his nights contemplating his future and exploring his sensuality as he learns to enjoy life’s fleeting pleasures. This one is in Portuguese with subtitles, though it sounds as if not much translation will be needed.
CHERRY POP (July 10th) – Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will enjoy this comedy featuring Bob the Drag Queen and Tempest DuJour (among other Drag Race alumni), about the backstage hi-jinks at a drag dive bar where “dreams go to die.”
GIRL UNBOUND: THE WAR TO BE HER (July 10th) – A joint Canadian-Pakistani production, this documentary focuses on Maria Toorpakai Wazir, an androgynous Muslim Pakistani squash champion who struggles to persist and endure in the face of persecution and threats from Al-Qaeda. Directed by Erin Heidenreich, it’s a timely and challenging look at the effects of religious fanaticism.
HELLO AGAIN (July 11th) – Musical theatre fans will want to jump on this one, a screen adaptation of Michael John LaChiusa’s acclaimed 1994 off-Broadway work which is itself an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s classic play, Der Reigen. Directed by Tom Gustafson and featuring a wide variety of musical styles, it leapfrogs ten characters through ten clandestine sexual encounters, exploring the reasons why people hook up while showcasing the talents of such performers as Audra McDonald, Martha Plimpton, Nolan Funk, and Rumer Willis, among others.
TOM OF FINLAND (July 11th) – The much-anticipated biopic about iconic gay artist Touko Laaksonen is likely to draw a huge audience here in the city where he eventually made his home. Get your tickets while you can.
BOYS FOR SALE (July 12th) – A Japanese documentary about the “Urisen,” young male sex workers who cater to men in the Tokyo underground, this Itaio-directed film offers “an illuminating look into a rarely seen world that tantalizingly shows the humanity of sex work.”
THE LADIES ALMANACK (July 12th) – Shot on Super 8 film, Daviel Shy’s adaptation of Djuna Barne’s book about “lesbian Casanova” Natalie Barney explores the intertwined secrets of the Gertrude Stein, Colette, and others in the Parisian queer femme literary circle of 1928. A sumptuous feast for aficionados of the Jazz Age, this period tell-all looks like a scandalous delight.
I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (July 13th) – Another Sundance winner, this moving romance is the story of a linguist who travels deep into the Mexican jungle to study a disappearing indigenous language only to discover that the last two people who know it are a pair of former male lovers who refuse to speak to each other because of a 50-year-old quarrel. Directed by Ernesto Contreras, I recommend bringing some tissues to this one.
TAMARA (July 13th) – The true story of Venezuela’s first transgender politician, this queer biopic documents her journey from her pre-transition days as a family man through her rise as a trans activist and her resulting run for office. Directed by Elia K. Schneider and boasting powerful performances, this Spanish-language entry is yet another must-see.
AFTER LOUIE (July 15th) – Already featured in the pages of the Blade, this thought-provoking romantic drama from activist-turned-filmmaker Vincent Gagliostro features Alan Cumming as a middle-aged artist whose creative energies are blocked by his fixation on the past until a handsome millennial challenges his perspective. Important for lots of reasons, it’s also moving, funny, and highly entertaining. A must-see.
QUEERCORE: HOW TO PUNK A REVOLUTION (July 15th) – Yony Leyser’s German documentary “takes us through the cut-and-paste queer anarchy of the early days of homocore to the punk-pop peak of queercore’s Pansy Division,” exploring the rise of and influence of such iconoclastic queer artists as Bruce LaBruce, John Waters, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, among others. It looks like a wild ride.
FREAK SHOW (July 16th) – The festival’s closing night selection, this adaptation of a novel by James St. James tells the story of a flamboyant new student who shakes up his military academy by running for homecoming queen. With a cast featuring Bette Midler and Laverne Cox, it’s sure to be an audience favorite.