Outfest Awards Celebrate the Legacy of Gay Film

Different from the Other
Courtesy of Outfest

In the summer, Outfest celebrates the latest LGBTQ movies and short films in downtown L.A. During the fall, the non-profit organization turns its attention to legacy: It honors key entertainment figures working today, while raising money to help ensure that past landmark LGBTQ movies do not vanish before our eyes.

The annual Outfest Legacy Awards serve as the key fundraiser for Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, a preservation initiative in conjunction with UCLA Film & Television Archive. UCLA’s archive contains more than 40,000 LGBTQ pieces — from fiction to nonfiction films, home movies and news reports. Among the project’s restored films: “Different From the Others,” the earliest known movie with a gay protagonist.

The German silent feature from 1919 was nearly destroyed by the Nazis, who objected to the story about two male musicians whose love is threatened by blackmail. Within a year of its release, the movie was banned from public screening; by 1933, most copies had been destroyed, with footage later found inserted in a copy of 1927 movie “Laws of Love” from the same filmmakers, Magnus Hirschfeld and Richard Oswald.

“We did a full photo chemical restoration of it and brought it back,” says Christopher Racster, Outfest’s executive director, of the project’s “Different” restoration. “The Nazis thought they had destroyed all copies of it.”

What’s more, “in our climate-controlled vaults, ‘Different From the Others’ should last 500 years or longer,” says Jan-Christopher Horak, director of UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Other recent restoration projects include “Desert Hearts,” directed by Donna Deitch, and Bill Sherwood’s “Parting Glances,” both from the mid-1980s, and Cheryl Dunye’s 1997 indie “The Watermelon Woman.”

“The Legacy Awards really is about underlining these irreplaceable stories and performances that have had a profound and lasting effect on not just the queer community but on society as a whole,” Racster notes. “These are flashpoints that have made the country stand up and take notice of the queer experience and have given us the opportunity to see ourselves represented truly, authentically, powerfully.”

This year’s Outfest Legacy Awards honorees include the cast and producers of “Pose,” the hit FX series revolving around New York’s LGBT ball scene of the 1980s, co-created by UCLA alum Steven Canals.

“I wrote the first draft of ‘Pose’ when I was still a grad student at UCLA,” Canals says. “As a Bruin I love that this award is coming from this beautiful project that is preserving the LGBT moving image. Our stories matter and our lives matter and I think that’s what this project and certainly what this honor, means — that’s what I’m taking away from it.”

“Dear White People” creator Justin Simien, whose 2014 feature film of that name has become a Netflix television series, will receive the Rising Star Award at the event.

“Justin is and deserves to be called a rising star,” Racster says. “ ‘Dear White People’ exploded at Sundance. It was satire. It was a complicated, nuanced look at identity. As it has moved into an episodic format it only continues to get richer.”

Sony Pictures Classics is the recipient of the event’s Corporate Trailblazer Award, in honor of the company’s role as a champion of LGBTQ-themed films going back decades. Sony Classics titles extend from Sally Potter’s “Orlando” (1993) and Pedro Almodóvar’s “All About My Mother” (1999) to last year’s “Call Me by Your Name” and “A Fantastic Woman” — the Chilean drama about a trans woman that won the foreign-language Oscar.

“It’s exciting to be recognized for something you do every day and then realize it’s got a huge impact on society,” says Tom Bernard, who co-founded the label with co-president Michael Barker and Marcie Bloom in 1992.

Racster expects a lively ceremony at Vibiana, site of the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana, that on the occasion of the Outfest Legacy Awards becomes a shrine to the achievements and significance of the LGBTQ moving image.

“The Legacy Awards are not all serious,” Raster says. “They are fun and irreverent and joyous, at the same time recognizing the importance and impact of these works of art and these artists and the depictions that they’ve brought to life.”

What: Outfest Legacy Awards
When: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 28
Where: Vibiana, 214 S. Main St., Los Angeles
Web: outfest.org/legacyawards2018