Preview: Outfest 2011
By Eddie Shapiro
It's that season in L.A. again. Post-Pride and just as the weather really starts heating up, the buzz begins. Banners flap in the wind, up and down Santa Monica Boulevard, heralding the dates; gays descend on the boutiques on Robertson to find the right outfit for the Opening Night Gala; and tickets are snapped up by the fistful. It's Outfest: 11 days of GLBTQ films, 600 or so parties, industry panels, a huge gala, and some of the best schmoozing of the year. Here in the land of film, Outfest isn't just a film festival -- it's a holy week.
In anticipation of the 29th annual Outfest, which starts tonight, Out hosted its second annual Outfest roundtable at the French Market Place, a West Hollywood mainstay. There, with '70s disco blaring from aged speakers, we talked to a quartet of men whose work in and on wildly divergent films will be part of the festival: Q. Allan Brocka, director and writer of Eating Out 4 (and the original Eating Out); Adrian Gonzalez, actor in the quiet drama, August; John Lavin, director of the documentary From Hollywood to Dollywood;and Matt Ludwinski, star of the cautionary Hollywood story, Going Down in LA-LA Land.
Out: I want to start by asking you all the same question I asked of last year's group. As GLBTQ characters find their way into mainstream film and television with increasing regularity, do we still need Outfest, and if so, why?
Brocka: I think we do. Outfest is more than just having gay characters onscreen. It's the whole experience of sitting in a theater with a gay audience -- this community that's come together to experience a story. That doesn't really happen when something airs on TV or comes out in the theaters. You don't get the sense of community that a festival brings. It will be nice when that's the only thing the festival does, but right now, it also helps inspire industry people to think to include gay characters and gay story lines because so many people around them are talking about the festival and this great experience.
Lavin: And speaking in broader terms of gay film festivals in general, we shot From Hollywood to Dollywood all across the South. There are festivals there that are super stoked that there's a film that talks about the Southern gay experience. There's still a need for them.
Brocka: Smaller communities are really limited for things gay people to do as a group. I just went to a gay film festival in Dubai, where homosexuality was illegal until two years ago. There aren't even gay bars there. It's one of the biggest cities in the world and there isn't a single gay bar, but they have a queer film festival.
Gonzalez: And you showed Eating Out? Were they able to handle it?
Brocka: They were! It was an amazing experience. The entire community seemed to be coming together around this film festival. And it's the first time these people were gathered in a room with other gay people without being worried about getting caught. There is a lot of work still to be done that film festivals can do.
There was a time when the issues covered in gay films were somewhat limited to AIDS and coming out. Now we have evolved beyond that, but I think that the current commonality is characters seeking acceptance.
Lavin: In my film, I think it's sad and depressing that these two 36-year-old brothers still call their mother three times a day. They are with her right now to explain the movie to her because she won't see it. I think, Cut her out of your life! As soon as you do that you won't have these problems and eventually she will come around. I really struggled with how much of the coming-out story to put in to the film because I feel like it's been done to death in gay cinema, and the reaction of some people has been 'We've seen it!' But people in middle America still need to hear this story.