Outfest 2009

7.23.2009

By Eddie Shaprio

Another Outfest has come and gone. And that fact truly saddens me. For while I am totally viewed out, (41 screenings) boozed out (almost as many Absolut cocktails), and schmoozed out, I'm sad. It's not that all of the films in this, the 27th Annual Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, were wonderful. But the overall experience is unique in this town, and it's vital to gay L.A.

As an LGBTQ film festival, it's not like any other that I've attended. Its venues are chosen to foster community, making the festival so much more than a series of screenings. While most film fests have Opening and Closing night galas at which people mix, mingle and exchange numbers, Outfest creates a social atmosphere each and every day. In L.A., that's rare. Sure we gays come together at Pride, at the bars and at the Weho Starbucks, but the eleven days of Outfest comprise the only time in the year when we congregate for something cultural.

Plus, where else can you see Benjamin Bratt call Josh Brolin 'sexy' from the stage? Where else can you hear Sharon Gless admit that it was time she played a lesbian since 'the rumors have been out there for years?' Where else but Outfest does it seem natural to spy Christina Ricci, Lisa Kudrow and Chaz Bono, in a confab? At Outfest, you could even win a meet and greet with Barry Manilow (although it's a dubious prize if you think about it; do you really want to get that close?)

And then, of course, there are the films. Such variety and so many that most of us would never otherwise see, or even be aware of, were they not available here. Documentaries about gender reassignment? A feature depicting elder lesbians as sexual? Short films from Norway (don't laugh; The Awakening was one of the best things I've seen on screen all year)? If you can think it, chances are some variation of it was being screened.

Here are the films you shouldn't miss:

I have already written a review of the charming Patrik, Age 1.5, a film that deserve release and a permanent spot in any good homo's DVD library. It's not alone in that.

Nacho G. Vell'a Spanish film, Chef's Special, which deservedly won the Audience Award for Best Feature, is about as satisfying as a gay romantic comedy can be. Well shot, well acted and especially well written, this ensemble film had me laughing, crying, and salivating (at the food, not the boys) in almost equal measure.

Salivating for the boys occurred at Give Me Your Hand, a French film by Pascal-Alex Vincent about two impossibly beautiful twin brothers who embark on a foot trip from France to Spain for their estranged mother's funeral. This is a film low on plot and even lower on dialogue, but the cinematography is gorgeous and the excellent actors speak volumes in their silences.

Both Dare and Norway's The Man Who Loved Yngve are high school stories of sexual awakening, a genre that feels a bit tapped out. But both end up mining new gold thanks to some excellent performers and solid direction, despite Yngve's baffling, out-of-nowhere ending.

Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement is a deceptively simple film. On its surface it's the story of two women, told exclusively by them, who were together for forty-one years before their 2007 marriage. But at its heart, it's the inspiring story of how love endures and triumphs.

Tags: Movies
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