As far as gay film festivals go, Outfest takes the cake. Now in its 36th year, the Los Angeles-based festival is the country’s leading LGTBQ film festival, supporting independent queer film and filmmakers for over three decades. This year, two thirds of the program is directed by women, people of color, and/or trans filmmakers. “The reason we put on this festival is to encourage the LGBTQ community and the wider community — mainstream culture — to recognize the inherent value and infinite diversity,” said Outfest head programmer Lucy Mukerjee. “We have to continue to celebrate and showcase queer artists so they can get the same level of access and opportunity as white male directors.”
Outfest is celebrating its first year as an Academy Award-qualifying shorts festival, meaning any short that wins a grand jury prize will be eligible for an Oscar nomination. Following the examples set by Tribeca and Sundance festivals, Outfest added an episodic program to reflect the growing number of LGBTQ stories on TV. It’s also expanded into three new venues across the city, including Regal L.A. Live Cinema, the California African American Museum, and the community space Plaza de la Raza, which will host a Latinx day.
“We’ve identified a couple of venues in different parts of town, so that we could really be in everyone’s neighborhood,” said Brown, confirming that the new locations are part of a concerted effort to reach communities of color.
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This year’s festival will host some of the year’s best forthcoming queer films, including Desiree Akhavan’s “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” the Molly Shannon-as-Emily Dickinson lesbian comedy “Wild Nights With Emily,” Sundance breakout “We the Animals,” and Yen Tan’s black-and-white AIDS drama “1984.” On the nonfiction side, the prolific Matt Tyrnauer has two films in the festival: “Studio 54” and “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.” Three SXSW documentaries, “Transmilitary,” “The Gospel of Eureka,” and “Call Her Ganda” will also screen.
Outfest 2018 runs July 12-22 in Los Angeles. In addition to the offerings mentioned above, Outfest is hosting 11 world, North American, and U.S. premieres. Here are six standouts.
1. “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns”
Photo by Russ Rowland
Gay audiences know Drew Droege from his iconic Chloe Sevigny send-ups, but fewer know that the chameleonic comedian is also an accomplished actor and playwright. A New York Times Critics’ Pick during its Off-Broadway run earlier this year, BroadwayHD delivers Droege’s one-man show to the masses yearning to be entertained. Directed by “Ugly Betty” star Michael Urie and written and starring Droege, “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” follows the lead-up to a gay wedding in which the invitation dissuades guests from wearing “bright colors and bold patterns.” In a community so often celebrated for inclusivity, it’s refreshing to explore internal biases around flamboyance and gender-bending in funny and smart ways.
When aging drag queen Jackie Collins discovers he has six weeks to live, it’s business as usual and the show must go on. In his final days, he strikes up a friendship with a younger drag queen, who is exploring their own gender identity. This feel-good comedy uses a cross-generational queer friendship to explore the nuances of gender in the drag world. “Tucked” is the sixth feature from British filmmaker Jamie Patterson, and his first queer film.
What would you do if you discovered a cute guy naked and handcuffed to a lamppost? That is the premise of this BDSM-themed romantic comedy, which opens with former pianist Michael discovering 20-year-old soccer player Will in a sticky situation, left by friends in a bachelor party prank. Like “Weekend” with an age difference, the rest of the film takes place in Will’s apartment, as the strangers dance around their obvious attraction.
4. “Two in the Bush: A Love Story”
After discovering her partner in bed with someone else on the day she loses her job, Emily must start fresh. She begins working for a dominatrix, and she eventually starts dating her new boss — and her boyfriend. Described as a “polyamorous romantic comedy,” the film takes a wise and witty look at bisexuality, kink, and polyamory. Directed by Laura Madalinksi, “Two in the Bush: A Love Story” is an unconventional love story for modern times.
5. “Cola De Mono”
From Sebastián Silva’s pitch-black comedies to Sebastián Lelio making two of the year’s best queer films back to back, the Chilean film boom has had a major impact on LGBTQ films. Set in 1986, Alberto Fuguet’s latest feature follows a precocious teenager with a love of film over one explosive family Christmas holiday. Part family drama, part erotic thriller, “Cola De Mono” explores the dark side of repressed desire.
6. “Eva & Candela (¿Cómo Te Llamas?)”
A filmmaker falls in love with her lead actress in this nuanced and passionate lesbian romance. Spanish filmmaker Ruth Caudeli makes her feature-length debut, delicately charting the evolution of attraction from sensual to intimate to routine. Though strictly fictional, the relationship between director and talent has never been more ripe.
7. “Canary (Kanarie)”
Drafted by the South African Army during apartheid, Johan lands a spot in the Kanaries, the military’s traveling choir, where a battlefield romance brings up his long-repressed sexual identity. Using Boy George and Depeche Mode as influences, this surprisingly fun musical examines the effects of nationalism on a tender soul, and the bond of brotherhood among misfits.