September 19, 2018 at 12:46 pm PST | by Dan Allen
LA Film Festival brings a world of LGBT diversity to the big screen

This year’s festival entry ‘Hillbilly’ examines the red/blue divide on LGBT issues, unpacking the ‘hillbilly’ stereotype, queers and all. (Photo courtesy LA Film Festival)

With a bold shift to the fall this year and a wider variety of venues across the city, the Los Angeles Film Festival returns this week with a bold slate of fresh independent cinema, including a broad range of global movies with LGBTQ themes. Rupert Everett’s much-anticipated Oscar Wilde biopic makes its splashy Los Angeles debut as a LAFF Gala event, and two queer films—the Brazil coming-of-age drama “Socrates” and the Hollywood documentary “Making Montgomery Clift”—will have their world premieres at LAFF.

Here’s the rundown of the LGBTQ titles to watch at LAFF 2018:

The Happy Prince

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica, Blvd., Beverly Hills)

Rupert Everett makes his directorial debut in this moving look at Oscar Wilde’s final chapter, with Everett also starring as the banished British playwright and poet, struggling to survive in exile by relying upon his brilliant wit and irony, but consumed by failing health and memories of happier days. Colin Firth and Tom Wilkinson costar, with Irish hottie Colin Morgan as Wilde’s confoundingly irresistible paramour Bosie, and Emily Watson as Wilde’s long-suffering wife Constance. Hailed by critics at film festival appearances around the world this year, the film makes its Los Angeles premiere at this LAFF Gala presentation.

Socrates

Friday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m.

ArcLight Culver City (9500 Culver Blvd., Culver City)

In this world premiere of the powerful first feature from Brazilian-American director Alex Moratto, 15-year-old Socrates faces not just the sudden death of his mother and the struggle to survive on his own, but also his sexual awakening, which draws him to another hot but troubled teen. The film was produced by a crew of 16-20-year-olds from the Querô Institute, a UNICEF-supported project providing social inclusion through filmmaking to underrepresented youths in the coastal Baixada Santista region of the Brazilian state of São Paulo.

Moroni for President

Sunday, Sept. 23, 6 p.m.

ArcLight Hollywood (6360 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles)

Troubled by what he sees as the lack of progress on the Navajo (or Diné) reservation where he was raised, young gay Mormon college professor Moroni Benally decides to shake up the status quo and run for president of the largest Native American nation. As the election and the film unfold, we meet other LGBTQ characters, including the pageant-loving assistant of the incumbent Navajo Nation president, and Alray Nelson, founder of The Coalition for Diné Equality, the nation’s primary LGBTQ rights organization.

Making Montgomery Clift

Sunday, Sept. 23, 8:30 p.m.

ArcLight Hollywood (6360 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles)

In another LAFF world premiere, Monty Clift’s nephew Robert co-directs (with Hillary Demmon) this fascinating look at the iconic but troubled star, as seen through the eyes of his own family. The documentary dives deep into the priceless archives left behind by both Montgomery and his brother Brooks—and also visits a host of Hollywood insiders who remember the star—to paint a more complete picture of the acclaimed actor and queer hero.

Mr. Soul!

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.

The Writers Guild Theater (135 S Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills)

In another uncular homage, Melissa Haizlip co-directs (with Samuel Pollard) this fascinating look at her uncle Ellis Haizlep, who created the groundbreaking PBS series “Soul!”—the first nationally televised all-black variety show to be hosted and produced by an openly gay African-American. As the film reveals, Haizlep not only gave a proud voice to black stars and the black experience during a time of deep racial turmoil (the show ran from 1968-1973), but he was also unflinchingly unapologetic about his sexuality in an era when such a thing was revolutionary.

The Wedding Banquet

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.

The Writers Guild Theater (135 S Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills)

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in this special LAFF screening, “The Wedding Banquet” launched director Ang Lee’s career on the global stage, and was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. In the now classic, culture-clashing comedy, Wai-Tung’s perfectly happy New York City life with his partner Simon is disrupted when his Taiwanese parents insist on helping to find him a suitable wife, then arrive from Taiwan to help plan the wedding.

Simple Wedding

Friday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m.

ArcLight Culver City (9500 Culver Blvd., Culver City)

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 9:50 p.m.

ArcLight Santa Monica (395 Santa Monica Pl., Santa Monica)

In another clash of sexuality and cultures borne of traditional-wedding-starved parents, young Iranian-American Nousha falls for bisexual artist Alex. When Nousha’s parents discover that she and Alex are already living together, it’s full steam ahead for a wacky wedding that inevitably proves anything but customary.

Hillbilly

Saturday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.

ArcLight Hollywood (6360 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles)

Thursday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.

ArcLight Culver City (9500 Culver Blvd., Culver City)

Coastal blue-state filmmakers Ashley York and Sally Rubin head into the American heartland and attempt to unpack the “hillbilly” stereotype by talking to dwellers of rural eastern Kentucky, where York was raised. As they hear story after story of the personal pain that help fuel our polarized political climate, they also discover a budding LGBTQ community, as well as a group of Affrilachian (black Appalachian) poets—all blending to create a far more nuanced view of a much-mocked region.

In other LAFF events of special LGBTQ interest, the Pedro Almodóvar-produced documentary “The Silence of Othersshares the unforgettable stories of victims and survivors of the brutal dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain; British acting royalty Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Joan Plowright and Dame Eileen Atkins spill the theater tea as only they can in “Tea with the Dames“; Greek-American opera diva Maria Callas gets her much-deserved definitive documentary profile in “Maria by Callas“; and a mid-American mother gets a second chance to connect with her estranged gay son in “Queerskins: A Love Story,” part of the festival’s free virtual reality presentation, The Portal.

Visit here for a complete list of screenings.

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