Outfest, Los Angeles’ premier LGBT film festival, returns Thursday for its yearly run over 11 days.
Now in its 32nd year, the citywide event once again presents a wide array of comedies, dramas, documentaries, genre movies, shorts and, yes, parties about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender experience. Some 175 films and videos — some with reputations, others making their world premiere — from 28 countries will be shown, making for a program with something for all tastes.
“When I think of our festival, I start thinking of the city of Los Angeles and all of the different kinds of LGBT people and allies and cinephiles that live here,” said Outfest programming director Kristin “KP” Pepe.
“We create a slate of films for everybody, obviously highlighting the very best in LGBT cinema of that year. We also get hundreds of submissions, and we scour those to find the best new films to present.”
“It’s an excellent lineup of films — with a lot of celebrities in the movies!” Outfest executive director Kirsten Schaffer pointed out.
And she was only being partially ironic. Thursday’s opening gala, at downtown’s classic Orpheum Theatre, features the comedy “Life Partners,” starring Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs as two bffs — one gay and one straight — who experiment with Internet dating.
Other films featuring well-known actors: “The Skeleton Twins,” with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as estranged siblings; the psychological study “Boulevard,” starring Robin Williams as a man undergoing an unforeseen sexual awakening; “Last Weekend,” a family drama with Patricia Clarkson; “Match,” starring Patrick Stewart as a ballet instructor with some dark secrets; the relationship-mining “X/Y,” centered by America Ferrera, directed by real-life husband Ryan Piers Williams); the sci-fi farce “Space Station 76,” with Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler and Matt Bomer; the pregnancy fright web series “Lyle,” with Gaby Hoffman; and the cross-generational drama “Lilting,” out of the U.
Still, it’s hardly all glamour. As always, Outfest this year casts a wide glance at the struggles, both personal and political, gays face throughout the world.
“When we look at the cultural landscape in the United States and abroad, we see how much LGBT rights have changed in the last couple of years,” Schaffer said. “One of the questions that we get a lot is how Outfest is still relevant. Watching this year’s movies, it’s really clear to me that there continue to be fresh, important stories coming from this country and all over the world that demonstrate how much change there still needs to be.”
In the wake of everything from the Putin regime’s homophobia to Brunei’s implementation of Sharia law, films ranging from Venezuela’s “Bad Hair” to Russia’s “Winter Journey” address the various forms of anti-gay repression. Others simply take for granted the effect ingrained societal attitudes have on non-hetero citizens.
“I guess I understood very young that there will be no place for me in Morocco as an adult gay person, as a gay person coming from a very poor family,” noted Paris-based filmmaker Abdellah Taïa, whose award-winning, semi-autobiographical debut feature “Salvation Army” comes to Outfest on the International Dramatic Features slate. “I had to think and think again how to escape and how to find the way to do what I want to do. Alone. Always alone. Until now alone.”
While last year’s Outfest was a celebratory affair in the shadow of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, movies such as the documentary “Out in the Night,” about four African-American lesbians vilified by the New York media and sentenced to hard time for a minor scuffle with an aggressive homophobe, show there’s still a lot to overcome.
“Marriage equality is extremely important,” said “Out in the Night” writer-director Blair Doroshwalther. “But something that feels a little dangerous to me about the mainstream media focusing on it is that they’re creating the context of the civil rights of the LGBT community to be solely around marriage equality. This film shows that we also need to talk about just safety on the streets.”
The festival also tips its hat to “Provocateurs,” moviemakers and subjects whose outspokenness — and sometimes outrageousness — have led to social change. A new wave of transgender cinema is cresting, noted programming head Pepe, with trans characters entering mainstream pop culture on such shows as “Orange Is the New Black” and the Oscar-winning “Dallas Buyers Club.”
“There have been a lot of films about the transition process itself,” she said. “Now it seems like we’re in the next stage of that — what happens after people have the transition, how they’re adjusting and living their lives.”
This year’s Outfest Legacy Project honors the 25th anniversary of “Longtime Companion,” a groundbreaking account of the harrowing impact of the arrival of HIV/AIDS, with a screening at the Harmony Gold Theater.
And for some unexpected fare, the popular “Under the Stars” alfresco series at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre beckons with “The Wizard of Oz: The Sing-Along.”
For a full program and to buy tickets, go to www.outfest.org.
IF YOU GO
Outfest runs July 10-20 throughout Los Angeles. Festival headquarters and main box office are located at the Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd.
• John Anson Ford Amphitheater, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood
• Harmony Gold Theatre, 7655 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
• REDCAT, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles
• Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
• L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s Village, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., Hollywood
• Sundance Cinemas Sunset 5, 8000 W. Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Prices for most screenings are $14. Galas, Ford Theatre and certain other events are more. For information and tickets, visit www.outfest.org, or call 213-480-7065. Note there are handling charges for online and phone orders.
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