February 21, 2019 at 11:35 am PST | by John Paul King
Outfest Fusion fest celebrates queer voices of color

A scene from the controversial Kenyan film ‘Rafiki.’ (Photo courtesy Outfest)

While there are still several months to go before this year’s Outfest, fans of LGBTQ cinema will have an early opportunity to catch an exciting crop of new queer films at the Outfest Fusion LGBTQ People of Color Film Festival, taking place in Los Angeles March 1-5.

A celebration of the rich heritage of LGBTQ Los Angeles, Outfest Fusion showcases the stories of queer communities of color, including African, African American, Asian diaspora and Latinx perspectives as well as many other cultural identities. The festival enables Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Genderqueer people of color to see themselves on the big screen, often for the very first time – a powerful and validating experience that underscores the universality of our lived experiences.

The festival, like the larger Outfest that takes place in the summer, features screenings of films by, for, and about LGBTQ people, chosen from submissions by filmmakers around the world; it includes features, both narrative and documentary, and short films, bundled into always-popular showcases, as well as screenings of LGBTQ TV shows.

In addition, the lineup includes free educational workshops for aspiring filmmakers, as well as more advanced masterclasses for the more experienced, empowering queer people of color to create their own content and tell their own stories.

Among the film highlights:

Swedish film ‘Amateurs’ will be featured at the Opening Night Gala of Outfest Fusion LGBTQ People of Color Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Outfest)

“Amateurs (Amatörer)” – When the opening of a chain store with hundreds of jobs appears on the horizon for a fictitious working-class town in Sweden, Aida and Dana become documentarians and capture the heart and diversity of the community to lobby for the store. Directed by Gabriela Pichler, this humorous, must-see Swedish film reflects on the beauty of immigrant families, the impact of globalization, and the agency of filmmaking, and features charming, vulnerable performances from Zahraa Aldoujaili and Yara Aliadotter.

“Sidney & Friends” – A moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and power of community, this documentary follows Sidney, who is intersex, after he flees his violent home and heads to Nairobi, where he befriends a group of transgender people fighting discrimination.   A joint production of Kenya and Scotland, this Tristan Aitchison-directed film is an honest exploration of gender, friendship, and love, communicating narratives – painful and endearing – that paint a heartfelt portrait of the human condition and what it means to live and fight at the margins of an anti-LGBTQI+ Kenyan society.

“The Skin of the Teeth” – Trapped between dinner and drinks in the bougie apartment of his older white hookup, Josef slides helplessly down a rabbit hole of temporal sleight-of-hand after swallowing a mysterious pill with mind-bending effects. Tapping a surreal and Lynchian nerve, where clean surfaces suggest an underlying, insidious menace, director Matthew Wollin and star Pascal Arquimedes interrogate the imbalance of authority between subject and voyeur by summoning the out-of-body absurd and demoralizing panic of stolen agency.

“The Third Wife” – May, a young girl in rural Vietnam, is chosen as the third wife of a wealthy man in the 19th century. When the pressure to deliver a male heir collides with the escalation and limits of her desires and challenges class, culture, and family, May must decide what kind of future she truly wants. Premiering at Toronto, Ash Mayfair’s haunting directorial debut guides her young leads through lyrical and captivating performances.

‘José’ will screen at Outfest Fusion. (Photo courtesy Outfest)

“José” – Winner of Venice’s Queer Lion Award, this intimate neorealist story from Guatemala follows José, a 19-year-old who finds escape from his working-class existence through hook-up apps and casual meetups. He discovers meaning in his encounters with Luis, a migrant construction worker from coastal Itzapa, who dreams of a better life for them together. But can this passionate new relationship — and the promise of change — rival José’s bond with his doting, religious mother?  Directed by Li Cheng, in Spanish with English Subtitles.

“Rafiki” – In Wanuri Kahiu’s Cannes-nominated film from Kenya, Kena and Ziki fall into the light of young love against the backdrop of community gossip and familial political ambitions while exploring the soulful colors, street soccer, and vibrant music of Nairobi. Encouraging each other to pursue a life of abundance and freedom from cultural expectations, they must decide between love, safety, and their dreams. At first banned from screening in its native country for going against Kenya’s strict mandate against depicting “homosexual themes,” it was allowed to be shown for seven days – thus qualifying for an Academy Award submission – after director Kahiu successfully sued the government to lift the ban.  It didn’t get the Oscar nom, but it played to sold-out crowds in Nairobi and went on to become an audience favorite at NewFest and other film festivals.

Shorts: “Between The Sheets” – A new fling, a fading affair, or a no-strings-attached rendezvous with a stranger or two — no matter who climbs in next to you, the bedroom is truly where the magic happens. Agonizing and exhilarating, the rush of another’s touch can lead to wholly unexpected outcomes. A collection of short films that are equal parts kinky and emotional, sensual and contemplative, this exhibition of profound closeness of the body and soul makes an impact. Free your inhibitions, unpack that bittersweet baggage, and let’s get it on.

Shorts: “Latinx & Chill” – Get ready for your daily dose of Latinidad! Hailing from Venezuela, Brazil, and of course, Stateside here in our own backyard — or patio if that’s more your thing — these short films paint vivid, uplifting portraits of a proud, resilient, and diverse community. Whether it’s letting go of past traumas, making new and life-changing connections, or standing up to outdated gender norms, it’s clear that there isn’t a single voice for the Latinx experience.

The festival will begin on March 1 with an opening night gala screening of “Amateurs” followed by an after-party, and wrap up on March 5 with a Finale that features the winners of Outfest Fusion’s “One-Minute Movie Contest.”

For a complete schedule, along with more information about the screenings, venues, workshops, and events, visit www.outfest.org.

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