By: Kim Kennedy
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 07/06/2017- The opening night of any film festival often feels the same. A red carpet aglow with lashing cameras and actors and actresses, posing for the press. A long line of attendees eagerly await to be let inside the theatre or in this case the pre party.
One of many things that I adore about Outfest, is you can see and feel that it’s Outfest a mile away. The streets are buzzing with gay and lesbian socialites, trans celebrities and an audience more well dressed than any proud fashionista in WeHo. Sequined dresses,
bright pops of color, and snappy suites are everywhere, the eyes cannot be tamed by the beauty of ones own community. The only thing grabbing my eyes more than the suit dawned by the gentlemen next to me, is the vintage wonder of the Orpheum theatre.
The feeling of togetherness and community is second to none, at what would be the longest standing and well-recognized LGBT+ Film festival. As a member of those letters, along with my girlfriend, nothing feels better than to celebrate, support and ultimately
learn from an environment like Outfest. Feeling delighted we were ushered toward the red carpet and then into the pre party.
The famous blue carpet leads us to the relatively familiar Outfest pre party. Food vendors and Outfest drink sponsors are surrounded by patrons, with a loud hum of
eclectic conversation. Remembering last years fluorescent artwork and miniature cupcakes, I don’t think we were as “blown away” visually, or by and the food vendors
who seemed to be almost unprepared for the number of attendees. All the same it certainly hit the spot as we eagerly anticipated the British born film “Gods Own
Gods Own Country, a feature length dramatic film, set and filmed in the Yorkshire moores, England. Now being that I am from Yorkshire, I knew this film would be like nothing else I’d ever seen at Outfest or any other film festival for that matter. Written and directed by Francis Lee, (Yorkshire born and raised), the story was heavily influenced by
Lee’s childhood. It follows Johnny Saxby, a man clearly struggling with both his sexual identity and the pressures of taking responsible for the family farming business, after his father suffers a stroke. Don’t be surprised if you lack empathy for Saxby, (portrayed by Josh O’Connor) in the beginning. His attitude is fueled by resentment for his sexual
orientation and the struggles of his family life. As lambing season approaches and the
weather doesn’t seem to improve, it’s up to Johnny to take the daily task of looking over
the pregnant ewe’s, along with the much needed help of Romanian farmer Gheorghe
Ionescu. Gheorghe (portrayed by Alec Secareanu) is met with hostility from Johnny, as
the two embark on the long season, with moments of anger, frustration, love and
Without giving too much away, mistakes are made, which essentially forces Johnny to
look at himself and his actions for what they are, confused, impactful and often
The film touches on the feelings of hurt and resentment involved in discovering you may not be who you thought you were. Whether you’re a member of the LGBT+ community or not, I think anyone can relate to that feeling can’t they? Saxby’s confusion but more so frustration reminds us all that geography holds huge impact and what kind of relationship you expect to end up in. Or should I said, what is expected of you. Flawless performances and direction, moments of stillness, often welcomed but sometimes allow the audience to fall out of love with protagonist. But without doubt a must see!
The second Brit (or would be adopted Brit) up to bat, was Marisa Calin. I say adopted, as she was born in the US but was raised very much in Bath, England. The writer/producer of A Million Happy Nows achieved something quite rare. She had me, my girlfriend and an audience of all ages in tears, but what I didn’t expect was it was joined by pockets of laughter throughout. Because as Days of our Lives star, Crystal Chappell (the leading actress) said “It is laughter and humor that gets real people through those tough moments in life”.
The film addresses a disease which touches over 5 million people in the US alone. Alzheimer’s disease. We follow soap opera actress “Lainey” portrayed by Chappell and her early on set alzheimer’s. With the support of her partner the couple fathom their way through unimaginable situation.
The cast’s performances can be judged by the number of moments, that I genuinely felt
like I’d pulled back the curtain to watch two real people, struggle through something
very very real.
I tore the 5/ 5 for the audience vote on this one, absolutely phenomenal.
Outfest Los Angeles 2017 Award Winners
Best Documentary Short Audience Award
Little Potato, Directed by Wes Hurley and Nate Miller
Best Documentary Feature Audience Award
Chavela, Directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi
Best Narrative Short Audience Award
The Real Thing, Directed by Brandon Kelley
Best Narrative Audience Award
The Chances, Created by Shoshanna Stern and Josh Feldman, Directed by Anna Kerrigan
Best Experimental Short Audience Award
Pussy, Directed by Renata Gasiorowska
Audience Award for Best First U.S. Narrative Feature
A Million Happy Nows, Directed by Albert Alarr
Grand Jury Awards
Documentary Grand Jury Prize
Awarded Best Documentary Feature to Chavela, for its artistic style that elegantly and poetically brings together raw archival footage, animation, editing, and sound design.
Documentary Special Mention
For Excellence in Filmmaking award – a Special Jury mention to Girl Unbound: The War to Be Her, for its brave, humorous, and inspired depiction of Maria, a world class SQUASH player and her rock star family who live on their own terms and challenge misconceptions of feminism and Islam in the Muslim and Western worlds. This film illustrates Maria’s nonbinary journey, her quest for athletic excellence and her desire to show all girls everywhere that, “Fear is taught. That you are born free and you are born brave.”
U.S. Narrative Jury Prize Best Actor
For his quiet intensity in a fresh and non-traditional coming of age role and his on-screen transformation both physically and emotionally, the US Narrative Jury honors Luka Kain for his outstanding performance in Saturday Church.
U.S. Narrative Jury Prize Best Actress
In a cast of strong female performances, she not only supported the ensemble cast but stood out with her comic timing and effortlessly hilarious presence. The US Jury Prize for Best Actress goes to Ever Mainard in The Feels.
Best Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature
For its naturalistic yet spare and unforced dialogue, even in the most harrowing of situations the award for Best Screenwriting in a U.S. Narrative goes to Eliza Hittman for Beach Rats.
U.S. Grand Jury Prize
For a delightful, well-acted and incisive romp into Chicago‘s multi-cultural neighborhoods and a moving exploration of the unique bonds between mothers and daughters. Its inspiring message of love and acceptance explodes with humor and heart. Awarded the Best US Narrative Feature Film prize to Jennifer Reeder for Signature Move.
U.S. Narrative Special Mention
The US Narrative Jury presented a Special Mention for amplifying unheard voices with authenticity, highlighting the contemporary life of queer black woman with flair, vibrancy and substance to 195 Lewis.
International Grand Jury Prize
This film breaks new ground through skillful storytelling and stunning cinematography and an unflinching focus on masculinities – toxic or otherwise. The Jury Award for Best International Narrative Feature goes to the South African film The Wound, directed by John Trengove.
International Special Mention
For authentic, grounded storytelling that successfully captures a universal tale of youth, the International Narrative Feature Special Mention for Directing goes to Marcelo Caetano for his work on Body Electric.
Best Documentary Short
For its elegant storytelling, its economical sweep of history, and its sensitivity to lovers together in the struggle, whose intimate point of view enlightens and moves us to see the intricacies of the personal & political victories we can achieve together. The Best Documentary short prize goes to: Bayard & Me by Matt Wolf.
Creatively employing the few surviving archival interviews to illuminate a forthright, outspoken, dynamic and sexy old school butch who was unstoppable in her quest for equality & fairness for lesbians, women and the queer community. The Best Documentary short prize goes to Jeanne Cordova: Butches, Lies & Feminism by Gregorio Davila.
Documentary Short Special Mention
The Special Mention goes to Al Otro Lado (The Other Side), directed by Rodrigo Alvarez Flores and Pedazos, directed by Alejandro Pena.
Best Narrative Short
Demonstrating restraint in both dialogue and narrative while also presenting a rich visual tapestry in a claustrophobic household, the film portrays an intense, simmering passion between two women yearning to break free from the norms of sexuality and caste (class) in a matriarchal Indian household. The Best Narrative Short Film Award goes to Goddess (Devi), directed by Karishma Dube.
Special Programming Awards
This assured debut feature film combines dreamy cinematography, honest and energetic performances, and snappy, contemporary dialogue, heralding the arrival of a fresh new voice in queer Asian cinema, the 2017 Programming Award for Emerging Talent goes to Samantha Lee for Maybe Tomorrow.
This long overdue BIOGRAPHY of a civil rights icon merges empathetic documentary filmmaking with the tenacity of investigative journalism to highlight the injustices that trans people still face today, the 2017 Programming Award for Freedom goes to DavidFrance and Victoria Cruz for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.
For a chilling tale that blends Hitchcockian suspense filtered through the eerie Icelandic countryside with a rumination on the lingering effects of past trauma, the 2017 Programming Award for Artistic Achievement goes to Erlingur Thoroddsen for Rift.
Fox Inclusion Feature Film Award
Boys For Sale, Directed by Itako
Fox Inclusion Short Film Award
Ma, Directed by Vera Miao
ABOUT OUTFEST Founded by UCLA students in 1982, Outfest is the world’s leading organization that promotes equality by creating, sharing and protecting LGBT stories on the screen. Outfest builds community by connecting diverse populations to discover, discuss and celebrate stories of LGBT lives. Over the past three decades, Outfest has showcased thousands of films from around the world, educated and mentored hundreds of emerging filmmakers, and protected more than 35,000 LGBT films and videos. Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival is eleven days of world-class films, panels, and parties.
ABOUT HBO Home Box Office, Inc. is the premium television programming subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. and the world’s most successful pay TV service, providing the two television services – HBO® and Cinemax® – to approximately 131 million subscribers worldwide. The services offer the popular subscription video-on-demand products HBO On Demand® and CineMax On Demand®, as well as HBO GO® and MAX GO®, HD feeds and multiplex channels. HBO NOW®, the network’s internet-only premium streaming service, provides audiences with instant access to HBO’s acclaimed programming in the U.S. Internationally, HBO branded television networks, along with the subscription video-on-demand products HBO On Demand and HBO GO, bring HBO services to over 60 countries. HBO and CineMax programming is sold into over 150 countries worldwide.