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by Indiewire
July 20, 1998 2:00 AM
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L.A.'s OutFest, Part I: Sex in L.A., "Out of the Past" and Ellen DeGeneres

L.A.'s OutFest, Part I: Sex in L.A., "Out of the Past"
and Ellen DeGeneres

by Tom Cunha




The festival kicked off with a bang as opening night pulled in a
reported 2,200 attendees at downtown L.A.'s historical Orpheum Theater
where P.J. Castellaneta's "Relax. . . It's Just Sex" had its Los Angeles
premiere. Among those in attendance were Castellaneta as well as cast
members Jennifer Tilly and Lori Petty. Prior to the screening, which
received a warm reception from the audience, "Tales of the City" author
Armistead Maupin presented Sir Ian McKellen with the Outfest Achievement
Award. The award was created last year in order to acknowledge
excellence in the gay and lesbian community. Clips of McKellen's
upcoming films "Gods and Monsters" and "Apt Pupil" were shown. During
McKellen's acceptance speech, he spoke of the importance of gay and
lesbian actors coming out of the closet, using himself as an example of
an actor whose career hasn't been crippled by being openly gay.


Among the well-received documentaries in this year's selection are Jeff
Dupre's "Out of the Past." Following its filled-to-capacity screening,
Dupre received a standing ovation from festival attendees. This
powerful film, which previously screened at Sundance, profiles the
plight of 17-year-old Kelli Peterson (also present at the screening),
whose attempts to put together a Gay-Straight Alliance at her high
school in Salt Lake City was met with severe opposition from the staunch
community as well as the Utah State Legislature. The pic also highlights
historical gay figures such as author Willa Cather and Puritan writer
Michael Wiggelsworth, among others. Following the screening, Dupre spoke
briefly of his goal for the film: to eventually incorporate gay and
lesbian awareness into the educational curriculum. The film is a
profound reminder of the importance of gay awareness, and gay
filmmaking in promoting such issues.


On the polar opposite side of the spectrum is Jochen Hick's "Sex Life in
L.A.,
' an insipid documentary which follows the lives of a handful of
Los Angeles men, most of whom have unsavory careers that involve sex of
some form or another. From a disgustingly self-absorbed model, to porn
stars, the audience was subjected to seeing such unsavory sights as
watching a chain get pulled out of some guy's rectum and catching a
glimpse of a self-torture "artist" sever his own scrotum. What's
misleading about this film is its broad title, which gives the spurious
implication that such lifestyles are indicative of the entire gay
culture in Los Angeles.


Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche made a surprise appearance following a
screening of "The Real Ellen Story," a documentary directed by "Party
Monster
's" Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato which highlights the entire
coming out phenomenon of "Ellen," both on screen and off. In a Q & A
following the film, DeGeneres expressed that the writing on the show
remained strong in its final season, despite criticisms to the contrary, and
blames ABC's lack of promotion and support for the show's failure.
DeGeneres went on to say she plans to continue working in features. (She
just finished shooting Ron Howard's "Ed TV" and begins shooting another
film for Dreamworks in the next couple of weeks.)


The festival's Closing Night Gala is tonight with the premiere of Tommy
O'Haver's romantic comedy "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" at the Mann
Chinese Theater in Hollywood. This event marks the first time ever that
a gay-themed film will hold its premiere at the historic theater.

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