×

Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous.

“I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be the greatest film festival for LGBTQ+ content, but in my opinion, all the best films feature LGBTQ+ artists, directors, cameramen. I work on ‘Drag Race,’ where everybody behind the camera is a person of color or a queer person and it feels more like that tonight. It feels more like home.”

The opening night film was a documentary about the elderly suburban couple and their three kids who owned and operated the now-shuttered Circus of Books, two gay porn shops in West Hollywood and Silverlake. “We’re both Jewish, so when we grew up, we’d hear things about Jewish people that we didn’t like and we had to kind of be quiet about it,” said Barry Mason, the star of “Circus of Books.” “I felt that I was in their shoes. Different, different shoes, but same kind of shoes.”

The film’s director, their daughter Rachel Mason, explored the AIDS epidemic through the eyes of her mother and father: “A population was wiped out, as we all know,” she said. “And you don’t hear the stories of those people that were actually there at that moment. My parents were like the people who hid Anne Frank when the Holocaust happened. I can say that — I’m Jewish.”

Popular on Variety

This being the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Outfest shined a light on the community’s history and provided a platform for its most marginalized members. Such as filmmaker Elegance Bratton, who was homeless for ten years after his mother kicked him out for being gay, which is how he — and countless others like him — ended up at the famed Christopher Street Piers: “For the first time in my life I figured out what ‘home’ means because I was in the community where I was understood and I was welcomed with open arms,” said Bratton, whose experiences at the historically significant location inspired his documentary “Pier Kids.” “In 1969, two homeless trans women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who had nothing to lose and everything to gain, decided to fight police brutality at Stonewall on Christopher Street — they were from the community on the piers. And that community gave them the political courage to create a movement. So when you ask: What is the importance of the piers? It’s ground zero for the contemporary gay rights movement.”

While Bratton has been hailed as an important new voice by Outfest, he hasn’t always felt like he was being heard. “I felt excluded within the gay community because of the color of my skin,” he said. “My film is about is about saying to the gay community: ‘OK, we’ve gotten gay marriage, we’ve gotten gays in the military, HIV is a longer a deadly disease. What’s left on the list to do for this thing that we call equality to be achieved?’ I say it’s dealing with homeless queer youth.”

And queer cinema as a genre still has a long way to go, according to actress Rachel Paulson. “As far as female films go, I’m going to be honest, I would say the majority of lesbian films are bad,” said the star of “Good Kisser.” “In fact, I can name on my hand the lesbian films that are decent enough to even watch — hopefully I’m now in one of them.”

One obvious problem is the lack of lesbian directors: “A lot of them are directed by straight men, and when a straight man directs a lesbian film, he has an idea of lesbian sex that isn’t exactly accurate,” Paulson said. “The second issue is people are afraid to show that. So having the view of someone who actually lives in that world — that’s why this movie was so appealing to me,” Paulson said of her director, Wendy Jo Carlton. “I knew all the characterizations and relationships and sex scenes were going to be seen from a lesbian perspective.”

A related problem is Hollywood homophobia, according to Paulson. Even though she is the younger sister of arguably the most famous lesbian actress in Hollywood, Sarah Paulson, she doesn’t share the same comfort level with her sexuality. “There is a huge stigma. Huge,” she said. “I feel this pressure to like not be as gay as I want to be because I’m going out for roles. I’m not at a level yet where I can be be like, ‘Fuck you, I’m gay. I don’t care — I’m going to play the leading woman, anyway’ It shouldn’t be that way but it still is. My private life should have nothing to do with the roles I play — and being queer should have nothing to do with who I am as an actor — and that’s the problem with queer cinema.”

More Film

  • Miriam Haley and Tarale Wulff

    Women Who Testified in Harvey Weinstein Trial Slam His Lawyers for 'Victim Blaming' 

    Six women testified during the Harvey Weinstein rape trial, and now that the former movie mogul was found guilty of two felony charges, those women are speaking out with newfound freedom. Miriam Haley, who was assaulted by Weinstein in 2006, resulting in him being convicted of a criminal sex act (which carries a maximum sentence [...]

  • E. L. James

    Movie Rights to 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Author's 'The Mister' Land at Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following the massive success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, Universal and author E. L. James are reteaming on the scribe’s next novel as the studio has optioned the rights to “The Mister,” James’ 2019 best-selling romance. Rights for the book, which recently hit the market, sparked a heated bidding war. James, who produced [...]

  • Bad Tales

    'Bad Tales': Film Review

    At a surprise party for his daughter, a randy Italian homeowner studies a neighbor’s wife through the sliding glass door and describes all the ways he’d like to violate her. In the bathroom, his 14-year-old son sits with his best friend, studying the hardcore porn sites listed in the browsing history of dad’s cell phone. [...]

  • Charlatan

    FAME Unveils New Slate, Celebrates 20th Anniversary in Berlin with 'Charlatan,' 'Servants' (EXCLUSIVE)

    U.K.-Irish production company Film and Music Entertainment (FAME), in Berlin with Agnieszka Holland’s “Charlatan” and Ivan Ostrochovsky’s “Servants,” has unveiled five new film projects from its Irish division, including new films by Georgian helmer Marian Khatchvani and Albanian director Fatmir Koci. “Charlatan,” which FAME co-produced with Prague-based Marlene Film Production and Kevan Van Thompson (“Jojo [...]

  • Brazil's Fenix Films Expands Into International

    Brazil's Fenix Films Expands into International Co-Productions

    Brazilian distributor Fenix Films is moving into co-productions with three projects, including two international projects, one featuring Vincent Cassel and the other Berlin Silver Bear winner Paulina García. Fenix Films’ first international co-production, “Baden Powell,” is a documentary about Baden Powell, considered by some to be the greatest Brazilian guitarist of all time. Directed by [...]

  • LeBron James

    LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment Seeking Big New Overall Content Deal (EXCLUSIVE)

    LeBron James is looking for a slam dunk of a new overall deal for his content company SpringHill Entertainment, insiders familiar with the talks told Variety. Thanks to a wide field of potential suitors, the production entity is currently considering separate deals in film and television at different studios, sources said. Disney Television Studios, Universal [...]

  • Undine

    Berlin: IFC Nabs Christian Petzold's 'Undine' (EXCLUSIVE)

    IFC Films has acquired U.S. rights to “Undine,” a reimagining of an ancient myth from Christian Petzold. The deal continues the relationship between the indie distributor and the German auteur — the two previously worked together on Petzold’s “Phoenix.” “Undine” debuted at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. IFC Films will release the movie in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content