Having run since 1982, Outfest is one of the older major LGBTQ-focused film festivals in the United States. Now through July 21st, scores of movies about gay, lesbian, transgender, and more otherwise non-heteronormative people will be playing at various venues in West Hollywood, California. There will also be discussion panels, workshops, parties, and even a singalong screening of Pitch Perfect! It looks to be a fun time, unless you’re a bigot, of course.
If you live in the area, then there’s probably at least one film playing the fest that’s sure to interest you. You can see the program and schedule here. Movie Mezzanine will be there as well, and I’ve highlighted a few of the more intriguing and/or notable movies that will be playing. So, without further ado:
The Battle of amfAR (Dir. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman)
The directors of The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet tackle the tumultuous times of amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. This short focuses on Dr. Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor, who both helped found the organization. These filmmakers have done enough important work to warrant attention for any new film they make, no matter how under-the-radar. The screening on July 14th will be followed by a panel about amfAR’s ongoing work.
Breaking the Girls (Dir. Jamie Babbit)
Jamie Babbit is known for campy cult hits like But I’m a Cheerleader, and has also done prolific television work. Now she’s teamed up with American Psycho scripter Guinevere Turner for this thriller. Two young women (Madeline Zima and Agnes Bruckner) form a murderous pact to get rid of their enemies. Whether it’s ironically or genuinely entertaining, it’s likely to be an interesting watch. Screens July 20th.
C.O.G. (Dir. Kyle Patrick Alvarez)
Jonathan Groff stars as a young man hoping to get a sense of the real world by working at an Oregon apple orchard. It’s the first adaptation of David Sedaris’s writing, which should pique your interest even if you aren’t a This American Life fan. It got a mostly positive reception out of Sundance this year. I have a full review coming, but for now, know that it’s a good, at times great, film. Screens as the opening night gala on July 11th.
deepsouth (Dir. Lisa Biagiotti)
HIV is spreading at an alarming rate through the American South. This documentary looks at those affected, from sufferers of the disease to those who do their best to fight it with horribly limited resources. Biagiotti is a very experienced journalist and documentarian who specializes in the underrepresented aspects of society. This looks fascinating. Screens July 12th and 15th.
Facing Fear (Dir. Jason Cohen)
I wanted to highlight this documentary short because I’ve had a chance to pre-screen it, and it’s quite the remarkable story. It introduces us to a former Neo-Nazi, the gay man he nearly killed decades ago, and tells of how the two re-encountered each other in the modern day. It’s a harrowing look at forgiveness. Screens as part of the Queerer than Fiction shorts program on July 13th and 14th.
G.B.F. (Dir. Darren Stein)
In this high school comedy, an unwillingly outed teen (Michael J. Willett) finds himself in the middle of a war between three popular girls eager to claim him as their G.B.F. (gay best friend). It’s pitched as a new Mean Girls, and also stars Megan Mullally. If this can capture any part of the modern high school experience accurately, then it’ll be worth a look. Screens as the closing gala on July 21st.
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (Dir Nicholas Wrathall)
It’s Gore Vidal’s turn to get a biographical doc! Wrathall was able to score a series of interviews with the infamous public intellectual not long before he died, and they form the basis for this look at his life. As long as the film features that clip where he calls William F. Buckley a Nazi, it’s existence will be justified. Screens July 2oth.
The Happy Sad (Dir. Rodney Evans)
A romantic drama about open relationships, featuring a tangled web of messy attractions. Here’s how the catalogue puts it: “Annie dumps Stan, who flirts with Marcus, who’s in a relationship with Aaron that may or not be open. Meanwhile, Annie is drawn toward her interesting (and interested) lesbian friend Mandy and discovers she might want Stan back after all.” Yeesh. Director Rodney Evans won accolades for his previous film, Brother to Brother, and has been active on the indie scene for years (he was an assistant editor on Harmony Korine’s Gummo). Screens July 20th.
Interior. Leather Bar. (Dir. James Franco & Travis Matthews)
This film arrives with more ready-made notoriety than any other at the fest. James Franco and co. decide to reconstruct the 40 minutes of footage that William Friedkin cut from his controversial 1980 film Cruising in order to avoid an X rating. Critical opinion has been sharply divided on this documentary/fiction hybrid. This, along with the sheer audacious weirdness of the concept, is more than enough of a draw for me. Screens July 20th.
Kink (Dir. Kristina Voros)
It’s James Franco and explicit sex again, but this time he’s acting as a producer. This doc follows the lives of five BDSM actors for Kink.com, a popular fetish pornography website. If you’re game for learning things about worlds you know nothing (or a lot, I won’t judge) about, then this looks to be informative, to say the least. Screens July 18th.
The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On (Dir. Drew Denny)
Andy (Denny) and her best friend Liv (Sarah Hagan from Freaks and Geeks, now all grown up because you are old) go on a road trip to scatter Andy’s father’s ashes around the American Southwest. Along the way, a subtle tension develops between the two, as Andy may or may not have romantic feelings for Liv. I’ve seen the movie, and it looks absolutely gorgeous, and is a solid debut for Denny as a writer, director, and actress. Screens July 13th and 15th.
Out in the Dark (Dir. Michael Mayer)
A Romeo & Romeo story set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The relationship between a Palestinian student and an Israeli lawyer is threatened by both religious and political strife. This isn’t the first film with this premise (The Bubble), but it’s a setting rich for exploration. Screens July 14th and 21st.
Pit Stop (Dir. Yen Tan)
Two Texas men leading separate lives of quiet turmoil are set on a new course when they meet at a gas station. This film’s been making the rounds of the festival circuit since Sundance, and has gotten a lot of raves along the way. It’s co-written by Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery. Screens July 15th.
Valencia (Dir. 21 different filmmakers)
In 2000, Michelle Tea won acclaim for her novel Valencia, an autobiographical journey through the San Francisco lesbian scene. Now, twenty-one directors have banded together to adapt the book, each of them turning an episode from the story into a short. Each segment will feature a different “Michelle,” providing a variety of genders and skin tones. If nothing else, it should be an interesting experiment. Screens July 14th.
Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? (Dir. Anna Margarita Albelo)
The director acts in the main role, playing a filmmaker who faces a midlife crisis as she confronts her lonely, impoverished existence. This is the first fiction feature from Albelo, who has focused on interesting doc work in the past. But truth be told, I’d be sold on this movie on the title alone. Screens July 19th.
And as a bonus, here are much more comprehensive looks at films showing at the fest which I’ve already seen and reviewed: