OUTFEST Los Angeles

By Hans Pedersen, June 30, 2015.

Whether you're interested in Nick Jonas, a famous Joan Crawford impersonator or new films featuring stars from "Orange Is the New Black" and "The L Word," you will  find plenty of talent at OUTFEST, the Los Angeles LGBT film festival that will showcase some of the finest new titles from July 9 to 19.

If you can't travel to LA, the coolest part of the festival is that organizers are streaming select films online, so you experience a bit of the festival in your air-conditioned home without trekking across the desert.

For those who do want to head west, OUTFEST screens several LA venues, including the  Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the Theatre at Ace Hotel. Formerly, the festival was held at the Ford Theater (which is getting a makeover this summer).

And whether you make it to OUTFEST  or not, the films screened here make an impact on our community. Every year this festival spreads ripples of excitement, and occasionally even shock waves, around the globe by sharing new LGBT voices with audiences.

"Outfest is an irreplaceable launch pad making sure that our storytellers are supported," said Christopher Racster, interim executive director for OUTFEST, in a recent press release.  "The films showcased at OUTFEST Los Angeles increase LGBT visibility. Sharing them creates understanding, and in turn, helps create meaningful change."

Year after year, the diversity and quantity of LGBT films that are made continue to evolve, and this year's lineup offers  a variety  of compelling stories that help expand the language of cinema.

Feature Films and Documentaries

Opening night, July 9, kicks off with a pre-party and the presentation of an achievement award to actor/director John Cameron Mitchell for his legendary work on Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus and Rabbit Hole. Opening night also features a screening of Tig, the documentary profiling out comedian Tig Notaro and her brave battle with cancer.

One film that's already attracting notice is Portrait of a Serial Monogamist (screens July 11), a lesbian rom-com about Elsie, a woman who's flawed and immature, but nonetheless loveable. Christina Zeidler, who co-directed the film with director John Mitchell, created this character after noticing how often we see men with such attributes in movies, but rarely women.

Liz in September (screens July 12) is an intriguing Venezuelan drama about a beautiful woman (Patricia Velasquez from "The L Word") who's stricken with terminal cancer and hides her illness from her lesbian circle of friends until she bonds with a mother who is grieving over the death of her son.

Fans of "Orange Is the New Black" may want to check out  Natasha Lyonne in the dark comedy Addicted to Fresno (screens July 17) co-starring Aubrey Plaza. And, of course, one of the festival highlights is A Night with Nick Jonas, featuring a screening of the DirecTV series "Kingdom" (screens July 12). The pop singer plays the beefy role of a gay MMA fighter who's afraid to come out of the closet.

Gay teenage Muslims find life in Brooklyn is a challenge in the unique drama Nak and Maalik (screens July 12). The teens hide their romantic relationship from the Muslim community, but their secrecy soon elicits suspicion from FBI agents who start to unfairly target them.

Two of the centerpiece screenings include out director Sebastian Silva's Nasty Baby (screening July 14), the story of a Brooklyn couple who ask a woman, played by Kristen Wiig, to be the surrogate mom for their baby, and Summer of Sangaile (screening July 18), a French romance about the sun-dappled adventures of two teenage girls by the riverside.

The festival will also include films recently covered by Echo, including Best of EnemiesThe Royal Road and A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile (see the August issue of Echo).

Festival Shorts and Special Features

Of course the 10-day festival is not only packed with feature films and documentaries, but several collections of short films, too. Cleverly ripping off the title from a popular underwear catalog, International Male (screening July 12 & 13) is a collection of film shorts from various countries, while Trans Identities (screening July 15) is a series of short movies focusing on the trans community.

Some facetiously claim you can have your gay card revoked if you've never seen female impersonator Lypsinka perform. Here's your chance to retain your gay card, as Lypsinka shares her rendition of the late movie star Joan Crawford onstage at OUTFEST. She's fierce and certainly hysterical in the sense that she's near-hysteria during her performance. Watch one of the masters of her craft perform "The Passion of the Crawford" (July 10) at the Redcat Theater.

There's also a chance to check out gay content left on the cutting room floor of a Hollywood movie. Forty-four minutes of excised footage, including a lot of gay content, was slashed from Marc Christopher's 1998 film 54. The bisexual love triangle that was stripped from the final, messy movie has been restored to create a coherent narrative. Watch Ryan Philippe as a bisexual club worker, Shane, sleeping his way to the top of the club circuit in  the director's cut (screening July 16) as part of Outfest's Legacy Project.

The festival wraps up July 19 with the suspenseful French film The New Girlfriend by Francois Ozon.

You may want to get tickets for OUTFEST soon, since many movie screenings are now only accessible on a stand-by basis, including Tab Hunter Confidential (screens July 11), a documentary profiling the closeted movie star, which was co-produced by his long-time partner Allan Glaser.

The non-profit festival has partnered with DirecTV to launch OUTFEST Online, and effort that helps the non-profit group expand its mission by allowing the films to reach wide audiences (for free). The full lineup of films available online will be announced July 9 and will be available for viewing via the app or outfestonline.com.

For a complete lineup of films screening at this year's festival, or to buy tickets, visit outfest.org/fest2015.

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