The Movies to Check Out at L.A.'s Outfest Film Festival
There’s a lot to love about this year’s Outfest in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s largest LGBT-oriented film festivals. The stellar lineup kicks off today with the David Sedaris-inspired film C.O.G. and concludes on Sunday with the high school comedy G.B.F. Over 10 days, Outfest features 155 films from 28 countries, including dramas, comedies, documentaries, and shorts from both distinguished names and rising talent. As Los Angeles prepares for the stars of the rainbow screen to light up its theaters, The Advocate has compiled a list of 17 of our favorite films showing this year, for your consideration. Get the lowdown on all the films you can't miss at Outfest 2013 on the following pages.
Interior. Leather Bar.
Saturday, July 20, 7 p.m. at DGA 1
If you didn’t already love James Franco — the actor, director, art student, and LGBT advocate — this would be the movie that would change that. Co-directed by James Franco and Travis Mathews, the setup for Interior. Leather Bar. is compelling: The director of the 1980 film Cruising, in which Al Pacino starred as an undercover cop investigating a murder in New York's gay leather scene, was forced by the MPAA to cut 40 minutes of sexually explicit material in order to avoid an X rating. It was long rumored that those scenes included graphic gay sex scenes, including one in which Pacino himself was at least a watcher, if not a doer. Those 40 minutes have never been seen, so Franco and Mathews set out to re-imagine what might have happened in those lost scenes. But this film is not 40 minutes of porn. Instead, it’s a full film about the making of a film, with a mix of straight and gay actors and crew exploring the dynamics of what it means to perform in a sexually explicit gay film about BDSM. Listening to lead Val Lauren (the Pacino character) talk on the phone about Franco’s theory about challenging social sexual norms we all grew up with, and hearing his friend ask how Lauren, who is straight, will feel when Franco’s experimentation leads to a dick up his ass, is real, raw, and provocative. It’s an immensely watchable hybrid film that’s both radically transgressive and enjoyable to ponder for hours afterward. If you’re intrigued by this film, check out director Christina Voros’ documentery, Kink, which was produced by James Franco and follows the painful but oh-so-pleasurable world of five San Francisco–based BDSM workers, on July 18, 8:30 p.m. at Redcat.
Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?
Friday, July 19, 7:15 p.m. at DGA 1
This hilarious all-female comedy stars Anna Margarita Albelo, who also directed the film, as a perpetually stuck middle-aged lesbian living in Los Angeles. Staring down the barrel of 40 years on this earth, Anna has no job, no girlfriend, and lives in a friend’s garage. Searching for meaning — and something to occupy her time — the eccentric filmmaker begins writing a lesbian remake of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That’s when she meets Katia (played by True Blood and The L Word actress Janina Gavankar), who serves as Anna’s muse and leads the forlorn filmmaker on a journey of self-discovery, redemption, and creation. Keep an eye out for fellow queer favorite actors Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) and Carrie Preston (True Blood, The Good Wife).
Saturday, July 13, 1:30 p.m. at DGA 1
In 2011, Tom Bridegroom, 29, accidentally fell off a roof in Los Angeles and died. His untimely death sparked a chain of events that led his partner of more than five years, Shane Bitney Crone, to create a YouTube video that chronicled the legal and social barriers that prevented him from attending the funeral of the man he loved. The video, titled “This could happen to you,” went viral, and its success inspired Crone to produce Bridegroom, a documentary that further explores the couple’s story. While the 10-minute YouTube video sketches out the timeline of events through title cards — Tom’s death, his family’s threats of violence against Shane, and the hospital’s refusal to release information — the 80-minute documentary offers an in-depth portrait and expansion of the video that has gained nearly 4 million views to date. The film includes interviews with friends and family, and video footage of Tom and Shane’s life, courtship, and love. Even the voice of Tom, a talented singer in his lifetime, appears as part of the soundtrack of the documentary. Though Shane was banned from Tom’s funeral, in Bridegroom, he has given his partner a touching memorial. For many, it will also offer a compelling case for the necessity of marriage equality. “Anyone watching this documentary could wish they had the love that Tom and Shane had,” says Josh, a friend of the couple featured in the documentary. “That’s what you dream about at night. And they had it.”
Friday, July 12, 8 p.m. at DGA2
Monday, July 15, 12 p.m. at Sundance Sunset
This riveting look at the healthcare crisis around HIV and AIDS in the rural South, director Lisa Biagiotti’s Deepsouth puts a personal face on the epidemic. There are the women — Monica and Tammy — who run an HIV resource retreat in Louisiana with almost no money, and Josh, a young, gay black man who is trying to stay in college while dealing with HIV, poverty, and cultural ignorance. All compelling stories, but the face that gets you most in this documentary is Kathie, the (presumably 60-something) director of AIDS Alabama, who is constantly lobbying, fighting, cold-calling, speaking, and otherwise working so hard to get money allocated to her state, to her region, that she seems literally worn out at the end. In fact, the film closes on a scene where she wants to go to bed — we want her to go to bed — but there is still so much to be done. Both sad and maddening, and at times heartwarming, this is a must-see doc for anyone who thinks that AIDS is over, that Obamacare solved everything, or that people of color aren’t
adversely affected by the HIV crisis.
Sunday, July 14, 8:30 p.m. at REDCAT Theater
Based on the groundbreaking literary memoir by iconic queer author Michelle Tea, Valencia enlists the services of 20 different filmmakers to piece together an ensemble retelling of Tea’s turbulent 20s, full of hard drinking, hard loving, and righteously damning “the man.” Just as Tea’s memoir gave a printed voice to a generation of lesbians who came of age in the 1990s, the highly-anticipated film re-imagines Tea’s tropes for a modern, radical, and genderqueer crowd. Each chapter of Tea’s life is portrayed by different actors, in shorts helmed by distinct directors, including Outfest favorites Silas Howard and Cheryl Dunye. Despite its ensemble composure, the film emerges as a powerful rumination on the universal experience of being young, heartbroken, and ecstatic, all while discovering who you are and what you stand for.
Thursday, July 11, 8 p.m. at Orpheum Theater
Few films at Outfest are set to attract as much attention as C.O.G., the first film adaptation gay author David Sedaris has ever allowed of his work. Written and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, the film follows a cocky Northeastern college grad who travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm with a girlfriend (we can’t tell if it’s a girl who is a friend or a girlfriend). After she strands him there, he ends up at a factory where he meets an aggressive, working class gay man — and runs like hell from him in one of the movie’s funniest scenes. The film stars Jonathan Groff, the Tony-nominee who is best known as Rachel’s ex on Glee. Groff lends a curiously introspective, is-he-or-isn’t-he allure to the fish-out-of-water story. Is he an uppity gay Yale grad? Or a love-spurned straight guy, pretending to be more highbrow than he really is? His supporting cast, especially American Horror Story’s Denis O’Hare, as well as Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, Casey Wilson, and Troian Bellisario, offer compelling (and sometimes heartbreaking) performances as well. Either way, the movie is winner — a slow, thoughtful, sometimes hilarious little gem.
TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo's Story
Sunday, July 14, 6:30 p.m. at REDCAT Theater
Outfest marks the world premiere Dante Alencastre’s documentary about the life of renowned Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist and leader, Bamby Salcedo, following her personal challenges to a transformative rise to prominence in the local trans community. Salcedo’s personal story shares the narrative of many trans immigrant women of color — who find themselves trapped by drugs, prison, sex work, and more —but more interesting is how she’s moved through loss and become a resilient advocate for social justice in multiple, overlapping communities her life has touched, including HIV-positive people, Latina, youth, and LGBT communities.
Salcedo is currently at the helm of the nation’s largest transgender youth program at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. TransVisible follows Salcedo’s creation of the life-saving Angels of Change program for trans youth, and her feminist advocacy for the Translatina Coalition. And though we still see the effects of the haunting loss of former partners to drugs or discrimination when Salcedo speaks, it’s clear that she’s a woman who has come into her own in mid-life, rising to greater heights than many in the same stead, and who seems both lovable and unstoppable. That makes TransVisible a heartwarming and human story — a rarity in a media that still portrays trans women as freaks. After the film there will be a Q&A panel with Alencastre and Saldedo, followed by a reception.
With additional reporting and writing by DANIEL REYNOLDS