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Outfest 2021's Lineup Has Arrived — Bring On the Queer Cinema


This year's lineup is especially meaningful for queer people who've been away from their chosen families. 

Now in its 18th year, Outfest has created visibility for diverse LGBTQ+ stories and continues to empower the queer artists and storytellers of tomorrow. This year, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization features 10 feature films, 41 short films, a One-Minute Movie Contest, two drive-in experiences, and a dozen workshops and panels for the general public in its festival.

The Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival, which will run April 16-20, showcases the work of queer and trans filmmakers of color. To date, it has showcased over 10,000 works to nearly 250,000 audience members and impacted over 2,500 storytellers and up and coming industry members with its workshops, contests, and events.

"One of hallmarks of our festivals, and Outfest Fusion in particular, is the opportunity for discovery found in our short films," Sheryl Santacruz, Outfest'sprogramming manager, tells Out. "Some of my favorite cinematic moments are contained in these stories. The beautiful juxtaposition of moments throughout a relationship with the five prayers of Islam in Fawzia Mirza's Noor & Layla, a dance of defiance in Sungbin Byun's God's Daughter Dances, an emphatic declaration of identity in Heather Muriel Nguyen & Jake Villadolid's Tho, a historic run for office at the height of the AIDS crisis in Whitney Skauge's The Beauty President -- Outfest Fusion's shorts selection celebrates the joy found within our communities and honors the past and continued work made to get us here."

"Every queer person's experience of the world is different -- often drastically so," adds Mike Dougherty, director of festival programming. "I think the great thing about a festival like Outfest Fusion is that it collects so many of these disparate experiences together, and invites you to find an emotional connection with people whose lives might wildly diverge from your own. What obstacles do two men in Namibia who love one another face? How might a breakup between two queer Muslim women play out? How does South Korea's compulsory military service affect a young trans woman? Before I saw this year's crop of film, I had no entry point into these questions. Now I do."

The lineup includes films from notable directors like Nathan Hale Williams, an Outfest alum who's presenting All Boys Aren't Blue this year. Marion Hill will also be showcasing her Sundance premiere Ma Belle, My Beauty (featured above) while Mari Walker's will be showcasing her recent SXSW world premiere See You Then.

Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting) is presenting Summertime at this year's festival, which is co-written by its cast of young Los Angeles poets, including queer voices of color, and is in connection with Outfest Fusion's celebration of the power of the spoken word.

Outfest Fusion will kick off the evening of April 16 with a live spoken word showcase, including performances by Tyris Winter of Summertime, and Chicago-based raptivist Bella BAHHS from the Outfest Fusion feature documentary Unapologetic, among others.

Notable short films at this year's festival include Maisie Richardson Sellers' Sunday's Child, executive produced by Greg Berlanti, about a vivid house party of queer and trans people of color who welcome a young woman into their community where she can let down her walls.

Another standout is Whitney Skauge's The Beauty President, about Joan Jett Blakk's historic bid for the White House as one of the first openly queer write-in candidates, featuring Terence Smith, the man behind the persona, who reflects back on his place in gay rights history at the height of the AIDS crisis. Plus, we'll get to see the world premiere of Fawzia Mirza's Noor & Layla and Jas Pitt & Kate Stonehill's Mother, about a young dancer from Rio de Janeiro who finds acceptance through the art of Ballroom and their voguing family.

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David Artavia