July 19, 2018 at 8:00 am PDT | by John Paul King
At 2018 Outfest, it’s a wrap

At venues around Los Angeles, like the July 13 opening night event at Orpheum Theater, Outfest has packed the house with one of the best and most innovative film festivals Los Angeles has seen. (Photo courtesy of Outfest)

If you’re a queer film fan in LA, chances are you’ve had a busy week.

Outfest 2018 has been going strong since last Thursday night’s fabulous Opening Night Gala at the Orpheum Theatre, where attendees were treated to a screening of Matt Tyrnauer’s “Studio 54” documentary before dancing the night away at an outdoor re-imagining of the legendary nightspot.

It’s been a week crammed full of cinematic delights.  There have been some great homegrown narrative films like the luminous queer coming-of-age story “We the Animals” and the bittersweet AIDS drama “1985”; remarkable imports like the UK’s “Riot” and Colombia’s “Eva and Candela”; and a wide array of documentaries, exploring facets of queer experience in every corner of our community, like “Mr. Gay Syria” and “When the Beat Drops.”

Then there were the shorts.  Some of Outfest’s most ardent supporters come to the festival just for the short films, and this year has offered an enormous crop for their enjoyment.

For those with an interest in the issues behind and beyond the screen, there have also been fascinating and enlightening panels.  Many films have included Q & A post-screening discussions, and special events have included an in-depth panel on the struggle for inclusion of more LGBTQ women in filmmaking and another exploring the experience of bisexual men and women in the movie workplace.

But even though the week has been packed with memorable moments, it’s not over yet.  As Outfest goes into its final three days, there are still a number of highlights left for you to catch:

Friday, July 20:

“Dykes, Camera, Action!”: One of the most glaring omissions in the film canon has been the work of queer women. Thankfully this once-hidden population picked up the camera and transformed the visibility of lesbians in cinema. In this documentary, pioneering lesbian filmmakers discuss how they’ve expressed their queer identity through film, revealing personal stories from their own experiences of looking for themselves on screen.  Directed by Caroline Berler.

‘Postcards from London’ (Photo courtesy of Outfest)

Postcards from London”: Broke and beautiful, Joe (“Beach Rats” breakout Harris Dickinson) chases his big-city dreams to London and lands in the company of the Raconteurs: an elite gang of escorts who mix sex work with an encyclopedic knowledge of art history. Buzzing with electric energy and awash in Caravaggio, Joe’s journey takes him through the neon-lit labyrinth of Soho and, even more fantastically, transports him into classical paintings themselves. Sculpted like the gods, he becomes a muse for the ages. Directed by Steve McLean, this screening takes place under the stars at the Ford Amphitheatre.

Saturday, July 21

A scene from ‘Man Made’ (Photo courtesy Roadside Entertainment)

Man Made”: From surgeries and T parties to the struggles and joys of transitioning, follow four men as they prepare for Trans FitCon, the only bodybuilding competition exclusively for trans men. Glimpse the intimate relationships between these men and their partners, family and children as they train throughout the year. This powerful documentary culminates in a triumphant gesture of acceptance and an understanding of the shared struggles among them as they take the stage and embody their true selves. 

‘Room to Grow.’ (Photo courtest of Outfest)

“Room to Grow”: For many queer people, some of our toughest years were when we were teenagers living at home. Homophobic parents and school environments often made life unbearable. Now meet the next generation of queer youth, forging a path of love, with the support of their families. In the face of one of the harshest political climates, with homophobia and racism on the rise, these fearless teenagers are claiming their identities and taking the world by storm. An intimate documentary look into what it means to be an LGBTQ teen today, directed by Matt Alber and Jon Garcia. Preceded by “Dances” (Dir: Ramon Watkins, 6 min). 

They”: Possessed with the gentle grace and ethereal spell of fellow Iranian Abbas Kiarostami, Anahita Ghazvinizadeh’s feature debut explores the fragile spaces between body and soul in the life of 14-year-old J, a gender-fluid kid in the Chicago suburbs confronted with the decision of whether to transition. Executive produced by Jane Campion, this striking, evocative family drama uses unexpected textures and layered compositions to heighten the evolutionary rhythms of late childhood and the natural world.

Shakedown”: In this intimate and skillfully crafted documentary, we are taken deep into the world of Los Angeles’s African-American lesbian club scene. At this legendary weekly party, dancers like Egypt, who found her way to the stage by accident, and Mahogany, the Queen Bee and mother of the clan, spill their hearts out both behind the scenes and on stage. We are confronted with the realities of their lives as they navigate personal and professional relationships with fans, club owner Ronnie and each other.

Sunday, July 22

Trans Summit: Whether you’re an actor, artist, activist or academic, you’re welcomed here. The afternoon will begin with our Academy Award–nominated keynote speaker Yance Ford, followed by three compelling case studies focused on specific areas of need in media representation. The room will then come together for an unedited, organic, and dynamic conversation about issues relating to the trans and non-binary experience, moderated by the LA Times’ award-winning reporter Tre’vell Anderson.

(‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post.’Photo courtesy of Outfest)

Closing Night Gala, Theatre at Ace Hotel – “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”: An adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s celebrated queer YA novel, the film was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival for its warm, charismatic and fearless performances. Set in the early ‘90s, the film follows lesbian teen Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), sent to a religious conversion camp after she gets caught hooking up with her female best friend.  Director Desiree Akhavan’s unapologetically queer lens delivers a refreshing take on the troubling topic of conversion therapy (which is, to this day, still used in some states) while exploring the themes of self-love, identity and chosen family, all with unexpected flourishes of humor.

In addition to these, Sunday will feature encore screenings of several of the festival’s most popular selections.  Check in with the Blade online for details as they become available.

For ticket purchases and more information about times and venues, as well as a complete listing of screenings, visit Outfest.org.

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