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FILM Fawzia Mirza, Kathy Griffin and much more at Outfest
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2019-08-06

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Founded by UCLA students in 1982, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit film festival Outfest celebrated 37 years of bringing LGBTQ stories to the screen. Presented by HBO, the festival ran July 18-28. This year, films were from 33 countries and in 26 languages, with more than two-thirds of the content directed by women, people of color and trans filmmakers.

In 2019, Outfest opened July 18 with Circus of Books at the Orpheum Theatre with an after party that followed the screening. The documentary Circus of Books follows the family who owned LA's gay bookstore of the same name.

A massive red carpet was held before the Circus of Books premiere with many of the artists involved with the films at Outfest stopping to talk to Windy City Times about their projects. Here are some of the highlights:

Mark Blane made the film Cubby and mentioned working in theater in Chicago in the past. His film ran parallel with his life in some aspects and is about a young person from the Midwest who moves to New York. The protagonist eats a psychedelic cupcake that takes him on an adventure involving a leather daddy. Blane stated he would love to screen Cubby in Chicago since he has so much family in Indiana.

Ruth Caudell, the director of Second Star on the Right, talked about her movie following the story of a bisexual woman struggling to be who she is. Caudell has Spanish music written throughout the piece because she grew up on pop music. Her main actress Silvia Varon accompanied her on the red carpet and explained that the whole movie was improvised. When Varon was asked if improvising a movie was scary she said, "In the beginning, then I forgot about it and just lived in the moment!"

Some movies were world premier's such as Molly Hewitt's Holy Trinity, about a dominatrix that can speak to the dead. Hewitt said she was inspired by the 1996 movie Citizen Ruth to make it.

Doug Spearman's romantic comedy From Zero to I Love You he described as autobiographical and what happens when someone falls in love with a married man.

There was a web series called People Like Us that had director Leon Cheo walking the carpet with actor Josh Crowe. The show is made in Singapore about four gay men finding love there. It is on its second season after winning several awards.

The More Things Change is about a trans video-game designer who works in the corporate world and wants to follow her passion. Director Debra F. Simone said she wanted to tell a different kind of trans story about the working class and described it as "a trans Mary Tyler Moore."

Two straight filmmakers made a short film called Wonder about a biracial youngster growing up in New York City who secretly dreams of trick or treating as Wonder Woman. They explained that they both grew up without fathers and it inspired them to make the movie. Director Javier Molina said, "We wanted to show unconditional love on the screen and allowing children to be who they are, as opposed to who they are supposed to be." Wonder took home Hyundai's Vision for Better Award later in the festival.

Elegance Bratton promoted his first person immersive film Pier Kids about three homeless queer kids in New York. His idea was to have the audience walk in the shoes of the subject as they navigate a difficult world. It's a personal project for Bratton, who was kicked out of the house by his mother for being gay at age 16. Pier Kids went on to win the Emerging Talent Award at Outfest.

Fawzia Mirza brought a short film that she directed called I Know Her—about two Muslim, queer women who find out they have things in common on a night together. Even though the short is three minutes long, Mirza hopes it will spark up a TV show in the future.

Nick Borenstein is the writer, director and dancer from the short film Sweater and mentioned his long dance career inspiring him to make the movie. The plot follows someone who has a bad day but an act of kindness changes things, leading to a dance sequence in a cafe.

Screenings were held at TCL Chinese 6 Theatre, including a debut of the film Sell By on July 20. The film's director, Mike Doyle, said he wanted to wanted to make an ensemble piece about relationships that were past the honeymoon stage. He stated,"I was really fortunate to not only have fantastic actors, but great human beings." One of the actors he mentioned, Scott Evans stopped to chat before the screening also. He described his character, "He's just a person that people can relate to instead of being the typical sassy best friend. It was something I wanted to see onscreen." When asked about advice from his big brother actor Chris Evans, he said, "He texted me about this opening night for Sell By and we support each other all the time."

On the same night, a sneak preview was held of the documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, about the gay elements of the 1985 film A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. The film's star Mark Patton said the doc took five years to make. Freddy himself, Robert Englund posed for pictures at the screening while eager fans waited for autographs. He said he always wanted Freddy to be more homoerotic with the blades on his iconic gloves. Englund mentioned there were Ivy League papers written covering the subtext of Elm Street 2 and the popularity continues to this day. He reminisced about Chicago saying he delivered newspapers as a paper boy in the city and was in a Goodman Theatre production in the past. He said, "Every time I'm in Chicago, I take a taxi to Steppenwolf, see a production and have dinner nearby."

Comedian Kathy Griffin walked the red carpet July 25 before her film Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story that dishes on her Trump photograph and on July 26 performer Kristin Chenoweth made appearance at The Ford Theatre to show Gay Chorus Deep South.

On July 28, The Theater at the Ace hotel screened Before You Know It starring Judith Light, Alec Baldwin and Mandy Patinkin to close the film festival. Before You Know It follows the misadventures of sisters in New York City.

Special panels and Q&As followed many of the films at Outfest over 11 days. For more information on the LGBTQ film festival including an upcoming horror series in October, visit Outfest.org .


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