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The 2018 Outfest Film Festival, the largest LGBTQ film festival in Los Angeles, will feature its most inclusive lineup of filmmakers with narrative and documentary features that reflect a growing sense of activism in the Trump era.

Organizers of Outfest, which which kicks off Thursday night, are celebrating a record number of entries this year by filmmakers of color, women and transgender directors. Two-thirds of films screening at the festival are from these underrepresented groups, a new milestone, said Outfest director of programming Lucy Mukerjee. Last year, 50% of the films at the festival were directed by women.

Mukerjee explained that it has become imperative for Outfest to be more inclusive and intersectional, reflecting not just one narrow view of the LGBTQ community.

“Putting the creative visions of women and people of color and transgender directors on the same plane as cisgender, white directors felt like the only logical and ethical thing to do,” Mukerjee said. “That way everyone has the same access and opportunity.”

The festival will screen more than 150 features and short films and runs from July 12-22. For the first time, short films that receive the grand jury prize at Outfest will be eligible for consideration in the Academy Award’s short film category.

In addition to focusing on underrepresented filmmakers, executive director Christopher Racster said Outfest expanded the locations for screenings, which will take place throughout Los Angeles.

“We have to provide access to our audience as well,” Racster said, elaborating that some members of the LGBT community are transportation challenged. Screenings will take place at venues like Plaza de La Raza in Lincoln Heights and the California African American Museum in Exposition Park.

Racster said Outfest’s lineup reflects escapist themes, stories of sexual liberation and a number of features that revisit LGBT historical moments like the AIDS/HIV crisis in the 1980s. “It’s always interesting to see the cycles that happen in our story telling,” Racster said.

Started in 1982, Outfest has grown into one of the largest and most significant festivals featuring LGBTQ films. “Outfest showcases reflect the experiences of the community, whether our triumphs or tragedies,” Racster said. “The stories are there to remind us that when we come together, change can happen.”

Filmmaker Billy Clift will screen his documentary “A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” which focuses on watershed moments in LGBTQ history.
“Putting down our history is so crucial,” Clift said. “It’s my form of activism. I believe this can assist in firing people up.”
By revisiting those moments in history, including the raid of the Black Cat bar in Silver Lake, the documentary sheds light on how those events went unreported by mainstream media outlets save for The Advocate.

Filmmaker Angela Robinson will be honored Thursday with the Outfest Achievement Award during the opening night gala. The award will be presented by Jordana Brewster (“The Fast and the Furious” franchise and “D.E.B.S.”). Last year, Robinson directed “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” a feature exploring the backstory of the creation of Wonder Woman.

The opening night film is “Studio 54,” a documentary about the famed Brooklyn night club by director Matt Tyrnauer. The screening will be followed by a Studio 54-themed afterparty.

A full line-up of the films, episodic series and short films can be found here.