With more than 160 films from around the world, Outfest remains one of the premier LGBTQ film festivals internationally. Since being founded by UCLA students in 1982, Outfest has grown into a massive non-profit organization that serves the film and queer communities year-round. The annual festival, which runs this year from July 7 to July 17, opens with a gala screening of Clea Duvall’s feature-directorial debut The Intervention.
Given the wide variety of films screening at Outfest, here are four selections from this year's slate for each type of festival-goer.
FOR THE DRAMA-LOVING HIGH SCHOOL SET
First Girl I Loved : Friday, July 8, at 7 p.m.
Breathing new life into the coming-of-age genre with its naturalistic sensibility, writer-director Kerem Sanga’s First Girl I Loved gently captures a burgeoning lesbian romance and teenage angst. When Anne starts to fall for popular girl Sasha, her male friend Clifton reacts negatively - possessing a mixture of both jealousy and homophobia. As the three characters assess their dynamics while recalling their more intimate interactions and experiences, new feelings and POVs are uncovered. Set amidst an authentic Los Angeles high school milieu, the sensitively wrought film prioritizes perspectives over plot. Teen-driven movies are often rife with breakthrough performances, and this Sundance hit is no different, as it heralds the arrival of Dylan Galula (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), while comedy-centric actors Cameron Esposito, Pamela Adlon and Tim Heideker turn in surprising, scene-stealing dramatic support.
FOR THE "O.G." HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR QUEEN
Women He’s Undressed: Saturday, July 9, at 1:30 p.m.
Mixing archival footage with staged reenactments, Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong conjures a vibrant portrait of Orry-Kelly in this eye-popping dessert of a hybrid documentary film. Orry-Kelly, a three-time Oscar-winning costume designer, was responsible for many of Hollywood’s most iconic sartorial threads for films from Casablanca to An American in Paris to Some Like it Hot. Based on the designer’s cheekily titled memoir (Women I’ve Undressed) and featuring interviews with Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury, among others, the vivacious film balances the strong history of beautifully-clothed women in cinema with the designer’s trademark wit, imagination and backstage affairs.
FOR THE QUEER FILM HISTORIAN
Different From the Others (Anders als die Andern): Sunday, July 10, at 7:00 p.m.
One of the most highly anticipated films of the festival is not an exclusive preview, but a silent German movie that’s nearly a century old and only now receiving its theatrical U.S. premiere. Thanks to the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, which restores and preserves old queer-themed films, Different From the Others still exists as a fascinating cinematic experience and not just a tattered, unseen relic of a bygone era. Filmed in 1919, the film tells the simple yet tragic story of two male musicians - a mentor and a protege - whose romance is jeopardized when an insidious man blackmails the couple for homosexual behavior, which was illegal under Germany's Paragraph 175 law. Within this narrative that still feels relevant today, director Richard Oswald coaxes out a humane, devastating portrait that reflects the constraints of an ignorant society. The film will be presented with live orchestral accompaniment by Cliff Retallick.
FOR THE POLITICAL DOCUMENTARY BUFF
Ovarian Psycos: Saturday, July 9, at 2:30 p.m.
Fighting gentrification and gender inequality through grassroots methods, the fantastically named Ovarian Psycos bring greater visibility to social struggles in Eastside L.A neighborhoods. Biking while building community and sisterhood, the constantly-growing troupe of feisty, ferocious feminists brings their politics and ideas to the streets, where they corral other long-term residents of Boyle Heights to join them in the fight against violence and oppressive patriarchy. Directors Kate Trumbull-LaValle and Joanna Sokolowski capture this movement with equal parts revolution and jubilation, showing that solidarity and strength in numbers are the best ways to protect your community while enacting progressive change.
Nick McCarthy is the operations manager at NewFest, an LGBTQ film and media arts organization, and has written for such publications as Slant Magazine, Time Out New York and The Film Experience.