Film Festival Celebrates Its Kansas City Roots

Out Here Now, the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival, always presents a fresh and compelling slate of films. Now in its 17th year of bringing queer stories to the forefront, the program includes selections from filmmakers across the country and beyond. This year, however, one major theme is “coming home.” The June 23-30 festival is highlighting several exciting contributions from native Kansas Citians, many of whom will be returning home to attend events at the Tivoli Cinemas in Westport.

The opening weekend celebration features the Kansas City premiere of the indie drama Retake on Thursday, June 23. In the film, a man haunted by a past relationship hires a hustler to accompany him across the Southwest to the Grand Canyon. As they near their destination, something unexpected breaks through. Director Nick Corporon and star Tuc Watkins, both Kansas City natives, will attend the screening of this haunting examination of the nature of love, identity and authenticity.

Audiences may remember Corporon’s award-winning short film Barbie Boy, which screened in the Out Here Now festival in 2014, and recognize Watkins from appearances on TV’s Desperate Housewives, One Life to Live and Parks and Recreation, among others. Join them both at the reception to welcome them home and learn more about their work.

Corporon’s ties to the festival run deep. In fact, Retake in some ways began its life here when Nick partnered with the festival to launch the film’s Kickstarter campaign in 2014. Retake exceeded its fundraising goal and now comes full circle as the festival’s opening night selection.

A native of Lexington, Missouri, Corporon credits Kansas City with making a major cultural impact on his life. “Going to KC (or ‘The City,’ as we say in my family) was a huge deal,” he says. “It’s where I went to see movies and theater. It was at the Midland that I saw my first gay character when my parents took me to see A Chorus Line in fourth grade. Things like that left a big impression on me.”

Now living and working in Los Angeles, Corporon draws on his early experiences to influence his filmmaking. He notes that “Growing up gay in rural Missouri was a very lonely, isolating thing for me, and that certainly shows up in my work. Retake is about two isolated characters searching for human connection. One character defines himself by ... his past. The other refuses to look back. ... The movie is about the clash of those two ideas – past and present.”

Starring in the film is Kansas City native Tuc Watkins, who moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and has worked steadily in film and television ever since. Corporon, who first saw Watkins in the 1999 blockbuster film The Mummy, recalls that “it wasn’t until I was writing a letter to [Tuc">, to offer him the role, that I found out he was from KC. By then I knew it was kismet and we had to work together.”

The Kansas City connection provided reassurance. “KC people kind of have each other’s backs. LA can be weird and scary sometimes, but if you’re with somebody from KC, you know you’re going to be fine. And with Tuc, I knew I was going to be fine.”

Shooting Retake was an invigorating and challenging experience for Corporon, who notes that, “It’s so hard to make a gay film these days, so we were really lucky to have the means to make one. After all of the incredible support we got from Kickstarter, my team and I looked at each other and went, ‘Well, let’s not screw this up!’”

The film was shot primarily over 16 days. Interior shots were captured in Los Angeles, where the “old motor motel rooms that are trapped in the ’50s and ’60s” lend the film an aesthetic tension between the past and the present that speaks to the film’s major themes. Exterior scenes were filmed with a skeleton crew in Joshua Tree, California, which offers scenic vistas.

Corporon’s hunch about Watkins was right. His professional background and experience came in handy when shooting a feature-length film on such a tight timeline. “Money and time were always against us,” he says, “But that’s where Tuc came in handy… shooting 10 pages of dialogue in a day is nothing to him.”

“I’m so honored that Out Here Now has made us their opening night show,” Corporon says. “I’m proud to bring the movie home to show the KC supporters. Out Here Now has screened my short films, so Kansas City audiences have seen my progression from film student to feature filmmaker.”

Retake is a stirring film about our human search for connection. And the demographic that Corporon is most excited to reach?

“More than anything,” he says, “I’m happy that my family gets to see it on the big screen.”

Celebrating local talent

Retake is the first of several Out Here Now offerings that shine a light on talented emerging filmmakers from the area. On Friday, June 24, a collection of short films will be screened, including The Boy Next Door from Kansas City native John McCrite, who will be on hand for the event.

On Saturday, June 25, film aficionados can treat themselves to Reel in the Closet, a documentary that connects modern viewers to queer history and individuals through found footage from the home movies they left behind. Directed by Stu Maddux, who attended the University of Missouri, and co-presented by GLAMA (Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America), the film includes never-before-seen video from the 1930s onward. Public protests and private moments alike will resonate deeply with contemporary audiences seeking a connection to our shared history.

The festival’s programming from June 27 to June 30 puts women filmmakers in the spotlight, with female-directed features and shorts showing each evening.

The Array Of Films

Kansas City’s LGBT Film Festival is an unmatched opportunity to witness and celebrate the unique stories of the LGBT community, past and present, local and international. Festival organizer Jamie Rich has once again marshaled an impressive field of compelling new films, community partners, and engaging events.

Are you ready to be inspired, educated, and maybe even titillated? No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a film for you on the slate. Learn more about the festival, browse the full lineup of events and screenings, and pre-order tickets today at OutHereNow

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