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Outfest

Los Angeles Outfest 2021 film festival, a glittering success

Both Outfest the festival and Outfest the organization are successful case studies on how a business can grow, evolve and thrive.

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Damien Navarro courtesy of Outfest

LOS ANGELES – That’s a wrap! Outfest closed out its 2021 festival Sunday August 22 at The Orpheum Theatre with a colorful celebration. The night was a glittering success, a happy reminder of pre-covid times and a credit to the leadership of Outfest’s bold new executive director, Damien Navarro.

The Closing Night Gala featured a screening of the documentary feature, Fanny: The Right to Rock, and a live reunion performance from Fanny and her band – the first all-female rock band to release an album with a major label back in the mid 1970’s.

Oscar nominated actor Elliot Page also appeared via video message to accept Outfest’s Achievement Award. Page, who came out as transgender last December, praised the film festival for “an incalculable amount of positive change and transformation in this world.”

Page confessed to the Outfest team “I don’t know that I’d be sitting here without the work that you’ve done and continue to do and the space and the platform you’ve created for so many voices and stories to get out there and to reach people.”

Outfest is a really big deal. For up and coming queer filmmakers it’s a lucrative career launchpad and networking goldmine. For hot indie feature films, it’s a festival must-stop and a respected laurel for the poster. For the city of LA, it’s an incredible week of films, panels and programs, and for the queer community its a vital fighter in the battle for more LGBTQ+ representation in media.

Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival is the largest LGBTQ+ film festival in the world. Founded in 1982 by a couple of UCLA students, its soon to celebrate its 40th birthday. This year’s festival ran from August 13-22 and featured full length feature films such as the incredible film ‘Firebird,’ short films, panel discussions, outdoor festivities, indoor screenings (for vaccinated attendees) and exclusive online festival programming – that extended through till Wednesday, August 25.

But Outfest the organization is more than just the film festival, it’s also an educational resource, and a programming-laden Eden for queer artists. The groundbreaking organization now boasts many branches. Outfest Forward is a development program for underrepresented artists to build their entertainment careers.

The Netflix Fund for Creative Equity recently invested $100 million in The Outfest Screenwriting Lab, a valuable incubator for new talent. Outfest works to nurture, promote and celebrate the incredible work of LGBTQ+ creators.

Both Outfest the festival and Outfest the organization are successful case studies on how a business can grow, evolve and thrive. Extending outreach and investing in future LGBTQ+ storytellers has been one of the largest pushes made by the bold new executive director, Damien Navarro. 

In 2019, the board of directors of Outfest took a giant step forward in hiring Damien Navarro as executive director. Damien Navarro is a native Angeleno, start-up entrepreneur, cinephile and urban farmer. He boasts an impressive resume, a well tended garden of startups, consulting firms and businesses. 

Navarro began his career as an entrepreneur, founding and then later selling his digital marketing and tech consulting agency. Fresh out of college and eager to create content, Navarro founded Earthbound Media Group with a group of friends. Fifteen years passed and the company was suddenly working with huge house-hold name brands. 

Eager to get back to creating content, Navarro changed the name to Brighter Collective and sold off his first company. From there he founded The Institute, a marketing, fundraising and consulting firm. Navarro also served as a faculty member at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts; and yes, he ran Monkey Business Farms, the Laurel Canyon micro-farm, with his husband, Adam.

Navarro’s position at Outfest comfortably sits at the intersection of his multifaceted career, which must have made him an obvious pick for executive director. “The reason I chose this next career move was to challenge myself,” Navarro said on a phone call with The Los Angeles Blade. 

Navarro said he has not only grown as a leader, but as a queer person. His almost two years with the company were a time of great reflection and introspection not only for him, but for the company as well. 

When the landmine of Covid hit Navarro saw the catastrophe as the perfect opportunity to bring in his skills and expertise as a leader in the business world – evaluating what works, what needs changing and then moving forward with the confidence and assurance of a seasoned businessman. “You really realize that culture plays a role in any business,” Navarro shares, “the culture is the way you impact change. Working with the board, with investors, with the community.” thus began Navarro’s process of adapting the culture of Outfest to become “a culture of change”. 

When Navarro began at Outfest much of the programming had gone unchanged for years. The evolution and expansion of many Outfest programs had stalled because of a lack of funding or lack of support. Nose to the grindstone, focused on funding and just staying open, Outfest had gotten caught in the hamster wheel many nonprofits and many arts organizations find themselves in. 2020 provided the time for revitalization.

Here’s how Damien Navarro did it. Navarro said “step one is to breathe.” Before enacting any changes, big or small, Navarro recommends finding presence in the present, grounding yourself and saying “today we’re okay.” For step two, he evaluated all the programs currently in place and asked “does this still meet the intended mission or impact?” For step three, he made changes. 

For Navarro, the most important improvement was for the film festival and its programming to reach new communities. His goal: have Outfest reflect all of Los Angeles, “not just West Hollywood.” The festival has taken strides to connect with previously unrecognized talent in previously unexplored (underprivileged) neighborhoods, cultivating the next generation of filmmakers.

This year, in the short film programs, Outfest will be awarding three $5,000 cash awards to the Short Form Jury Winners to be announced later. “It’s not enough for us to give stars and certificates,” said Navarro, “we have to put real money in the hands of the filmmakers.”

Outfest

Outfest FOMO? Where to still catch the best of Outfest 2022

Your exclusive guide to making up for your inexcusable absence at L.A.’s LGBTQ+ film festival

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – Maybe you had other plans. Maybe you had Omicron angst. Maybe you forgot. Whatever your reasons, you’d be right to be kicking yourself now for missing Outfest’s triumphant 40th edition, which just wrapped its 10-day July presentation of cutting-edge LGBTQ+ entertainment, including more than 200 films, over 40 world premieres, and dozens of red carpets and parties, all attended by more than 30,000 people. But no, not you. 

While we can’t recreate the uniquely festive vibe of Outfesting for you, we can give you the exclusive skinny on where you can still catch many of the best films from Outfest ’22. Just a few years ago, you would’ve been mostly S.O.L. after Outfest was finished, having to wait months for a small handful of the festival’s best selections to eventually appear for quick runs at L.A. arthouse theatres. But thanks to the acceleration of everything virtual during the pandemic, many of the top titles from this year’s Outfest will be available soon on your favorite streaming device – and some already are.

NOW ON STREAMING SERVICES, OR COMING SOON

This year’s Outfest opener, the world premiere of Anything’s Possible, Billy Porter’s fun and groundbreaking directorial debut starring Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali in a trans-inclusive high school romance, is already streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Also already on Prime Video via its Mubi partnership is Moneyboys, first-time writer/director C.B. Yi’s gorgeous and moving depiction of a young man from the Chinese countryside navigating the physical and emotional complexities of Beijing sex work. The Todd Haynes masterpiece Far from Heaven, which celebrated its 20th anniversary at Outfest 2022 with a screening attended by Haynes, star Julianne Moore, and producer Cristine Vachon, is currently streaming on Prime Video and several other services, including Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

Eva Reign and Abubkar Ali in Anything’s Possible, Property of Amazon Studios, © Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

Coming to Netflix on August 11 is Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, which chronicles pro skateboarder Leo Baker’s brave quest to make space for himself in the sport as a trans man. Directed by Nicola Marsh and Giovanni Reda, the film had its world premiere at Outfest and picked up the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. Another Outfest 2022 crowd pleaser, winning the Audience Award for Best Episodic, was the Samantha Lee-directed interabled queer romance series Sleep with Me, which will debut on Filipino streaming service iWantTFC on August 15.

They/Them, the LGBTQ+ conversion camp-set horror flick co-starring Kevin Bacon and directed by John Logan that had its world premiere on Outfest’s Closing Night, comes to Peacock on August 5 as the streaming service’s first-ever original feature film. A little further down the road on December 1, the fascinating Pat Rocco Dared, directed by Bob Christie and Morris Chapdelaine and exploring the life and important work of longtime L.A. entertainer, activist, and erotic filmmaker Pat Rocco, will come to Vimeo on Demand.

VIRTUAL SCREENINGS AT UPCOMING FILM FESTIVALS

Though it was virtually nonexistent as an option just a few years ago, savvy cinema lovers can now catch certain Outfest films after the festival is over via the virtual platforms of other festivals around the country. Your window for watching will almost always be brief, so it’ll take more planning than with mainstream streaming services – but it’s a welcome second chance to catch some great films that would’ve otherwise been much more difficult to ever see again.

Fortunately for us, this year’s edition of CinemaQ, Denver’s LGBTQ+ film festival, will soon be offering virtual screenings of several excellent fresh-from-Outfest films during its August 11 to 14 run. These include Unidentified Objects, the reality-bending queer road trip movie that picked up both the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Performance in a North American Narrative Feature and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at Outfest; Jeannette, which follows the courageous but complicated journey of a Pulse Nightclub massacre survivor, and garnered a Documentary Feature Honorable Mention at Outfest; All Man: The International Male Story, which traces the sexy and influential history of International Male magazine; Chase Joynt’s Framing Agnes, a hybrid documentary revolving around an outspoken trans participant in a 1950s gender study at UCLA that’s already receiving 2023 Oscar buzz; Loving Highsmith, a portrait of famed lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith; and Mama Bears, about a community of Christian mothers of LGBTQ+ children who fiercely advocate for queer rights. 

A few weeks later from August 24 to 28 at aGLIFF Prism 35, Austin, Texas’s LGBTQ+ film festival, virtually screening will be A Run for More, a moving doc that follows trans Latina political candidate Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe as she runs for office in a less than fully friendly Texas district.

Though apparently not yet scheduled, several Outfest standouts will almost certainly screen virtually at additional festivals later this year, including the poignant, funny, and terrifically-acted gay buddy story Chrissy Judy from writer/director/star Todd Flaherty; Outfest Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Documentary Feature Sirens, which follows the members of the only all-female thrash metal band in the Middle East; and the sweet doc Art and Pep, about the longtime owners of iconic Chicago gay bar Sidetrack. Upcoming festival dates should be announced soon on these films’ linked sites.

COMING TO L.A. THEATRES (HOPEFULLY)

As L.A.’s arthouse movie theatre landscape continues to dwindle, these days only the very cream of the Outfest crop stands much chance of ever seeing theatrical releases around town. The most promising among these is the incredibly powerful Nelly & Nadine, Magnus Gertten’s stunning documentary about two women who met in a German concentration camp and wound up spending the rest of their lives together, for which Wolfe Releasing is planning a late 2022 theatrical and streaming release. 

Nadine Hwang and Nelly Mousset-Vos in Nelly & Nadine, © Auto Images

Another strong local theatrical contender is Dos Estaciones, the winner of Outfest’s Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Screenplay in a North American Narrative Feature. The story of struggling rural Mexico tequila factory owner Maria and her affection for her new employee, the film will open at NYC’s IFC Center on September 9, so an L.A. run will hopefully follow. Please Baby Please, a fellow Outfest jury winner (for Outstanding North American Narrative Feature) about a newlywed couple whose sexual identities are awakened when they become the obsession of a greaser gang, will reportedly be released in theatres this fall.

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Outfest ends its 40th with “They/Them” horror film starring Kevin Bacon

“They/Them” debuts Friday, August 5 on Peacock after its Outfest debut

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"They/Them" starring Kevin Bacon (Screenshot/Peacock)

LOS ANGELES – The LGBTQ+ film festival Outfest ended its 40th anniversary Sunday with Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan’s horror film “They/Them” starring Kevin Bacon.

The film, Logan’s directorial debut, is set in an LGBTQIA+ conversion camp. Bacon and the rest of the cast walked the red carpet, speaking and talked about the importance of this queer/horror mashup, how representation in all genres is necessary and the pure fun of this also being a good old-fashioned slasher film.

“They/Them” debuts Friday, August 5 on Peacock after its Outfest debut.

From KABC:

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Outfest

Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival celebrates its 40th birthday

Outfest celebrates with a huge lineup of more than 200 LGBTQ+ films & will run from July 14 to 24 at venues across Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES – As it celebrates four full decades of bringing the best in global queer cinema to Los Angeles, Outfest’s 2022 edition will present a huge and wildly diverse lineup of more than 200 queer films from 29 countries, including an impressive 42 world premieres, all spread over an exciting 11 days this month.

Anything’s Possible (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Kicking things off on July 14 will be the Opening Night Gala and Billy Porter’s directorial debut Anything’s Possible, the sweet coming-of-age romance between trans girl Kelsa and her handsome classmate Khal during their senior year of high school. The world premiere screening will mark Outfest’s return to its longtime Opening Night venue, the Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, after a three-year hiatus wrought by the pandemic. 

Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

More world premieres at this year’s Outfest will include the documentary Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, which follows competitive skateboarder Leo Baker as he balances the gendered world of sports, transition, society and skate culture in the leadup to the 2020 Olympics; the UK feature Phea, a modern and politically resonant lesbian spin on the Orpheus myth, starring singer/songwriter Sherika Sherard; Art and Pep, which follows the true story of life and business partners Art Johnston and Pepe Peña, creators of the iconic Chicago gay club Sidetrack (which is also celebrating its 40th birthday this year); and comedian/musician Scout Durwood’s feature directorial debut Youtopia, in which Durwood accidentally becomes the leader of a hipster millennial cult after a bad breakup.

God Save the Queens (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Outfest 2022 also returns to Hollywood’s Ford Theater for one of the festival’s most popular components, Outfest Under the Stars, this year combining screenings with live performances over three nights. First up on July 21 will be a sneak peek work-in-progress showing of Unconventional, the latest series from Emmy-winner and Outfest favorite Kit Williamson (EastSiders), about eccentric, queer Palm Springs siblings who attempt to create a new kind of family, with cameos from the likes of Kathy Griffin, Willam Belli, Laith Ashley and Beau Bridges. Next at the Ford on July 22 comes the dragstravaganza God Save the Queens, a feature comedy starring RuPaul’s Drag Race superstars Alaska Thunderfuck, Laganja Estranja and Kelly Mantle (who’ll also perform live before the screening) as struggling Los Angeles queens in crisis who find themselves together at a group therapy retreat. The film boasts appearances by a cavalcade of queer faves like Drew Droege, Honey Davenport, Michelle Visage, and Manila Luzon. Capping things off at the Ford on July 23 will be I Have to Laugh: Comedy Night at the Ford, a live stand-up showcase featuring the cast of Outfest 2022 selection Queer Riot, including Margaret Cho, River Butcher, Brad Loekle, Akeem Woods, and Daniel Webb, all followed by an assortment of gut-busting short films.

Framing Agnes (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

As usual, Outfest’s hallmark will be its presentation of some of the most award-winning and well-received LGBTQ+ selections from the world’s top film festivals this year, many in their first public screenings in Los Angeles. From Sundance will come the Finnish female coming-of-age story (and Sundance Audience Award winner) Girl Picture; the Lebanese female thrash metal band documentary Sirens; the Brazilian family drama and female love story Mars One (Marte Um); and the innovative Chase Joynt doc Framing Agnes, which tells the true story of a Los Angeles trans woman who in 1958 boldly took part in a UCLA sexuality study. From the Berlin International Film Festival will come the Teddy Award-winning Brazilian film Three Tidy Tigers Tied a Tie Tighter, about a trio of young queer friends in the working-class suburbs of São Paulo; gay film fest favorite François Ozon’s latest, Peter von Kant, a remaking of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 classic The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, featuring cinema icons Isabelle Adjani and Hanna Schygulla; and the stylized gender-norm-busting 1950s fantasy Please Baby Please, featuring cameos by Demi Moore and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

And from Tribeca will come the much-anticipated documentary All Man: The International Male Story, which tells the story of the revolutionary gay menswear mail-order catalog International Male; the Danish thriller Attachment, in which Maja and Leah’s love story takes a dark turn rooted in Jewish folklore; and the Austrian sports drama Breaking the Ice, in which ice hockey team captain Mira’s uptight life gets shaken up by freewheeling new team member Theresa.

A League of Their Own (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Among the many other Outfest 2022 highlights will be its Legacy Centerpiece, a 20th anniversary screening of Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven with live appearances by Haynes, star Julianne Moore, and producer Christine Vachon. Outfest’s Episodics section will include an advanced look at Shudder’s forthcoming queer horror history docuseries Queer for Fear; a free sneak peak of the upcoming Prime Video series A League of Their Own; and the first episode of writer/producer Des Moran’s new series halfsies, about six Black half-siblings who re-enter each other’s lives after a death in the family. Outfest’s always intrepid Platinum section will this year include award presentations to Clive Barker and Big Freedia, as well as a host of cutting-edge screenings and the Platinum Alchemy Party at Catch One. The ever-popular roster of Outfest shorts programs will this year include a whopping 15 different categories, including the perennial festival favorite Boys Shorts. And the Trans, Nonbinary & Intersex Summit on July 23 will feature three back-to-back programs and a keynote by writer and activist Raquel Willis.

They/Them (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Capping off this year’s Outfest will be the Closing Night Gala at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, showcasing the world premiere of the queer and trans teen horror film , in which a masked intruder lurks in the shadows of an already scary conversion therapy camp. The film features Academy Award-nominated writer John Logan in his directorial debut.

Outfest 2022 will run from July 14 to 24 at venues across Los Angeles including the DGA Theater Complex, Harmony Gold and REDCAT. For the full lineup and tickets, visit outfestla.org.

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Blow your mind with today’s hottest Queer TV- 2nd annual OutFronts

Queer television is here, and it is just getting started to shine.  Buckle your rainbow belts, this unicorn is ready to fly

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WEST HOLLYWOOD – Back in the day, getting a whisp of any queer media, whether it was a short “gay” movie or a quick queer themed storyline, was hard to come by. Sure, there was OutFest started in 1982 by some UCLA students. Roseanne kissing a girl, a lesbian wedding on Friends, and Ellen’s bursting media’s mind before it crashed and burned her.

Not anymore. OutFest has made that clear with its second annual OutFronts, a four-day hybrid festival. Queer television is here, and it is just getting started to shine.  Buckle your rainbow belts, this unicorn is ready to fly.

The festival combines free-to-view virtual panel discussions with ticketed in-person events as part of the Los Angeles area’s Pride season. The festival kicks off on Friday June 3rd and extends through Monday, June 6th. It features episodic premieres, advanced screenings, and both in-person and virtual discussions with the talent from some of the most exciting LGBTQIA+ programs available on television today.    

The in-person festival events include:

  • QUEER AS FOLK presented by Peacock  This is the world premiere screening of the new Peacock series, a vibrant reimagining of the groundbreaking British series exploring a diverse group of friends in New Orleans.  The program includes a panel talkback with cast and creative team.
  • “Love, Victor” presented by HULU and DISNEY+  It is the show’s third and final season, and OutFronts is proud to show the premier episode of the season!  The program includes  “Love, Victor’s” showrunner and young cast present to discuss the impact of the show’s run, what we might expect from season 3, and bid a farewell to the groundbreaking series.  
  • QUEER FIREFIGHTERS ONSCREEN AND IRL Queer firefighters on TV sit down with their real-life counterparts to discuss being queer and saving lives. The in-person discussion will include Ronen Rubenstein (9-1-1: Lone Star), Brian Michael Smith (9-1-1: Lone Star), Traci Thoms (Station 19), others.
  • LEGENDARY   LEGENDARY is the groundbreaking competition series now in season 3 on HBO Max.   The OutFronts program includes LEGENDARY host and MC Dashaun Wesley will conduct a talk-show style look back at some of the most earth-shattering moments from the show’s history, and a candid talk about all the unfolding drama of the current season.

The virtual events include:

Topic panels  

  • Presented as virtual panels, these panels cover hot queer television topics. These include exploring social media influencers who have used their clout to cross over into the acting world – with Gigi Gorgeous, Kalen Allen, and Boman Martinez-Reid. Another panel looks at “TV’s Queer Pioneers”, with actors who were among the first to regularly appear as three-dimensional queer characters on television, including Wilson Cruz, Amber Benson, and Jane Sibbett. A panel looking to create the next icons spotlights actors who have created some of the most impactful queer characters of recent years, including Harvey Guillen (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS), Javicia Leslie (BATWOMAN), Brandon Scott Jones (GHOSTS), and Vico Ortiz (OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH).

Series panels  

  • Presented as virtual panels, these programs feature discussions of hot shows and their new season offerings:  a talk on SyFy and USA Network’s CHUCKY moderated by Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller, with CHILD’S PLAY franchise creator Don Mancini and cast members Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Zackary Arthur, and Bjorgvin Anarson; a one-on-one career-spanning conversation with comedy legend Paula Pell upon the release of GIRLS5EVA season two on Peacock; a discussion with the cast and creators of Freeform’s MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM in advance of the series’ final season; a talk with GENTLEMAN JACK creator Sally Wainwright and actor Lydia Leonard; a focused conversation with the queer talent and characters from Showtime’s smash-hit YELLOWJACKETS; as well as panels featuring talent from HBOMax’s SORT OF and THE SEX LIVES OF COLLEGE GIRLS, VH1’s RuPaul’s DRAG RACE, Prime Video’s HARLEM and THE WILDS, The CW’s TOM SWIFT and THE 4400, and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL – THE SERIES from Disney Plus and Disney Branded Television.

The inaugural year of OutFronts saw nearly 70,000 participants from across the globe. This year should see even more. “It’s inspiring to know that one festival couldn’t possibly cover all the wonderful LGBTQIA+ stories being told on television today,” said Outfest’s Director of Festival Programming, Mike Dougherty. “The OutFronts by no means represents an exhaustive account of all that is queer in TV, but they do gather a multitude of brilliantly talented queer artists and allies whose diversity of perspective and experience are on full display in these funny, entertaining, and emotional conversations. I can’t wait to share them with the world.”

It’s time to join the Queer Television Fandom community, whether you want your seat to be in a happening LA theater, or in your own living room, your piece of the rainbow awaits! See you at OutFronts 2022!

All panel discussions will be free of charge to view online and via Outfest’s OutMuseum platform. The OutFronts are presented by IMDb and media sponsors are The Los Angeles Blade, ABC7 Los Angeles, Clear Channel Outdoor, Edge Media, KCET/PBS SoCal, Pride Media, Queerty, Rainbow Media, Autostraddle, and Variety. RSVP and view the full calendar of The OutFronts programming at theoutfronts.com

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Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more. He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine. He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Renowned queer film fest goes global with ‘Outfest Now’

New streaming platform features movies, series, and much more

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OutFest, gay news, Washington Blade
‘God’s Own Country’ is one of many queer films featured on Outfest’s new streaming platform, Outfest Now. (Photo courtesy Orion Pictures)

When John Ramirez and Stuart Timmons started an on-campus gay film festival at UCLA in 1979, they would not have been able to imagine that, 41 years later, it would be showcasing the work of queer filmmakers right in the living rooms of people around the world.

Known since 1994 as Outfest, the festival was officially founded (under the accurate but unwieldy name of “The Gay and Lesbian Media Festival and Conference”) in 1982 and has been a fixture in the cultural life of LGBTQ Los Angeles ever since. Now grown into a non-profit global arts, media and entertainment organization, it not only continues to offer two annual world-class queer film festivals in LA every year (Outfest and Outfest Fusion, which highlights diversity in the LGBTQ community by featuring the work of people of color), but lives up to its stated mission – to “create visibility to diverse LGBTQIA+ stories and empower storytellers, building empathy to drive meaningful social change” – through mentorship, education programs, a screenwriting lab, workshops, fellowships, a robust Young Filmmakers Project and more.

In addition, the organization partners with the UCLA Film and Television Archive for a Legacy Project, the only program in the world dedicated to the archiving and restoration of LGBTQ films, which has to date established a collection of more than 41,000 items “and growing.”

As if all that important work were not enough, Outfest has expanded itself once more by taking on another operation – and in so doing, has also expanded its reach by entering the quickly proliferating industry of streaming entertainment.

Outfest Now, which launched Oct. 20, is the festival’s very own streaming platform, touted in their official description as “a year-round, always-on destination to meet the increasing demands for fresh storytelling with new perspectives within the LGBTQIA+ community.” What that means is that subscribers get access to a “carefully curated collection” of feature-length and short-form narrative and documentary films, episodic series, and exclusive conversations. It represents a creative vanguard of queer voices along with a celebration of the community’s legacy.

What it also means – and what makes the new platform significant – is that Outfest has made itself accessible to global audiences. For the first time, the content the organization offers can easily reach viewers anywhere, bringing stories, both true and fictional, that express diverse LGBTQ experiences from all across the community and elevate the visibility of many unrepresented identities and voices. Much of this material never finds commercial distribution; it makes a tour of the festival circuit and then struggles to self-market in the digital world, never gaining the opportunity to reach many of the viewers that might need to see it most. Outfest Now changes that dynamic and bridges the gap, which is good for the film artists, whose work becomes available to a much-expanded audience. And because they get to see that work, which they would otherwise never have seen, it’s good for the audience, too.

There’s another benefit embedded in the deal, as well, and it’s arguably the most important of all in terms of long-term effect. As the first mission-driven platform of its kind, Outfest Now’s revenues go directly to Outfest itself; that means anyone who subscribes will be helping to support and sustain the festival’s year-round programs – including its work in promoting and enabling the work of LGBTQ+ film artists around the world, in nurturing and enabling the talent of new and exciting LGBTQ+ storytellers, and in preserving and archiving the legacy of queer cinema for future generations.

As Outfest Executive Director Damien S. Navarro puts it, “By subscribing, you are giving back while also gaining access to an ever-rotating exhibition of the best in queer cinema, television, music, stage and digital content – all handpicked for you, by one of the most renowned organizations in the world.”

Such support is more vital to the organization now than ever, perhaps. Like all non-profit arts organizations, Outfest has been hard hit by the COVID crisis. Thanks to digital technology, the organization’s 2020 summer film festival in Los Angeles was able to go on, as scheduled, through virtual presentations and a handful of socially distant live events (such as drive-in screenings), but with no end in sight and no certainty of how the long-term disruption of a global shutdown will impact the future of film and television content, shoring up support for the future is essential.

The organization’s director of digital strategy, Tarah Malhotra-Feinberg, stresses the importance of staying ahead of the curve, telling us, “Outfest is doing vital work to increase representation, access and visibility across underrepresented and marginalized communities, which is more important than ever right now. Outfest is embracing technology and innovating its business model; that’s why we continue to lead during the pandemic.”
She also points out, “These aren’t just great queer stories. This is some of the best content I’ve ever seen, full stop.”

Outfest Now offers subscriptions on either a monthly or annual basis. It’s affordable ($5.99 a month, with a 10 percent discount on the yearly option), at a time when many potential audience members might be keeping a careful watch on their budget, and it includes not only access to a year-round selection of content from Outfest’s diverse library of short and feature film titles, but also episodic series, curated collections, and live streamed events – such as conversations with creators, casts and crews every Tuesday, and watch parties every Thursday, “presenting a year-round supplement to the content that is sorely lacking in the community,” according to Outfest’s official publicity. Subscribers can customize their own experiences with a personalized watch list, on-demand viewing, the ability to download for offline viewing and the same kind of simple navigation that has come to be expected as standard for any leading streaming service.

Among the major film titles available on launch are the critically acclaimed, BAFTA-nominated “God’s Own Country,” Outfest LA’s 2017 winner “Saturday Church” (starring Indya Moore and Mj Rodriguez of “Pose”), Jonathan Lisecki’s Spirit Award-nominated “Gayby,” and the Emmy-nominated series “Razor Tongue,” created by and starring Rain Valdez. In addition, there are curated film collections grouped under such categories as “Family Matters,” “Coming Out and Coming of Age,” “Brief Encounters,” and – just in time for your seasonal entertainment pleasure – “HallowKWEEN.”

While it’s true that the selection available at launch might seem a bit slim in comparison to streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix, there are plans to “exhibit an ever-growing rotation of contemporary as well as historical works,” in the words of Farhaad Virani, Outfest board member and Associate General Counsel at Amazon Studios, so subscribers can rest assured that a steady stream of new and exciting queer content will be coming their way each month.

If you’re looking for a full listing of the line-up available, you can find it by going to the platform’s website – outfestnow.com – and clicking on “browse.” While you’re there, you can find out more details about Outfest and its mission.

And, of course, you can also subscribe, making yourself an official supporter of one of the most respected and influential LGBTQ+ film festivals in the world, right from the comfort of your own couch.

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A reinvented Outfest set to bring LGBTQ cinema into the age of social distancing

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Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein star in “The Nowhere Inn,” the opening night selection for Outfest LA Under the Stars (Image Courtesy of Outfest)

For Outfest, the show must go on.

Despite the continuing pandemic, the renowned Los Angeles’ LGBTQ film festival will kick off this week (on August 20), even without being able to host its comprehensive roster of screenings at the usual in-person venues. Instead, the fest will move online, allowing supporters, subscribers, and even just fans of world-class LGBTQ cinema access to more than 160 participating films – among them, 35 world premieres, 10 North American premieres and four US premieres.

This is great news for the many Angelenos who look forward annually to immersing themselves in the fresh, diverse, and exciting new features and shorts offered by Outfest since its humble but ambitious beginnings at UCLA in 1982. Even better news, perhaps, is that not all the screenings will be virtual. The festival has lined up a series of drive-in events, under the title “Outfest LA Under the Stars,” to take place at Malibu’s Calamigos Ranch. It’s the first time in Outfest’s 38-year history that audiences will be able to enjoy a film from the privacy – not to mention the safety – of their cars.

The venue has scheduled screenings across six-nights on two lots, including kick-off and closing events, and will launch with the LA premiere of “The Nowhere Inn,” a Sundance entry starring musicians Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein in a reality-bending twist of Clark’s alt-pop star persona St. Vincent. The additional live screenings will include the trans-themed modern-day western, “Cowboys,” starring Steve Zahn and Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), the Latinx romance, “La Leyenda Negra,” the pre-Stonewall drag documentary, “P.S. Burn this Letter Please ,” and the world premiere of Outfest alum Travis Fine’s “Two Eyes,” a century-spanning interwoven narrative exploring queer expression across three different eras in the American West.

More than 70 percent of the films in this year’s Outfest were directed by women, transgender and POC filmmakers; the festival also includes several films originally scheduled for other festivals, such as the aforementioned “P.S. Burn This Letter Please” and “Cowboys,” which along with the also-slated Big Freedia anti-gun advocacy doc “Freedia Got A Gun” were selected for Tribeca, and SXSW premiere titles including “The Carnivores” and Outfest LA’s US centerpiece selection “Shiva Baby,” starring Rachel Sennott, Dianna Agron, and Fred Melamed.

Outfest’s other centerpiece selections include the Posy Dixon-helmed documentary “Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story,” International Centerpiece “Monsoon” (directed by Sundance and Outfest alum Hong Khaou and starring Henry Golding), and Breakthrough Centerpiece “The Obituary of Tunde Johnson,” the feature-film directing debut of “Everybody Hates Chris” co-creator Ali LeRoi.

“Two Eyes,” which will be Outfest’s closing film, will also screen on the festival’s digital platform.

Other notable titles at this year’s festival include “Three Chords and a Lie,” a documentary about gay country music artist Brandon Stansell’s return to his conservative hometown which will be presented with a drive-in concert, and the world premiere of Emmy-nominated actor Scott Turner Schofield’s one-man show “Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps,” in which viewers can interactively choose from among the 127 segments created by Schofield.

Mike Dougherty, Outfest’s director of programming, says, “In this brand new, uncharted territory of digital festivals, we are honored that so many wonderful films have entrusted Outfest LA to be their festival home. I’m incredibly excited that this stunning array of diverse talent — which represents Outfest’s continued mission to showcase the best work from LGBTQIA+ artists — will be more accessible than ever before.”

Executive Director Damien S. Navarro adds, “This year’s film festival is not only a reflection of Outfest’s historic trajectory — mixing innovation with media to cast an ever-widening net of diverse and global stories — it is also a testament to Outfest’s commitment to thrive in a moment in which the future of live events, independent film, and our own rights are threatened.”

Participating films will compete for jury and audience awards. U.S. narrative feature jurors include filmmaker James Sweeney (“Straight Up”); Neon’s director of acquisitions Ayo Kepher-Maat, Neon; and film critic Caden Mark Gardner. International narrative feature jurors are former AFI Fest and Film Independent artistic director Jacqueline Lyanga; Inside Out Toronto director of programming Andrew Murphyand filmmaker Isabel Sandoval (“Lingua Franca”). Documentary jurors include filmmakers Sam Feder (“Disclosure”); Ben-Alex Dupris (Outfest winner “Sweetheart Dancers”), and Daresha Kyi (“Chavela”). International narrative shorts jurors are filmmakers Daniel Laabs (Outfest winner “Jules of Light and Dark”), Lauren Wolkstein (“The Strange Ones”); and Aurora Guerrero (“Gentefied”). U.S. narrative short jurors include actor Brian Michael Smith (“911: Lone Star”), and filmmakers Gillian Horvat (“I Blame Society”) and Carly Usdin (“Suicide Kale”).

Outfest is presented by Warner Media and runs Aug. 20-30. Information and tickets, along with a full line-up of scheduled films, can be accessed at the festival’s website.

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Obituary

Ash Christian, 35, Outfest Alum and Emmy Award-winner dies at 35

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In 2014, Christian and his team won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding special-class short-form daytime program for “mi Promise.” (Facebook Ash Christian)

Emmy Award winning producer, actor, filmmaker and LGBTQ+ activist Ash Christian died in his sleep on Friday, August 14, 2020 while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Ash was a prolific filmmaker who had numerous projects in various stages of production that were set to launch in 2020, including “As Sick As They Made Us,” Mayim Bialik’s directorial debut, starring Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen and Simon Helberg; “Nightfall” with Matt Bomer and Sam Worthington, directed by Addison McQuigg (Bloodline); and “The Sixth Reel,” directed by and starring Charles Busch and co-directed by Carl Andress.

“Ash was a great friend, colleague and partner in crime. He was a champion of indie film and filmmakers and his love of the process of putting movies together was infectious. My heart goes out to his family, especially his mother. The world lost one of the good ones,” said longtime friend and producing partner Anne Clements.

Clements and Christian were planning at least two Fall 2020 releases, including “Chick Fight” with Malin Akerman, Fortune Feimster and Alec Baldwin and “Paper Spiders”, featuring Lili Taylor, Max Casella and Peyton List, among others.

Longtime friend and producing partner Jordan Yale Levine of Yale Productions, with whom Ash had recently worked on “After Everything” with Marissa Tomei, Gina Gershon and Jeremy Allen White, and “Burn” with Josh Hutcherson, Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Suki Waterhouse said, “With Ash, work was always fun. That’s the effect he had on people. I will miss my good friend dearly, as I know so many others will as well. The world has lost a talented writer/director/producer, but most importantly, a great person who had so much more life to live,”

Ash’s love for entertainment began in a little community theatre in Paris, Texas.

A rare talent and rising star, at the tender age of 14 years old he began writing and directing short films. At 16, he moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. At 19, he wrote, directed and starred in his first feature film, “Fat Girls,” which premiered at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival. The film won the Outstanding Emerging Talent Award at Los Angeles’ Outfest in 2006.

As an actor, Ash was known for starring starring roles in “The Good Fight”, “The Good Wife” and “Law and Order”.

He owned Cranium Entertainment, a production company based in New York, which produced several films that Hollywood Reporter called “SXSW hits;” “1985,” “Hurricane Bianca: From Russian With Hate” (a 2016 film starring RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio),” “Little Sister” and “Coin Heist.”

He also produced popular films “Hello Again”, “Social Animals” and “Coyote Lake”.

Ash co-produced for “Next to Normal” a powerful rock musical that grappled with mental illness in a suburban family which won three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize.

Bianca Del Rio posted, “2020 is a rough year. @ashchristian you will be missed. Thank you for always having faith in me. Rest well, my friend.”

“I didn’t believe it when I heard. I was just joking and texting with you earlier this week. My friend. Intelligent. Funny. A fellow Paris Texan. We were two of the gays from Paris that found each other in the biz and vowed to make it to the front page of the Paris News,” “We’re Here” star Shangela shared on Instagram. “I keep looking at our last texts like ‘how is it that if I text you right now there’s no way you can ever text me back?’ this hurts. But I promise u I’ll check in on ur mom. And I’ll forever honor the belief u had in me. @ashchristian Rest In Peace my amazing friend. you made your beautiful mark on this crazy world for sure.”

Actress Lauralee Bell captioned her Instagram Stories, “RIP sweet Ash! Thank you for your friendship &talent!”

The cause of death is unknown but he had reportedly experienced some health problems in the past week.

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Outfest 2019 kicks off with glittering gala, “Circus of Books”

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Outfest takes over the Orpheum (Photo by John Paul King)

The historic Orpheum Theater in DTLA played host Thursday night to a sea of LGBTQ glitterati as the 2019 edition of Outfest kicked off its 11-day film festival with the traditional Opening Night gala, an event which has long been one of the highlights of LA’s queer calendar.

As the sunset lingered in the downtown summer sky, a diverse and high-spirited crowd enjoyed a pre-party in the Orpheum parking lot, with music, cocktails, fun activities, and food ranging from free movie popcorn to the heartier fare served up by participating caterers like On The Border Mexican Grill.

The evening’s main attraction was the festival’s first film screening, the eagerly-awaited documentary “Circus of Books,” which uses the story of gay LA’ long-notorious – and beloved – bookstore and cultural hub – which closed its doors permanently in February of 2019 – as a means to explore the hidden history of LGBTQ life in the city, as well as to profile the store’s unlikely owners, a married straight couple who fell into selling porn as a temporary means of making a living, and ended up raising a family while running an iconic queer business for decades.

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Karen Mason appears in “Circus of Books” (image courtesy of Netflix)

Before the movie, Outfest board co-Presidents Terry Franklin and Marissa Roman Griffith took the stage in front of the packed theater audience to open the festivities with a joint speech, thanking the festival’s many donors, members and sponsors, with Franklin saying, “Tonight you are out here in force, and we want to thank you for your commitment to ensuring that LGBT+ stories are made, seen, and preserved.”

Franklin also invoked the recent 50th anniversary of Stonewall, saying, “Who among those gathered at Stonewall in 1969 could have imagined that an out black man and a fierce Latina ally would be standing here, in this historic venue in front of this diverse group, as co-presidents of the Board of Directors of Outfest?  It’s a first, and we are incredibly proud to be here.”

Griffith called Outfest a “family,” and spoke of Outset, the festival’s young filmmaker project in partnership with the LA LGBT Center.  Watching these young artists “find and raise their own voices through the collective medium of film was a joy and a privilege,” she said. “It was more than their creative choices that were so inspiring – it was also about how the Outset program supported them in becoming stronger, more authentic versions of themselves. That is our future.”

The pair then introduced outgoing Outfest Executive Director Christopher Racster, who is stepping down after 4 years in the post.  After being met with an enthusiastically vocal standing ovation, Racster said “It has been a joyous experience.”  He went on to extend praise to the festival’s board members for their “hundreds of hours” serving alongside an “incredibly tireless and passionate staff,” as well as the volunteers “who give what is perhaps the most precious gift we have today, time, in service to this organization.”

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Outfest’s Executive Director Christopher Racster and incoming Executive Director Damien Navarro (photo courtesy of Outfest).

Following Racster’s brief remarks, Franklin and Griffith introduced new Executive Director Damien Navarro, who said, “As a lifelong lover of film and storytelling, it is both exhilarating and pretty, pretty overwhelming to be standing here in this theater with you guys tonight.  However, I couldn’t be more exciting to joining Outfest’s family, on what promises to be a truly thrilling ride.”

After citing the festival’s importance as “a unique, powerful witness of our lives and contributions,” in a time when “there are people in power […] who are actively working to reverse the progress we have made, and to silence our voices once again,” Navarro went on to say, “We are not just a regional film festival anymore, in fact we haven’t been that for decades. We are a festival of life, where every silenced and underrepresented voice can be heard, expressed, and protected.”

He ended by calling on the audience full of Outfest supporters for their help, saying “We will need each and every one of you to help make this next chapter in Outfest a reality – but with the energy in this room, combined with what I know about this community, I have no doubt that we can do anything that we set our fabulous little queer minds to.”

After Navarro’s speech, Director of Festival Programming Mike Dougherty spoke about the 2019 festival’s upcoming slate.  He remarked on the two themes he sees as connecting the films to be screened. “One is triumph,” he said, adding, “In this world where the fight for our communities rights is under attack, showcasing over 200 stories from queer filmmakers is in itself triumphant.”

He went on to single out history as the second theme, citing two of the year’s scheduled films – the restored version of the 1967 seminal documentary, “The Queen,” spotlighting New York ballroom legend Crystal LaBeija, and a new documentary, “Pier Kids,” about queer and trans homeless youth who still live at New York’s Christopher Street pier. “The rich diversity you’ll see onscreen over the next eleven days exemplifies just how many of our voices can now be heard,” he went on, “and it is crucial that we listen to all of them, and fight for all of them.”

He then invited festival-goers to support movies outside their comfort zone.  “We all want to see ourselves represented onscreen,” he said, “but what if we all took a challenge tonight to support stories that are outside our own experiences?  We’ve chosen some tremendous films that will allow you to do just that, and we promise it will be rewarding.”

Dougherty then introduced Rachel Mason, director of “Circus of Books” and the daughter of Karen and Barry Mason – the iconic Weho shop’s longtime owners who are at the center of the documentary.  She thanked the many people in the audience who had helped her in making the film by asking them to stand up and be acknowledged.  She then said to the audience, “If you have ever been to Circus of Books, in any capacity, please stand,” and brought half the crowd to their feet.

Before beginning the film, Mason brought her family to the stage – brothers Josh and Micah, and Karen and Barry themselves.  When asked by her daughter if she would like to say something, Karen Mason said, “If I had known you all were going to show up to see this, I would never have cooperated with it.”

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The Mason Family – Micah, Josh, Rachel, Barry and Karen – attend the screening of Karen’s “Circus of Books” documentary (photo courtesy of Outfest).

The film, which was acquired by Netflix prior to its screening at the Tribeca Film Festival and will debut on the streaming platform later this year, evoked laughs and stirred memories in an appreciative audience full of people for whom its story was part of a shared personal history.

Following the screening, the crowd of happy film fans returned to the parking lot for an after-party that continued into the night, celebrating the official start of an important, exciting, and uplifting week-and-a-half dedicated to queer stories and the queer people who tell them.

 

For tickets and information about Outfest 2019, visit www.outfest.org.

 

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At 2018 Outfest, it’s a wrap

After a week of highlights, Outfest still has more gems to offer

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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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Outfest Opening Gala promises celebration, awards, and “Studio 54”

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Studio 54 dance floor, 1979. Image Courtesy of Outfest.

The excitement is ramping up for Queer Cinema fans in Los Angeles with the approach of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival.

Outfest is a Los Angeles based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality by creating, sharing, and protecting LGBTQ stories on the screen – and the 2018 edition of their annual festival, presented by HBO, begins on Thursday, July 12, with an Opening Night Gala that promises to be an event to remember.

Taking place at the iconic Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, the Gala begins with a VIP pre-party at 6:30 PM.  Billed as “the legendary LGBTQ party of the summer” and “the see-and-be-seen event of the season,” it will include food selections from Shannon Swindle (James Beard semifinalist Pastry Chef at Tom Collichio’s Craft), who has asked some of his friends from the top restaurants in the city to join him in offering a taste of LA’s best.

At 8pm, the festivities move inside the theatre for the presentation of the 2018 achievement award, Outfest’s highest honor, presented in recognition of a body of work that has made a significant contribution to LGBT film and media.

This year’s recipient is Angela Robinson, a celebrated filmmaker and champion of LGBTQ rights, will receive the Achievement Award, whose storied career has encompassed teen spies, hot Cajun vampires, kinky comic-book creators, West Hollywood power lesbians and the world’s smartest VW bug, to name just a few.  In a time where women still only make up a fraction of directors, Robinson has carved a space for herself in both film and television, and frequently deals with LGBTQ topics in her work, such as “D.E.B.S.,” “The L Word,” “Herbie Fully Loaded,” “True Blood,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and most recently “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.”

Outfest’s Executive Director Christopher Racster says, “Outfest has a long and important legacy of launching filmmakers’ careers.  I am incredibly proud that we have the opportunity honor an amazingly talented woman director whose career started at Outfest.  Angela has forged a unique path of success within the industry.  When jobs are hard to come by for women directors, Angela has blazed a path in high-profile television series, lauded independent films and major studio movies.  Her unique vision, her sharp humor, and her humanity are constantly on display in each move she makes.  Angela’s work is always fresh, intelligent and groundbreaking.”

Robinson remarks, “It is such an honor to receive the Outfest Achievement Award this year — I premiered the first short film I ever made at Outfest and every film I’ve made since. It’s a joy to be recognized by Outfest in this way so many years later.”

Following the award presentation, Outfest commences with its first official screening of the year – “Studio 54,” an eagerly-anticipated documentary by director Matt Tyrnauer (“Valentino: The Last Emperor,” “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood”) about the legendary New York nightclub.

According to the film’s synopsis, “When disco was the epicenter of popular culture, Studio 54 was the epicenter of disco.  Brooklyn-born college pals Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager took a former opera house and CBS studio (where ‘What’s My Line?’ and ‘Captain Kangaroo’ filmed), in what was at the time one of New York City’s sketchiest neighborhoods, and turned it into a dance palace known the world over. Extroverted gay Rubell and introverted straight Schrager (the latter giving his most extensive interview to date about Studio 54) were a powerful team — but the swirl of sex, drugs, celebrity, and tax evasion brought this phenomenon to an end, as did the advent of Ronald Reagan, the AIDS crisis, and the “Disco Sucks” backlash.”

It goes on to say, “But oh, what heady times there were during Studio 54’s heyday, which this vibrant documentary captures, mixing vintage interviews (Michael Jackson!) with reminiscences from the doormen, bartenders, and paparazzi who experienced the thrills and the beats on the dance floor and in the infamous balcony. There may never again be such a stately pleasure dome as Studio 54, but director Matt Tyrnauer […] observantly captures the hedonism and the hubris with the exacting eye that has made him one of this generation’s most fascinating documentarians.”

After the movie (approximately 10pm) is the Gala After-Party, set outside the theatre in Outfest’s reimagining of the Studio 54 setting.  There, you can grab a bite from one of the dozen participating restaurants – along with a glass of beer from Angel City Brewery, a glass from Barefoot wines, or a Finlandia vodka cocktail.

According to Outfest, “It’s all on us.  And don’t worry, you will be able to dance the night away.”

Tickets to the Opening Night Gala are limited, so act fast if you want to go.

And if you can’t make it, don’t be too upset – the festival continues through July 22, at multiple venues throughout the city, and will feature over 200 feature and short films (both narrative and documentary) as well as special events, discussions, and panels.

For tickets, schedule of screenings and events, and more information, visit here.

 

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