Outfest '97 Comes to a Close
by Brian Brooks
OutFest '97 closed full of all the hoopla that opened the fest ten days previously. The Los Angeles Directors Guild of America was buzzing with hordes of festival goers celebrating the end of the annual event. Indie film is here and quite often queer -- not exactly hidden and covered in straight-laced veneers anymore. The OutFest logo
was projected-- or should I say emblazoned-- against the DGA building's facade for all passers-by on Sunset to see. The mood inside the festival reflected the celebration of gay cinema's coming of age.
Closing the fest was "Fire", a film sharing the tribulations of lesbian life in India. The sold-out screening reflected an overall theme of the diversity of gay attitudes, morals, lifestyles and experiences present in this hard to sum-up community. From college boys in Washington discovering their sexuality in Brian Sloan's comedy "I Think I Do" to rock and roll/S&M lesbians living in an LA apartment building a la "Melrose Place" in the B-movie styled "Pink as the Day She Was Born", directed by Steve Hall, the queer experience was well represented and an open book for all to celebrate.
Not all was necessarily pretty, but was nevertheless intriguing. Blaine Hopkins and Stephen Winter's video "Private Show" exposed the behind-the-scenes life of a New York nude dancer/hustler. The traditional documentary genre was modified somewhat in this project, as a drama unfolded between the hustler and the filmmaker all the while showing the tumultuous lifestyle of the subject. "Making Porn" gave festival goers a salacious look into the... well... making of porn. Lots of skin and hilarious in-between takes are captured in this one. A lesbian sitting next to me yelled out, "Let's see some dick..." Light-heartedness and tragedy rounded out this feature-length documentary that was-- perhaps not too surprisingly-- packed.
Tragedy surfaced in the sporadically violent "Latin Boys Go To Hell" as did the disturbing "Defying Gravity" by John Keitel.
"Kiss Me Guido" as well as "Tantrums and Tiaras" are among the films soon to appear at a queer-friendly cinema near you. "The Cream WIll Rise" by Gigi Gaston about singer Sophie B. Hawkins is dancing with Hawkins' label's
film counterpart for future distribution. OutFest Director of Programming, John Cooper, also commented that many other distribution deal talks were
ongoing as the festival closed.
Fest goers were treated to other forms of entertainment in a side lounge in the DGA's lobby, including vocalists and pianists. Also consumed were nice giveaways (usually booze) that could be sipped while taking in the scene. The fest featured a series of panels as well as a look at classic films with gay overtones. Each film featured a commentator explaining why he/she believed it to be "gay," among the personalities participating were former Andy Warhol superstar, Holly Woodlawn.
The closing ceremony was glitz. Festival host and local gay fixture
Bruce Vilanch presided over the award ceremony with much kitsch and
comical irreverence. Andrew Cunanan, Michael Jackson, N.A.M.B.L.A. and
the Southern Baptists were among some of the victims of his venomous
tongue. Afterward, the party continued with champagne and desserts (the
chocolate-dipped strawberries are always a favorite).
Partying continued well into the evening ending another successful OutFest. The films as well as the whole scene were memorable. The reflection of gay life through film continued to mature through style as well as content. Next year's fest is sure to be even more successful judging on the momentum of this year's event.
[Brian Brooks covered OutFest for indieWIRE and is also a daily news
writer for the publication. He is re-adjusting, to life in LA
after living overseas.]