Gay is good and getting better
So much has changed in the LGBT community recently, it’s hardly surprising that those seismic shifts would be reflected in this year’s pics at Outfest Los Angeles, which runs July 11 through 21 at the DGA and other venues.
“The big change that we’re seeing is that there are fewer coming-out stories, fewer stories of victimization,” says Kristin Pepe, director of programming. In some ways, many of the films are a lot like hetero-theme films — only with gay characters. “The films are about families, work issues, midlife crises and how the characters respond to those situations.”
“The characters are gay, but they’re dealing with other elements of their lives,” says Kirsten Schaffer, Outfest’s exec director. “Filmmakers now are free to tell other stories.”
Schaffer points to Stacie Passon’s film “Concussion,” about a lesbian couple in their 40s.
“They’ve already come out, they’ve had children, and now they’re dealing with a midlife crisis and being in their 40s and living in suburban New Jersey,” Schaffer says. “It’s exciting to see these kinds of stories. We want to see our lives reflected onscreen with the complexity that exists in real life.”
In Michael Mayer’s “Out in the Dark,” about a politically charged same-sex love affair, Schaffer says, “The story is less about their being gay than their being an Israeli and a Palestinian. They can’t be together because they’re relegated to two different countries; it’s more about that political situation than it is their being gay.”
Not that the fest has turned its back on film’s depicting LGBT discrimination.
“In the submission process, we saw a lot of homophobia but in third-world countries,” says Pepe, who mentions three titles:
Roger Ross Williams’ doc “God Loves Uganda” profiles American ministers who have inspired the “kill the gays” legislation in that African country. Subarna Thapa’s “Soongava, Dance of the Orchids” is the first LGBT film to come from Nepal, and profiles a woman who rejects a prearranged marriage to run off with her girlfriend. There’s also “Born This Way,” which filmmakers Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann shot in Cameroon, where homosexuality is punishable with a five-year prison sentence.
Says Kadlec: “If you live in a place like New York or Los Angeles, it can feel like the fight for LGBT equality is finished — minus marriage equality on the federal level. But we are the 1% when it comes to LGBT equality. In at least 76 countries, you can go to jail for being gay, and in most of the world, including a huge part of the United States, homophobia is incredibly strong. It’s so easy to forget what a luxury of freedom and acceptance we have, and to ignore the millions in our community who live in fear every day.”
This year, the Outfest directors are especially proud of screening three pics that were developed in the Outfest screenwriting lab: Doug Spearman’s “Hot Guys With Guns,” Darren Stein and George Northy’s “G.B.F.” and Yen Tan and David Lowery’s “Pit Stop,” which had its premiere earlier this year at Sundance.
On July 11, the fest’s opening night gala at the Orpheum Theater honors “Boys Don’t Cry” helmer Kimberly Peirce.