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by Brian Brooks
July 6, 2006 9:00 AM
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Outfest Gears Up for 24th Edition and a Heavy Film/Party Line up

Los Angeles is gearing up for another large festival with the opening of the 24th edition of Outfest in downtown LA Thursday night. Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival will debut at the historic Orpheum Theatre with Maria Maggenti's Sundance 2006 romantic comedy "Puccini for Beginners." The film centers on a New York writer who has recently become single, but finds herself enveloped in complicated relationships. The film will usher in a festival line up of 207 narrative and documentary shorts and features from 25 countries.

Along with the film roster, Outfest will again host its multitude of signature parties, with 45 such events planned for the 2006 edition. Opening night will feature a party in downtown in addition to a tribute to writer/director Kenneth Anger ("The Man We Want to Hang").

Outfest will host two centerpiece screenings this year, including Mexican director Julian Hernandez's "Broken Sky" (El Cielo Dividido). The film is the erotic story of two young men in love as they are challenged to define and accept the next stage of their relationship. Outfest will screen the film July 12th at the Directors Guild. Academy Award-winning director Freida Lee Mock's ("Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision") "Wrestling with Angels," spotlighting playwright Tony Kushner, will screen as the fest's documentary centerpiece. The film utilizes interviews with leading theater artists and personal moments from Kushner's life with scenes from his plays, and includes appearances by Meryl Streep and Marcia Gay Harden.

Other highlights this year include never before seen episodes of "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,"and "The Book of Daniel," the controversial show about a priest, his gay son and his bisexual sister-in-law, starring Aidan Quinn, Christian Campbell and Cheryl White. Berlinale 2006 Teddy Award-winning film, "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros" (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros) from the Philippines will screen in Outfest's international dramatic features section as well as French director Valerie Minetto's love story, "Looking for Cheyenne." Spanish director Manuel Gomez's "Queens" (Reinas) about the lead-up to the country's first mass gay wedding is also on the sidebar's line up.

Kirk Marcolina and Larry Grimaldi's NewFest-winning doc, "Camp Out" is on tap for Outfest's documentary features section. The film follows a group of teens who attend the first Bible camp for gay Christian youth, and follows their bonding and tribulations. Also slated is Todd Ahlblerg's "Meth," an investigation at the rising use of crystal among gay men. Alex Hinton's "Pick Up the Mic," meanwhile, spotlights the phenomenon of queer hip hop through performances and interviews with gay rappers. Additionally, Outfest will host "Homo Hip-Hop," five programs featuring performances and films.

This year's awards night will again take place at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. Q. Allan Brocka's Tribeca 2006 comedy "Boy Culture," will screen prior to the prize announcements. Sixteen prizes will be awarded this year, including jury prizes, audience awards and special programming nods.

Ramon Salazar's "20 Centimeters" will close Outfest July 17. The musical comedy follows a narcoleptic transsexual who dreams up elaborate musical numbers in which she is the star. The film and closing night party will be held at the Orpheum.

"It has been a good year for LGBT images in mainstream media, and Outfest 2006 adds to that success with a rich, divers crop of new films - innovative, inspiring voices from talented first time and returning filmmakers," commented Kirsten Schaffer, senior director of programming and operations in a statement. "There are so many amazing new stories being told. We're proud to showcase heartwarming, eye-opening, tear-jerking, laugh-out-loud films from the American deep South to Iceland, from Southeast Asia to Silver Lake that offers tremendous cultural diversity and are highly entertaining."

[For more information and a complete line up, visit the Outfest website.]

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