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Fest Travler: Outfest 2012

Outfest looks back and ahead for its 30th edition in Los Angeles. With its diverse slate of 147 features and shorts, the event presents both LGBT histories and rising star vehicles, cult classics and projects of aspiring filmmakers.

As part of its anniversary celebration, Outfest will screen all three of the films that played at the first fest: “Queen of Sheba Meets the Atom Man,” “Taxi zum Klo” and “Making Love.”

“It’s really important to look back 30 years later and just see how the culture has evolved, how the storytelling has evolved and in some ways, how some things are still the same,” says executive director Kirsten Schaffer.

Kim Yutani, director of programming, sees “Queen of Sheba’s” influence in the experimentation of pics in the fest’s Platinum section, and the impact of “Taxi zum Klo” in the sexual explicitness of a number of LGBT films.

The past of LGBT cinema is also reflected in this year’s opening night film, Jeffrey Schwarz’s “Vito.” The docu details the life of activist and “Celluloid Closet” author Vito Russo. As Schwarz notes, Russo paved the way for cinema-centric events for LGBT audiences.

“He realized that the way we perceive the movies collectively is different than the way we perceive them individually,” Schwarz says. “He used movies as a way to create community. This was way before there was even such a thing as a gay film festival.”

No stranger to Oufest, Schwarz has attended every year since he moved to the city in 1995. He hopes his film, which explores Russo’s role in gay-rights history from the Stonewall riots to the Act Up movement, educates a new generation about its subject’s legacy.

Before the screening, John Waters will be feted with the Outfest Achievement Award. Other gala screenings include Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On,” Marialy Rivas’ “Young & Wild,” David France’s “How to Survive a Plague,” Aurora Guerrero’s “Mosquita y Mari” and the closing film, Brian Dannelly’s “Struck by Lightning.”

“Lightning” marks “Glee” star Chris Colfer’s first starring role and script for a feature. While docus like “Vito” explicitly address LGBT issues, the 22-year-old thesp intentionally did not clarify the sexual orientation of his character.

“In my experience, if you have a story about a gay kid, straight kids stop listening. If you have a story about a straight kid, the gay kids stop listening,” Colfer says. “I didn’t want an orientation to get in the way of someone grasping the message of the film.”

Still, Yutani believes this pic will resonate with fest attendees in particular because of its sense of humor and the fest’s sense of community.

“It’s all about the context of how we’re showing these films,” she says. “I’m sure that film will play very differently (here) than it played at Tribeca.”

Outfest will also screen the five short films produced through OutSet, a new collaboration with the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. Through the program, 14 LGBT youth participated in mentoring workshops and worked on projects about their experiences.

“The future of the organization is really in supporting emerging filmmakers,” Schaffer says. “This is really about helping young people to find a voice and tell a story.”

HIGLIGHTS

Any Day Now
Director: Travis Fine
With: Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva, Frances Fisher
A drag singer (Cumming) and a closeted D.A. (Dillahunt) battle homophobia in their fight to adopt a young son with Down syndrome (Leyva). Set in ’70s L.A., pic took home the audience award for narrative features at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Facing Mirrors
Director: Negar Azarbayjani
With: Sheyesteh Irani, Ghazal Shakeri, Homayoon Ershadi, Hengameh Ghaziani
Iranian pic follows an unlikely friendship between two individuals: a traditionalist driving a cab to pay off a family debt (Shakeri) and a female-to-male transgender rebel running away from his family for an operation (Irani).

Sassy Pants
Director: Coley Sohn
With: Anna Gunn, Ashley Rickards, Haley Joel Osment, Martin Spanjers
In this indie comedy, Bethany (Rickards) runs away from the tight grip of her mother (Gunn) to live with her father. Befriending her now-out dad’s much-younger boyfriend (Osment), the teen abandons her mom-selected, pink princess dresses to forge her own identity.

Wildness
Director: Wu Tsang
Making its L.A. premiere in Outfest’s Platinum section, this doc details the history of the Silver Platter in MacArthur Park, once the site of parties for transgender Latinas. Uniquely narrated by the bar itself, film explores issues of gentrification and community.

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