Tops and Bottoms (and Some Middles) at Outfest 2007
By Eddie Shapiro
I'm bleary-eyed, exhausted, and schmoozed-out. Also moved, informed, and enlivened. I drank free booze (copiously), gave out my number (copiously), I blew air kisses and actually landed a few (copiously), and had my ass pinched by Judith Light (once). Oh, and I saw 31 movies in 11 days. I am speaking, of course, of Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival or, if you're anything like me, the highest of holy days in L.A.
Outfest, which celebrated its 25th year somewhat auspiciously by debuting the first fully restored film from the Outfest Legacy Project (the world's only program dedicated to the restoration and preservation of LGBTQ films), is an event like no other in Los Angeles. Yes, it's a terrific film festival, but it's also that very rare opportunity for our community to come together for something where everyone is fully clothed'at least to begin with. This festival has brought me new friends, new trysts, and new networking opportunities, sometimes all wrapped up in the same person.
So how did this year's films rank? Like those of most years, they were a mixed bag of transcendent cinema, ambitious attempts, and some downright disasters. But where else can you see a lesbian love story, a Dreamgirls sing-a-long, and an Israeli Romeo and, well, Romeo?
You may think you've seen your share of gay coming-of-age stories but first-time writer-director Jonah Markowitz's Shelter is an instant classic in the genre. It's also the first gay surfer movie, but the surfing is really superfluous to the beautifully wrought story of a teenager finding first love while simultaneously finding himself. It sounds more trite than it is. And a pair of terrific performances from the sexy leads certainly doesn't hurt.
I didn't think I needed to hear any more (from either side) about what the Christians think of my sex life. But Daniel Karslake's documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So, wrecked me. Weaving footage of religious families who have gay kids with commentary from theological scholars and witty animation, I found myself cheering and weeping in equal measure. Appropriately enough, I sat with Steven Fales, he of Confessions of a Mormon Boy, who has been telling his story of religious oppression for some time now. If you can see this film with a handsome man who knows religion, so much the better.
Festivals provide that rare opportunity to see short films. Truth be told, shorts typically frustrate the hell out of me. I go because there's always that rare gem, but I frequently find the credits rolling just as I begin to care. This year's offerings, however, included an unusual number of exceptional little digestible morsels. Be on the lookout for Casting Pearls, Pariah, Solace, At the River, Heartland, Orphan, The Saddest Little Boy in the World, Screening Party, and Love Is Love.
Pete Jones's Outing Riley looked, on the surface, like a pleasant little comedy about an Irish-Catholic guy coming out to his tight-knit family. While it was exactly that, Riley was also laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly touching. It even managed to find some new twists in what could have been a tired retread. I was on a first date for this one. Let's just say it did what it needed to.