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In Like Outfest 2017

We checked out the best in show at this year’s annual Outfest, stories about forbidden love, furtive cruising, crossdressing teens and Tom of Finland.

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For three decades, Outfest has unveiled thousands of diverse films from around the globe, educated and mentored hundreds of emerging filmmakers and screenwriters, and preserved and protected more than 35,000 LGBT films and videos. It’s the world’s leading organization that promotes equality by creating, sharing and protecting LGBT stories on the screen. This year’s festival screened 194 films from over 30 different countries from July 6 to July 16 at venues throughout Los Angeles including the Directors Guild of America and the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

“Outfest began 35 years ago with a group of LBGT students determined to show and share positive depictions of themselves on film; today Outfest is the launch pad for the storytellers that bring our stories to life on screen.” said Outfest executive director Christopher Racster.

The festival kicked off with Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, a drama about a British sheep farmer and his love affair with a Romanian immigrant, which originally won raves at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In case you missed it, it will be released by Samuel Goldwyn Films later this year.

Some other highlights:

THE PASS, Ben A. Williams’ crisp adaptation of John Donnell’s witty play tackles the dilemma of professional gay athletes, in this case, a hunky football player (Russell Tovey, sublime) and his love for another player. Donnelly makes the subject of football accessible for the Outfest set, emerging the audience in the tension between individual triumph and team ethic, the commercialization of pro sports and, first and foremost, about the homophobia that lurks beneath the players macho swagger.

Beach Rats, the second feature from director Eliza Hittman (It Felt Like Love), tackles themes of machismo and the Instagram set in a unique and verite style. The narrative focuses on Frankie (Harris Dickinson in a nuanced performance), a swaggering Brooklynite stud who spends his laconic summer days partying with bros. His affair with a local girl is missing that sexual spark, which he discovers in his sordid, late-night alfresco beach hookups with silver foxes. This salacious character study eschews the usual “coming out” clichés and offers a compelling dream-like revelation of the sculpted set. The film will be released on August 25.

Beach Rats Photograph: Cinereach


Dome Karukowski’s strangely chaste Finnish biopic Tom of Finland at first emulates a Merchant Ivory film—all mild manners and saturated colors, but still captures the solemn and secretly sordid atmosphere of postwar society. Cartoon artist Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang)—better known as Tom of Finland —was a decorated WWII lieutenant who transformed into an international homoerotic (and pornographic) superstar for the gay leather male set. Although the film fails to break the taboos that Tom broke in his art, it does succeed in depicting the artist’s struggle for gay identity in a time when to do so was dangerous. The gorgeous production values—thanks to cinematographer Lasse Frank Johannessen and the strong production design team–assuage the lack of subversive content. Tom’s groundbreaking art broke the censorship barrier and became the badge of pride of a generation of victimized men and fomented a gay revolution and it’s about time someone told his story through the medium of film.


Kino Lorber


Outfest closed with IFC’s Freak Show, Trudie Styler’s anti-bullying, pro-tolerance directorial debut starring Abigail Breslin, Anna Sophia Robb, Laverne Cox and Bette Midler. This frothy, feel good, fish-out-of–water comedy sometimes plays like an overlong episode of Glee. Still, screenwriters Patrick J. Clifton and Beth Rigazio hit every topical issue with enough perkiness to satisfy the Snapchat generation. An ode to troubled teen hits of lore, Styler makes the most of her campy crew of thespians in this adaptation of a 2007 YA novel by former club kid James St. James. The flamboyant, knock-out performance of Alex Lawther, as the transplanted queer teen whose glitter and gloss persona doesn’t play well in his new red state home, saves this from being a bit too treacly. So does Ms. Midler as the boozy, brassy mom, chews the scenery with aplomb. It ties things up a little too neatly in the last act, but this sassy, sensitive film is the perfect summer indulgence.  Maven Pictures.

c Maven Pictures


Outfest UCLA Legacy Project celebrated its past with screenings of Beautiful Thing
Dir: Hettie Macdonald, United Kingdom, 1996, 90 min.

Chasing Amy
Dir: Kevin Smith, USA, 1997, 113 min.

Muchachas de Uniforme (Girls in Uniform)
Dir: Alfredo B. Crevenna, Mexico, 1951, 83 min.



Outfest Los Angeles 2017 Award Winners

Audience Awards

Best Documentary Short Audience Award
Little Potato, Directed by Wes Hurley and Nate Miller

Best Documentary Feature Audience Award
Chavela, Directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi

Best Narrative Short Audience Award
The Real Thing, Directed by Brandon Kelley

Best Narrative Audience Award
The Chances, Created by Shoshanna Stern and Josh Feldman, Directed by Anna Kerrigan

Best Experimental Short Audience Award
Pussy, Directed by Renata Gasiorowska

Audience Award for Best First U.S. Narrative Feature
A Million Happy Nows, Directed by Albert Alarr

Grand Jury Awards

Documentary Grand Jury Prize
We award Best Documentary Feature to Chavela, for its artistic style that elegantly and poetically brings together raw archival footage, animation, editing, and sound design.

U.S. Narrative Jury Prize Best Actor 
Luka Kain for his outstanding performance in Saturday Church. 

U.S. Narrative Jury Prize Best Actress
The US Jury Prize for Best Actress goes to Ever Mainard in The Feels.

Best Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature
Best Screenwriting in a U.S. Narrative goes to Eliza Hittman for Beach Rats.

U.S. Grand Jury Prize
Best US Narrative Feature Film prize to Jennifer Reeder for Signature Move.

International Grand Jury Prize
The Jury Award for Best International Narrative Feature goes to the South African film The Wound, directed by John Trengove.

Best Documentary Short
Bayard & Me by Matt Wolf.

Best Narrative Short
The Best Narrative Short Film Award goes to Goddess (Devi), directed by Karishma Dube.

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