By Robert St. Martin with Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/22/23 – Since 2004, the Outfest Fusion Film Festival and summit has now grown to become the worlds’ largest in-person and virtual event of its kind, with over 13,000 attendees in 2022. Each year a program featuring the work of today’s leading, and emerging, QTBIPOC artists and storytellers is curated and exhibited across a number of theatre venues in Los Angeles. The original focus of Outfest Fusion to target under-represented LGBTQIA+ communities of color and their stories on film and it served as an adjunct to the larger OUTFEST held annually in the summer in July, with most films screened at the Directors Guild of America and other locations as well. Post-COVID, the Outfest Fusion Film Festival has held its spot in April and offers in-person theatrical screenings of feature-length and short films as well as a number of online viewing opportunities. The One Minute Movie Contest is a regular feature of Outfest Fusion and the program this year has been expanded over a 10-day period at various venues. Attendees are also offered free community workshops, industry masterclasses, live music showcases and an inaugural family day. The mission of Fusion is to not only amplify queer voices and stories, but to provide resources specific to supporting closing the systemic access gap for the LGBTQIA+ communities of color around the world.
The opening night gala evening will be this Friday, March 24, 2023, at the Aratani Theater @ Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, beginning at 7:00 PM. The 20th edition of Outfest Fusion is returning to its first venue where this event was first held. This year the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center will honor two extraordinary filmmakers: Outfest Fusion alum Elegance Bratton (The Inspection, 2022) and Bird Runningwater (Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program). Outfest Fusion runs for 10 days from March 24 through April 1, 2023, at various theatre venues across the city. Some films and a number of the shorts program are available for online viewing. To access the complete Outfest Fusion Film Guide, go to: https://issuu.com/outfest/docs/fusion23_filmguide_v5
The ceremony is followed by a selection of shorts that truly showcases the scope and depth of Outfest Fusion talent. From a teen comedy about queer witches hexing their bullies, to an evocative drama about a former astronaut struggling to imagine motherhood after the loss of her partner, to an experimental and whimsical exploration of memory and identity — this program of stellar films is sure to provoke, touch, amuse, and inspire. After the screening, join us for a lively after-party filled with music, revelry, and drinks. It’s the perfect way to kick off the festival and celebrate the power of QTBIPOC storytelling. These are some of best in the huge line-up of shorts and I do recommend seeing them online if you can’t make it in person. Noteworthy are: Baba about a young gay Libyan man who lives underground with his friends and dreams of fleeing to England, but when he has to find his passport, he finds warmth where he least expects it and questions whether he should leave; Amina about a woman who loses her former partner, a former astronaut and struggles to connect with her unborn child in this cinematic exploration of queer longing and loneliness; and Hex the Patriarchy about two queer high schoolers are sick of being bullied by their classmates, so they strike back as any of us would with witchcraft; and I Am a Poem where a young boy explores and asserts his gender identity on Halloween, and finds acceptance from an unexpected figure.
The line-up for Outfest Fusion includes a large compendium of short films which will screen on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26 at the Hollywood TCL Chinese 6 Theatres. Check of the schedule for the many short offerings. There are 8 feature films included in the line-up in the weekend at the Hollywood Chinese 6 Theatres. On Saturday, March 25, 8:15 pm, there will screen Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn, about Malcolm Kenyatta’s historic run for an open seat in the United States Senate. Featuring a Q&A with Malcolm Kenyatta, Dr. Matt Kenyatta, Director Timothy Harris, Executive Producers Al Roker and Hunter Johnson, the program will be moderated by Lee Daniels.
On Sunday, there will be five interesting films at the Hollywood Chinese 6 Theatres: Beginning at 11:00 AM, Summer With Hope, an award-winning film by Canadian/Iranian filmmaker Sadat Foroughi, which I highly recommend. Summer With Hope is a poetic exploration of Iran’s new generation as they plunge into the tension of newly discovered freedoms with two young men who begin a romance despite the strictures of Iranian society. At 2:00 PM, there is This Place directed by Canadian/Indian director V. T. Nayani, about two very different women who find common ground despite their complex ethnic identities. At 4:00 PM, a fine film recently at TIFF is Soft, a tender coming-of-age feature debut by Canadian filmmaker Joseph Armenta.
On Sunday at 6:45 PM, I recommend The Stroll, which premiered in January at Sundance. This documentary expands Manhattan’s Meatpacking District that was home to a community of trans women of color who survived with sex work and the support of their own, like Sylvia Rivera. Co-directors Kristen Lovell (who lived and worked on “The Stroll” for ten years) and Zackary Drucker, tells the story of these women and this neighborhood — and with it, the evolution of the modern fight for trans dignity. At 9:15 PM on Sunday is a screening of Fábio Leal’s Brazilian film Follow the Protocol (Seguindo Todos os Protocolos), which examines how two sexually liberated and queer men attempt to deal withCOVID-19 despite their strict adherence to pandemic safety guidelines.
On Tuesday, March 27, at 9:30 PM at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum Theatre of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Little Tokyo will screen Lisa Cortés’ Little Richard: I Am Everything. Glamorous and groundbreaking, the iconic Little Richard takes center stage in this electrifying rock-doc: An epic, shapeshifting cultural history which extends beyond the pomp of that legendary bouffant to reclaim his rightful place as the true King of Rock n’ Roll. The film opens commercially in theatres on Friday, April 11.
On Wednesday, April 28, at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum Theatre of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Little Tokyo will screen Lorena Zilleruelo’s documentary Soy Niño, from Chile – about a transgender kid is fraught with complexities and his supportive mother. This is followed at 8:45 PM with Caylee Soo’s feature The Harvest, about a Hmong young man named Thai Moua is called back to his family home in Long Beach emotionally and physically ailing father.
On the Thursday, April 29 at the Los Feliz Theatre, in honor of Trans Visibility Day, there will be a screening of Isabel Sandoval’s Señorita” – about Donna, a Filipina transgender sex worker in Manila, who moves back to her small hometown in search of a new life.
On Saturday, April 1, at DTLA Lupe Ontiveros Cinema Center at LATC (514 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013), from 5:00 – 6:45 PM, there will be a set of Latino Shorts, followed by the Fusion Finale (One Minute Movie Contest Screening + Party), a fitting end to a bigger and better Outfest Fusion Film Festival.