By Robert St. Martin with Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/25/23 – On Friday March 24, the opening night gala of Outfest Fusion Film Festival took place at the Aratani Theater of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles. Outfest Executive Director Damian Navarro opened the 20th edition of Outfest Fusion, which features 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 from March 24 to April 1. The original focus of Outfest Fusion to target under-represented LGBTQIA+ communities of color and their stories on film and it has served as an adjunct to the larger OUTFEST held annually in the summer in July. 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 event two extraordinary filmmakers: Outfest Fusion alum Elegance Bratton (The Inspection, 2022) and Bird Runningwater (Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program). The program began with a video-taped piece by Elegance Bratton as a word of excouragement all young QTBIPOC artists and storytellers to believe in themselves and work hard to get their stories written and made into films. Some of us were not sure if Elegance Bratton was going to be there, but he suddenly appeared on stage to accept the Outfest Fusion Achievement Award and talk a little about his life story and how he finally managed to make the feature film The Inspection, which was in theaters from October through December 2022. Bird Runningwater was unable to attend the event. If you were not able able to attend the opening night and are interested in this set of Gala Shorts, you can view them online with Outfest Fusion Virtual for a short period of time [Available March 29, 12:00 AM – April 2, 11:59 PM, 2023] Stream online (Fusion Gala Shorts – Virtual)… ]
The ceremony was followed by a selection of eight carefully curated shorts that showcased the scope and depth of Outfest Fusion talent. After the screenings, there was a party in the large courtyard of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Little Tokyo, where filmmakers and movie-lovers mingled despite the chilly evening outside.
Opening the set of short films was Baba (UK, 18 min.), directed by Sam Arbor and Adam Ali. A young gay Libyan man who goes by the name of Britannia lives underground with his friends in the sewers of Tripoli, Libya. His father has kicked him out of his home, but he dreams of fleeing to England. But when he has to recover his passport from his family home, he finds warmth where he least expects it and questions whether he should leave.
This was followed by Shanrica Evans’ Amina (18 min., USA) about an African American lesbian woman (played by Mona McAllen) whose career has been as an astronaut. She has recently lost her former partner, also an astronaut, on a mission to the moon. In the film, she struggles to connect with her unborn child as she attempts to deal with her sense of loss and loneliness.
Rraine Hanson’s Mooncake (11 min., USA) is a playful evocation of a childhood crush of a young Chinese girl over her teacher at school. This vivacious role is played by Kennie Zhou who recalls her girlhood fascination with the older woman in an interesting and somewhat surreal way in the filmmaker’s experimental style.
A real crowd pleaser was Maite Bonilla’s I Am Poem (18 min, USA). Featuring 11-year-old Sebastian Osegueda as boy in New York City who likes to be called “Poem” as he explores his interest in women’s clothes with his younger female cousin. He lives with his Puerto-Rican-American mother who is estranged from Poem’s father. She is an angry troubled woman and apparently abusive. When Poem attempts to assert his gender identity on Halloween, he finds acceptance from an unexpected figure. He lives with his Puerto-Rican-American mother who is estranged from Poem’s father. She is an angry troubled woman and apparently abusive. When Poem attempts to assert his gender identity on Halloween, he finds acceptance from an unexpected figure.He lives with his Puerto-Rican American mother who is estranged from Poem’s father. Being is an angry troubled woman and apparently abusive. When Poem attempts to assert his gender identity on Halloween, he finds acceptance from an unexpected figure.
A clever take on how to deal with high-school bullying is Anne Brashier’s Hex the Patriarchy (6 min., USA) with a screenplay by Heather Muriel Nguyễn. Two queer asexual high schoolers played by Heather Muriel Nguyễn and Xan Churchwell have a curious interest in witchcraft. So, they decide to cast a spell on some of their bullying classmates with some amusing results.
Nicole Bazuin‘s Thriving: A Dissociated Reverie (11 min., Canada), as written by Kitoko Mai, Nicole Bazuin and Andrea Werhun, is a rather experimental “reverie. ” A former sex worker diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder tries to figure out how to thrive in a capitalist hellscape that toes the line between heaviness and comic self-awareness. Kitoko Mai plays the main character who discovered that her challenge is not being Bipolar but having dissociative identity disorder and trying to put all the pieces of self together.
Closing out the set of short films was Robin Takao D’Oench’s Hard (12 min., USA), featuring Xavier Clyde as an African American male teenager who is with a young woman in his dorm room. After his first experience with a girl doesn’t go as planned, he tries to navigate the awkward question of his sexuality and finds himself in an interesting situation. Robin Takao D’Oench was the Assistant Director on After Yang (2021). His short film has garnered several awards at international film festivals.
Outfest Fusion 2023 continues Saturday, April 25 and Sunday, April 26 at the Hollywood TCL Chinese 6 Theatres. Check the online schedule for the many short offerings. In the line-up of 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. It will feature 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. Attendees are also offered free community workshops, industry masterclasses, live music showcases and an inaugural family day. To access the complete Outfest Fusion Film Guide, go to: https://issuu.com/outfest/docs/fusion23_filmguide_v5