Ned Farr's "The Gymnast" took two prizes at the recently concluded Outfest: Los Angeles Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, including the event's juried OUTstanding American Narrative Feature award and the HBO OUTstanding First Narrative Feature nod, which is an audience prize. Also sharing fest honors were Amnon Buchbinder's "Whole New Thing" (OUTstanding International Narrative Feature) and Malcolm Ingram's Sundance 2006 film, "Small Town Gay Bar" (OUTstanding Documentary Feature).
Farr's "Gymnast," which also took the audience prize at June's Frameline gay fest in San Francisco and best U.S. narrative at NewFest, is the story of Jane, a 43 year-old masseuse who was once an Olympic gymnast until an accident forced her early retirement. Unhappily married, she returns to the gym where she meets an instructor, Nicole, and her beautiful student Serena, a 28 year-old lesbian. Together, they form an aerial dance troupe, and while training for a Las Vegas audition, Jane develops an attraction for Serena. The narrative feature prize included $2,500 cash from 20th Century Fox.
Buchbinder's "Whole New Thing," meanwhile is the story of a 13 year-old home-schooled boy growing up in a Nova Scotia family of eco-hippies in an environment of casual nudity and sexual openness. Later, however, he is sent to a local school where he meets English teacher Don Grant, who becomes the object of the boy's affections. Malcolm Ingram's "Small Town Gay Bar" takes a look at rural communities in the deep south and their often precarious relationships with gay bars against a backdrop of prejudice.
Also taking home jury prizes this year were Q. Allen Brocka and Philip Pierce's drama "Boy Culture," which took the screenwriting award, while Michael Carbonaro won the fest's actor prize for his role in "Another Gay Movie" (Todd Stephens) and Diane Gaidry took best actress for "Loving Annabelle" (Katherine Brooks).
"Annabelle" tied with "A Love to Hide" by Christian Faure for the audience prize for narrative feature, while Kirk Marcolina and Larry Grimaldi's fest circuit fav "Camp Out" won the documentary feature prize in the audience category. Other audience nods went to David Dean Bottrell's "Available Men" (narrative short film); Carlos Arguello and Enzo Ybarra's "My Crazy Life" (doc short film); and Alex Hinton's "Pick Up the Mic" (soundtrack).
Special programming kudos went to "Cruel and Unusual" directors Dan Hunt, Janet Bauss and Reid Williams (Freedom Award); "Fat Girls" director Ash Christian (Emerging Talent); and "Book of James" filmmaker Ho Tam (Artistic Achievement).
The 24th Outfest screened 209 films and videos from 28 countries in LA July 6 - 17. Ramon Salazar's "20 Centimeters" closed out the festival Monday evening.