The recent OUTFEST, one of my favorite festival in Los Angeles, celebrated its 30th anniversary and what an array of some of the best films I've seen in years and what an exciting and exhilarating week it was! I missed the Opening Night but sources noted that actress Ricki Lake took the stage at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre downtown to present the 16th annual Outfest Achievement Award to the legendary director John Waters before screening ‘Vito,’ which celebrates the life of legendary gay rights activist Vito Russo, co-founder of both ACT UP and GLAAD and the author of the vital exploration of queer images in cinema, ‘The Celluloid Closet.
I started my exploration the following day, Friday (July 13) with two great films -- “Looking For?” (five amazing short films about true love and other reasons how to connect with another person) and “I Want Your Love” (a funny, explicit drama with lots of real sex, about a gay artist trying to reconnect with his ex-lover on the eve of his departure from San Francisco).
I continued my movie marathon on Saturday (July 14) with some notables I will remember for a while: “Boy Shorts” has been one of my favorites for a long time and it didn’t disappoint me (all shorts were great!). The DGA was abuzz with excitement as cast of ‘Petunia” (Thora Birch, Brittany Snow, Christine Lahti, Michael Urie, together with writer/director Ash Christian took the red carpet. I bumped into Haley Joel Osment (remember him from “The Sixth Sense”?) and chat a bit while waiting for the screening of his movie “Sassy Pants” (I told him I’ve already watch it because the Publicist sent me a screener). He returns to the big screen with an off-beat role playing a gay boyfriend to a much older guy. The movie also stars Ashley Rickards.
"Sassy Pants" trailer:
With screenings unspooling at the Directors Guild of America and the Harmony Gold in Hollywood and REDCAT downtown, I pretty much stayed at the DGA 1 where I felt so comfy and satisfied. “Beauty” is one remarkable and one of the most unforgettable films I’ve seen. A controversial, shocking and powerful film, which won the Queer Palme D’Or at the Cannes Filmfest and was the South African submission for the Oscars Foreign Film category -- a story about a successful businessman who becomes fixated with his best friend’s gorgeous grown son, which led to an unsettling act of violence. Yes, I missed the Filipino horror-comedy “Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings” but someone promised me a dvd so hopefully I’d be able to watch it soon!
"Beauty" (Skoonheid) trailer:
On Sunday, hot steam were rising inside the DGA 1 with the screening of “Perfect Ending." Director Nicole Conn (“Elena Undone”) returns to Outfest with this touching and evocative story of one woman's struggle to find what moves her. Rebecca has a perfect life as a wife and mother to three grown kids but something is missing in her life. An encounter with a young escort, Paris (the captivating and beautiful actress named Jessica Clark) takes her to a sensual journey of self-discovery. I've seen the first rough edit of this film during the cast and crew screening at the Charles Aidikoff Theatre but the film has improved a lot since its Outfest screening. Kudos!
“Elliot Loves” is a funny, charming, and hilarious debut film from Terracino where a nine-year old loyal son to his at-loose-ends mother, tirelessly looking for love.The movie was developed under Outfest’s Screenwriting Lab.
An interview with Terracino about his film "Elliot Loves":
In the French film “Le Reflet,” a studious boy named Louis was left by his parents in a sleepy French country village where he befriends Alexis, a studly straight farmer whose girlfriend was threatened by his simmering friendship with Louis. First-time director Morgane Rousseau delivers a sumptuous and sexy movie in the tradition of ‘Wild Reeds.’
And speaking of ‘Wild Reeds,’ original stars of this classic film --- French actors Stephane Rideau and (actor turned director) Gael Morel teamed up again with the latter directing Rideau in the new film “Notre Paradis” (subtitled “Our Paradise”), a disturbing erotic thriller about an aging hustler (Rideau) who meets a young kid. One of the best French gay-themed love story in years I’ve seen.
Notre Paradis (Our Paradise) trailer:
This year’s U.S. Dramatic Centerpiece movie “Keep The Lights On” (which won OUTFEST 2012 Outstanding Screenwriting and Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature Film) chronicles one couple’s emotionally and sexually charged journey through love and addiction. A semi-autobiographical fantastic adaptation from Director Ira Sach’s personal screenplay, with great performances from Danish actor Thure Lindhardt, the movie is harrowing and romantic, visceral and intellectual, taking its dark depths and bringing it back to a place of grace. The film received Best Feature Film - Teddy Awards at the Berlin International Film Festival.
"Keep The Lights On" trailer:
“Joshua Tree: 1951, A Portrait of James Dean” is creative, visually stunning black & white movie, imagining the life of legendary actor James Dean before he became a movie star. Many have speculated about the actor’s bisexuality. As Dean carries on affairs with his male roommate, his female classmates and older benefactors, his lovers grapple with their inability to hold on to a shooting star. A bold new vision from writer/director Matthew Mishory.
"Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean" trailer:
"North Sea, Texas" is a cute and engaging coming-of-age film from acclaimed shorts director Bavo Defurne. This is his debut feature, about a 15-year-old boy named Pim who is living in a dull Belgian coastal town with his fading beauty queen mum. He's in love with the dashing older boy next door - Gino (Mathias Vergels) . Gino's a little in love with Pim, too, but wants to keep their relationship a secret, especially from his younger sister, who's dappy over Pim. Defurne makes his actors natural, producing a believable and brilliant performances.
"North Sea, Texas" trailer:
I've also enjoyed the live reading of some of the new works from emerging writer/producers in the LGBT community. Their films are being developed through Outfest's Screenwriting Lab Program, now on its tenth year. On this live reading, held at the DGA 2, notable directors mentor them and gets the chance to table read live (after casting). Some of the upcoming scripts/films in production that were able to perform at least 15 minutes each were the following: SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY (Erin Greenwell), THE WELL (Andre Hereford), BRONTEZ & RICK (Travis Matthews), UNDERSTAY (Jonathon Roessler), and GIRLFRIEND (Josh Staman).
Photo: UNDERSTAY cast: Jonathon Trent, Daniel Landroche, Rebekah Brandes, Matthew Ludwinski, Mikayla Gibson, with director Q. Allan Brocka and narrator Scot Weil.
Photo: SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY cast: Jo Armeniax, Patricia Villetto, Shannon MacMillian, Naserin Bogado, Celeste Pechous with director Guinevere Turner.
Outstanding on my list is the Alan Cumming movie "Any Day Now." Cumming gave an outstanding performance as a brash drag singer who wanted to be the adoptive parent (together with his lawyer lover) of a young child who has Down Syndrome, abandoned by his drug-addicted mother. After the screening held at the DGA 1, the film and Cumming received a more than a minute long standing ovation. This film gave Cumming the Outstanding Actor in A Feature Film award and the film as this year's Outstanding Dramatic Feature Film. Previously, it already won this year's Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Interview with Alan Cumming during the Outfest screening of "Any Day Now":
"White Frog" is another sweet coming of age film starring some of the hottest rising stars. After Chaz's (Harry Shum, Jr. of GLEE) death, Nick (Booboo Stewart, TWILIGHT) struggles to live without his brother, along with their parents (B.D. Wong and Joan Chen). Nick finds solace being around with Chaz's close friends Randy (Gregg Sulkin), Doug (Tyler Posey), Ajit (Manish Dayal of 90210), and Cameron (Justin Martin). Amy Hill plays the Counselor - Dr. King and Kelly Hu plays in a cameo role as the lawyer.
"White Frog" trailer:
"My Brother, The Devil," directed by Sally El Hosaini, received the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature Film, for its taut narrative, sensitive interrogation of masculinity, with excellent performances by an ensemble cast. An intense cinematic experience. It is a moving story about two British Arab brothers in London. Mo idolizes his older brother Rashid, who is a charismatic member of a local gang until Mo finds out his brother's secret. The film also received the World Cinema Cinematography Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
"My Brother, The Devil" trailer:
One of the most unique feature documentary "Wildness" from first time director Wu Tang, who was a frequenter in a historic and notorious niteclub in Los Angeles, "The Silver Platter" (located on Rampart and 7th Street). The location has been beckoning revelers in L.A.'s MacArthur Park for over 40 years but have been a haven for the transgendered Latin community in the past 10 years via "Wildness," a Tuesday night experimental party+art bacchanal that was organized by a group of friends that felt drawn to the spirit of the space. While the promoters were indeed queers of color, the night transcended queerness and become more about the intersection of communities in the quickly changing MacArthur Park landscape. Tsang succeeded in addressing issues of immigration, gentrification, identification, community, and the history of the bar and the history of the and its regulars in an authentic voice as complex as itself. Well edited and clipped, the film won the 2012 Oufest Outstanding Documentary Feature Film.
Fans of Dir. Eyton Fox (Walk on Water, Yossi & Jagger) were treated to a special screening of "Yossi," the sequel to "Yossi & Jagger"). Dr. Yossi Hoffman has become a valued and dedicated cardiologist, often using his work as a way to escape from dealing with his life. He lives alone, unable to break through the walls and defenses built around him since the death of his lover. His daily routine at the hospital is shaken up by the arrival of a mysterious woman whom he follows to the southern city of Eilat. Surrounded by sea and sand dunes, he meets Tom, a handsome, self-confident, openly gay man, who represents a new world, different from the one that shaped Yossi.
The film is supposed to screen with subtitles. Unfortunately, there was nobody who knows how to convert the dvd sent to Outfest for the screening. Luckily, a guy named ITAY HOD, who speaks Hebrew was kind enough to translate the words throughout the film, so the film was played with a live dubbing!
Here is a preview of "Yossi" (with a few scenes from the original "Yossi & Jagger" how it all started):
A 2:17 minute clip from the movie "Yossi":
At the Closing Night Film, "Struck by Lightning" writer and star of the film Chris Colfer, excitedly introduced the film to a full packed audience at the Ford Amphitheater. Together with other cast members, what a way to close the festival, under the stars with a delightful film.