Home #Hwoodtimes OUTFEST: Some Top Picks from This Year’s Lineup of LGBTQ+ Films

OUTFEST: Some Top Picks from This Year’s Lineup of LGBTQ+ Films

By Valerie Milano & Robert St. Martin

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/9/23 – Outfest Los Angeles is in its 41st year as the pre-eminent Queer film festival showcasing LGBTQIA+ stories that strive to provide access, diversity and visibility for storytellers and audiences alike. With a broad range of narrative films and documentaries as well as a huge selection of short films, Outfest runs from Thursday, July 13, through Sunday, June 23 at a number of theatrical spaces in the city of Los Angeles, including the Directors Guild of America, the REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles, Harmony Gold, as well as the Orpheum Theatre and The Montalbán. Many of the films will be available online for viewing as well, through Outfest Screening.

The festival (July 13-23) will for the first time open and close with films created by trans artists: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (directed by Aitch Alberto) will kick off the festivities on July 13, with the 11-day event closing with Chasing Chasing Amy (directed by Sav Rodgers). The Opening Night Gala will screen at the Orpheum Theatre, with the Closing Night Gala screening at The Montalbán Theatre. These events also represent a homecoming for both Alberto and Rodgers, both of whom are alumni of Outfest’s Artist Development programs.

Aristotle and Dante, based on Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s young adult novel, centers on the friendship between two teenage Mexican American boys in 1987 El Paso. Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales star along with Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, Veronica Falcón, and Kevin Alejandro. The film was acclaimed at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and will be released by Blue Fox Entertainment in in September 2023.

For those with an interest in LGBTQ history, Outfest is hosting the World Premiere of Marc Saltarelli’s Studio One Forever (2023), a documentary that tells the story of the famous gay disco that dominated the West Hollywood scene for three decades. Studio One was more than just a disco. It was a mecca for gay men looking for identity in a world that saw them as outcasts. Its adjoining nightclub, The Backlot, merged the gay community with the Hollywood elite for the from 1974 to 1993.  Studio One was more than just a disco. It was a mecca for gay men looking for identity in a world that saw them as outcasts. Its adjoining nightclub, The Backlot, merged the gay community with the Hollywood elite for the from 1974 to 1993.

Master documentarian Jeffrey Schwartz, with his deep knowledge of Hollywood and the movie industry, has a new film worth seeing Commitment to Life. which documents the decades-long fight against HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles. It is the story of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and its role through its 40-year history.

The International Centerpiece is Ira Sachs’ Passages, starring Franz RogowskiBen Whishaw, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Rogowski stars as an egomaniacal film director who thrusts his same-sex marriage into chaos when he enters into a surprising affair with an attractive French woman. The film, which has been acquired by MUBI for distribution, will be followed by a discussion with Sachs about his work and a post-film reception.

The lineup of films at Outfest is diverse and inclusive. As its North American Centerpiece. Erica Tremblay’s Fancy Dance, starring Lily Gladstone, tells the tale of a Native American hustler who kidnaps his niece from her white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hope of keeping what’s left of their family intact.

Payman Maddi, in his film Opponent brings a searing intensity to a character study of an Iranian refugee in Sweden. The protagonist of this tightly knotted drama about an Iranian wrestler – played in a knockout performance by Payman Maadi, churns with rage, desire and pained vulnerability. Maadi plays Iman, who fled Tehran with his family and is seeking asylum in the far north of Sweden. Being imprisoned by his silence, literally wrestling with himself, to use the metaphor that gives the film its bristling vitality.

Director Sebastián Silva, well-known for his film The Maid, is back with Rotting in the Sun, a self-reflexive dark comedy that takes place in Mexico City and at gay nude beach resort. Director Sebastián Silva and influencer Jordan Firstman play fictionalized versions of themselves in a satiric mystery marked by missing persons, graphic gay sex, and potent existentialism.

Definitely worth seeing is Almamula, by Argentine director Juan Sebastián Torales, about the legend of the Almamula – a beast that preys upon those engaged in impure acts – looms large. In this world infused with religious fervor and deep-rooted superstitions, a young gay boy named Nino embarks on a perilous journey of clandestine desire, where reality and illusion intertwine.

One of the most moving stories at Outfest is All the Colors of the World Are Between Black and White from Nigeria was the Teddy Award winner for Best Feature at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Babatunde Apalowo’s bold drama depicts the blossoming of romance between two Nigerian men that leads to a complicated reckoning in a country which any homosexual act will land you in prison. It is a film about the untouchable desire that draws these two Nigerian men together and forced them to act in the most restrained way.

Just how different are the concerns of gay men in the USA from Nigeria is apparent in a film like The Mattachine Family, a touching tale about love, loss, and forging your own path. The film, written by Danny Valentine and directed by Andy Valentine, addresses the impact of having children in a gay relationship. When their foster child is returned to his birth mother, the lives of Thomas (Nico Tortorella) and Oscar (Juan Pablo Di Pace) are dramatically altered.

Jack Rook’s Big Boys is a relatable story, which will speak most directly to awkward-age boys struggling to see how their rather large bodies might fit into a gay landscape that so idealized the Adonis model of physical beauty.

Among the best documentaries is Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovani Project, a layered look at Nikki Giovanni’s poetic and political mind, as she provides some of the most radical, clear, and effective paths towards a just future in our country. This Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary is worth a peak about the mind of one of our best poets who describes herself as “Black, Female, Polite.”

Kokomo City, well received at Sundance, is a documentary debut feature by D. Smith that looks at the lives of four Black transgender sex workers, told by the subjects themselves unapologetically about their sex work and the usually-not-discussed topic of Black straight men who secretly prefer transsexual Black women.

From Brazil comes Daniel Gonçalves’ Acsexybility, an incisive and sexy documentary that explores the sex lives and sensual desires of the disabled community. Gonçalves passes the microphone between individuals of differing experiences within the disabled community to discuss and celebrate the realities of their innermost erotic fantasies.

Mutt is the directorial debut by Vuk Lungulov-Klotz about a young trans guy named Feña in New York City and how he handled his transition amid late night encounters with past lovers, the drudgery of hungover shifts, and surprising visits with family. Mutt premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where the Lío Mehiel won a Special Jury Prize for Performance for his performance.

It is fitting that Outfest has included a hilarious comedy by Steven Winter, Chocolate Babies, (1997), a new restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in conjunction with Frameline and Outfest – of Winter’s groundbreaking debut film. Chocolate Babies is the funny, fearless tale of a crew of Black, queer, HIV-positive renegades fighting for their lives and community against a hostile system in mid-1990s New York City.

Sean Devlin’s Asog from the Philippines, follows the hilarious attempt by a 40-year-old non-binary schoolteacher and typhoon survivor, on a road trip in search of fame. Byun Sun-bin’s Peafowl about a trans woman saving up for surgery and aspiring for success and recognition in South Korea’s Waacking scene.

Also in the line of comedy is Fabian Stumm’s Bones and Names, a quirky comedy from Germany which explores the realities of middle-aged gay relationships against the background of the experimental art world.

Certainly, audiences will enjoy Julio Torres’ Problemista, a clever comedy about Alejandro, an aspiring toy designed from El Salvador struggling to bring his unusual ideas to life in New York City. As time on his work visa runs out, a job assisting an art world outcast becomes his only hope to stay in the country and realize his dream. The film stars Julio Torres and Tilda Swinton.

There will be a Late-Night Spotlight screening of SXSW favorite Down Low starring Zachary QuintoLukas GageSimon RexJudith Light, and Audra McDonald. Rightor Doyle’s tale provides an outrageous comic look at one wild night of a deeply repressed man and the twink who gives him a happy ending, and all the lives they ruin along the way.

The Hollywood Times will be covering all of Outfest. Look for upcoming articles. For tickets to in-person theatrical screening and online virtual screenings, go to www.Outfest.org. Some events sell out fast, so get your tickets ASAP.