"Mosquita y Mari"
"Mosquita y Mari"

"Mosquita Y Mari," written by directed by Aurora Guerrero
This Chicana coming-of-age movie follows two 15 year old girls in Los Angeles' Huntington Park: Good girl Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda), and her polar opposite Mari (Venecia Troncoso).  As their friendship quickly develops, questions of sexual attraction arise in a slowly revealing, carefully constructed narrative from first-time writer-director Aurora Guerrero.  Guerrero -- along with her two lead actresses, who are both excellent -- is definitely a name to watch, and this is most definitely a film to watch. [Peter Knegt]

"My Brother The Devil," written and directed by Sally el Hosaini
With her debut feature, Sally el Hosaini explores the lives of two Arab-British brothers who must contend with the competing values of the gang culture they're trying to prove themselves within and their intimate feelings and love.  Resisting the cliches many like films fall for, "My Brother the Devil" is a complicated story of coming to understand one's own feelings and one's place within family. [Bryce J. Renninger]

"Struck By Lightning," directed by Brian Dannelly, written by Chris Colfer
Chris Colfer shines as a smart ass high school student intent on making an impact on his classmates, and doing this his way.  The film, which debuted at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, was cause for me to say, "Just watch:  Colfer will be one of the most interesting pop culture voices of this generation.  I've been sure of this since seeing him co-present Jane Lynch with a lifetime achievement award two years ago at Outfest.  His comic smarts far exceed what we've seen on the screen so far.  "Struck By Lightning" is exactly what he needed to do.  Get it, girl."  "Struck By Lightning" will be an awesome closing night screening for the festival; it's full of smart quips and shellacked with all kinds of camp. [Bryce J. Renninger]

"Vito," directed by Jeffrey Schwarz
A new addition to the canon of great LGBT rights documentaries, Jeffrey Schwarz’s “Vito” -- which opens Outfest -- is a passionate look at the life of Vito Russo. Russo is probably best known for the 1981 book about the representation of LGBT people in Hollywood, “The Celluloid Closet” (which was adapted into the 1995 documentary by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman). But he was also a remarkable figure in the early gay rights movement, and the fight against AIDS (which he succumbed to in 1990).  Using interviews with Russo’s family and peers as well as wonderful archival footage, Schwarz gives Russo’s legacy the documentary it deserves with “Vito.” [Peter Knegt]

"Wildness," directed by Wu Tsang, written by Wu Tsang & Roy Rastegar
Wu Tsang's essay film about the party he helped through at LA's Latino bar The Silver Platter is definitely one of my favorite films of the year.  Wu and his co-writer Roya Rastegar have truly made something special here, an incredibly powerful documentation of working to sustain culture, neighborhood institutions and neighborly fraternizing as young queer (often middle-class) people while fighting the more destructive aspects of gentrification. [Bryce J. Renninger]

"Yossi," written and directed Eytan Fox
Ten years after his 2002 film "Yossi & Jaggar," Eytan Fox offers up a sequel-of-sorts with the simply titled "Yossi." It plays like a sort of Israeli cross between Tom Ford's "A Single Man" and Andrew Haigh's "Weekend." Ohad Knoller reprises his role of the now singular title character, now an overweight, closeted 34-year-old doctor living in Tel Aviv. Still struggling with the tragic events that came at the end of the first film (spoiler alert: Jagger died), Yossi lives a sad, lonely life. But thankfully for Yossi, it gets better. After he randomly meets a group of young Israeli soldiers, "Yossi" gives us a hopeful second act set on an Israeli resort.  A lovely little film about grief and aging and life's second chances, "Yossi" -- a last minute addition to Outfest's program -- should not be missed. [Peter Knegt]