Some of the buzziest films from the world’s top film festivals are headed to this year’s Outfest, part of the just-announced full lineup for its 37th edition. A slew of unique special events are also on tap, as is a shift in home base for the fest, to Hollywood’s historic TCL Chinese Theatres.
Kicking off as usual with a gala premiere at DTLA’s Orpheum Theatre, LA’s LGBTQ film festival will open on Thursday, July 18 with Circus of Books, a saucy and moving new documentary that’s fresh from its triumphant world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. With its local and long-beloved subject matter — the sadly recently-shuttered Circus of Books emporium of gay erotica on Santa Monica Boulevard — the doc is a natural prologue to this year’s Outfest.
Several more of the year’s most exciting global film festival hits will also be coming to Outfest, often with their talented creators and casts in tow. From Sundance, there’s Martha Stephens’ To the Stars, a 1960s Oklahoma teen girl love story featuring Malin Åkerman and Tony Hale; Centerpiece screenings Adam (Rhys Ernst’s boundary-pushing dramedy/romance involving mistaken trans identity) and This is Not Berlin (Hari Sama‘s 1980s gay punk coming of age story from Mexico); and Closing Night film Before You Know It, an endearingly offbeat comedy starring Hannah Pearl Ult (who also wrote and directed) as part of a dysfunctional family trying to run a small New York theater.
From Tribeca comes Centerpiece screening Changing the Game, showcasing how trans athletes across the nation are shifting the face of high school sports. Hits from this year’s Berlin International Film Festival include Brief Story from the Green Planet, the Argentine story of a young trans woman who comes to the aid of an extraterrestrial, which took the Teddy Award for Best LGBTQ Feature; and A Dog Barking at the Moon, Chinese director Xiang Li‘s semi-autographical family drama involving a father’s long-hidden gay affair, which took the Teddy Jury Award. And from SxSW, Outfest will screen two Audience Award winners: Saint Frances, about a young nanny working for a lesbian couple who faces an unwanted pregnancy; and The Garden Left Behind, about a young trans woman and her grandmother who navigate life as undocumented immigrants in New York City.
Outfest 2019 will also be hosting nearly 30 world premieres, including Rodrigo Bellott’s poignant Tu Me Manques, inspired by his hugely successful Bolivian play; Elegance Bratton’s documentary Pier Kids, which traces several years in the lives of queer and trans youth of color who gather on New York City’s Christopher Street Pier; and Megan Rossman’s The Archivettes, a profile of New York’s Lesbian Herstory Archives and the personal lives of the women involved with it.
North American premieres at this year’s Outfest will include the documentary Queer Japan, revealing the multiplicity of shades of that country’s queer rainbow; Label Me, tracing the power struggle in a relationship between a Syrian refugee and a German man; and Sequin in a Blue Room, following an Australian teenager’s dangerous quest to find a stranger with whom he had a memorable encounter at a sex party.
Outfest will also include numerous special events this year that are sure to be hot tickets, including the LA premiere of Kino Lorder‘s restoration of the seminal 1967 documentary The Queen, featuring Flawless Sabrina and Crystal Labeija; a 30th anniversary screening of Marlon Riggs‘ groundbreaking celebration of Black gay love Tongues Untied; and the 3rd annual Trans Summit, with keynote speaker Angelica Ross from FX’s Pose.
Shifting away from its longtime hub of the Directors Guild, Outfest moves its main center of focus this year to the TCL Chinese Theatres on Hollywood Boulevard. Outfest’s edgy and much-adored Platinum Series will also get a new home base this year, in the shape of DTLA’s Museum of Contemporary Art. And after its return last year following a venue renovation hiatus, Outfest’s popular Under the Stars series is back again this year at the Ford Theatres, with sure-to-sell-out events like a live performance by RuPaul‘s Drag Race queen Trixie Mattel, followed by a screening of the new documentary Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts; a conversation with comedian and iconic LGBTQ ally Kathy Griffin, followed by a screening of the new concert film Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story; and a screening of the new documentary Sid & Judy, offering a glimpse into the life of Judy Garland through the eyes of her third husband, Sid Luft.
For the second year in a row, more than two thirds of Outfest’s content has been directed by women, people of color and trans filmmakers. “Our communities have long been advocating for this inclusion,” says Christopher Racster, who marks the end of his tenure as Outfest’s Executive Director this year. “A remarkable filmmaker like Nisha Ganatra, our Achievement Award recipient, should have so many more features to her credit, in the two decades that have elapsed between her award-winning first film and her current box-office smash Late Night. Outfest Los Angeles continues to shine a spotlight on those stories we must see and those creatives whose voices we need to hear.”
Outfest 2019 will run through Sunday, July 18. Tickets go on sale to Outfest members on June 20, and to the general public on June 24. For the full festival lineup and to purchase memberships and tickets, go to outfest.org.