Gary M. Kramer

Outfest is once again upon us. For more than three decades, Los Angeles’ LGBT film festival has ensured that stories of our vast and diverse community are shared with the world. The 31st incarnation of Outfest features 155 films from nearly 30 countries, showcasing everything from sexy international dramas and documentaries of legendary cult figures to quirky, lighthearted fare and the return of respected Outfest alumni. Eleven days of extraordinary experiences await you. With that being said, to give queer moviegoers something to do in the dark, we’ve created this handy guide to the films we think you should seek out at the fest. Get out and support this longstanding LGBT institution! 


C.O.G., Orpheum Theatre, 8 p.m.
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who helmed the excellent Easier with Practice, this year’s opening night film is the highly anticipated adaptation of a David Sedaris work. C.O.G. stars out actor Jonathan Groff as a man who finds adventure when he takes a job on an apple farm. 


Platinum Showcase, REDCAT, 7:15 p.m.
San Diego Surf, REDCAT, 9:30 p.m.
The experimental short films of Platinum Showcase likely provide a nice amuse bouche for the main course that is San Diego Surf. Take the opportunity to see the L.A. premiere of this rare Warhol film. While the comedy about surfers has moments of humor—and a wild scene involving saving a baby—the ‘naughty’ aspects of Surf are more kinky than sexy. While it’s best not to spoil what happens, we’ll say it involves both water and sports. And while a little of the late Taylor Mead can go a long way, co-star Viva is quite good in her role—plus, who doesn’t like ogling Joe D’Allesandro?


Queerer Than Fiction, DGA 2, 11:30 a.m.
This collection of documentary shorts defies categorization. Take a glimpse at the lives of 1960s queer hippie orgy-mates, out actor George Takei and his partner Brad (Jessica Sanders’ George & Brad Live Long and Prosper) and Latino go-go dancers who don jockstraps and clown makeup. Outfest notes, “the films in this program inspire hope through forgiveness and unabashed pride.”

Bridegroom, DGA 1, 1:30 p.m.
In this documentary, after tragedy strikes Tom and Shane’s relationship, Tom’s conservative parents block Shane off from all contact, even refusing to let him attend Tom’s funeral. Shane vows to tell his and Tom’s love story to the world, and his video “It Could Happen to You” attracted millions of views on YouTube. Shane’s story—and his courage to stand up for LGBT equality—has taken the nation by storm.

Beyond the Walls, DGA 1, 4 p.m.
This mesmerizing drama shows us Paolo (Matila Malliarakis), a slight-looking young man who makes eye contact one night with Ilir (Guillaume Gouix), a handsome Albanian bartender. The guys slowly give in to their attraction and share an electrifying first kiss. But after the couple becomes more intimate, their relationship soon hits a snag. Beyond the Walls becomes a test of the couple’s love and what each will do—and give up—for the other. The film has moments that will rip viewers’ hearts out, but it is to the credit of director David Lambert—who employs masterful camerawork and artfully framed compositions—as well as his two remarkable leads that this emotionally charged romance is so damned affecting.


Geography Club, DGA 1, 11 a.m.
This adaptation of Brent Hartinger’s young adult book about gay teens may follow the book’s characters, but it plays like a not-so-special After-School Special—one in which audiences are cudgeled by the ‘be yourself’ message. Sure, Cameron Deane Stewart is adorable, especially when he’s kissing quarterback Kevin (Justin Deeley) in the rain. But while the filmmakers understand issues surrounding peer pressure, taunting and sexual self-expression, Geography Club never makes the characters’ awkward situations or painful struggles feel authentic, however credible they are.

Big Gay Love, DGA 1, 4:30 p.m.
While the title suggests a swept-off-your-feet romance, Big Gay Love is really concerned with how lonely, portly party planner Bob (Jonathan Lisecki) comes to terms with his body image and gains self-acceptance. He meets Andy (Nicholas Brendon), a hunky man who adores him for his flaws but does not appreciate his insecurities. The importance of the film’s message—that you have to look past the physical—is undermined by dumb subplots and some broad queer stereotypes, but Lisecki displays his acerbic wit and nice comic timing. 


Before You Know It, Harmony Gold, 5 p.m.
This touching documentary chronicles characters rarely seen in film—gay seniors—by introducing three men in their advanced years. Dennis, who is 76, lives in Florida and likes to cross-dress; Ty, a 60-something African-American man in Harlem who wants to marry his hesitant partner; and Robert, the 73-year-old owner of a drag bar in Galveston. Director P.J. Raval intercuts the stories, and each segment is completely absorbing, but the film’s true focus is on how these men create their place in a world that mostly ignores them. It is an important and inspiring portrait.

Born This Way, Harmony Gold, 7:30 p.m.
This powerful human rights documentary focuses on gays and lesbians in Cameroon, where homosexuality is illegal. The film profiles several brave members of the queer community, from Gertrude, who works at a center to help LGBT individuals, to Cedric, who cannot tell his mother that he’s gay. In addition, Alice Nkom, a lawyer, takes up the case of two women put on trial for being lesbians. Born This Way makes each of these case studies compelling. What emerges from the subjects’ individual candor and courage is their refusal to betray an innate sense of self. ‘Gay’ is not a choice, says Cedric, who, like Gertrude, is inspiring. So is this important, impassioned film.

I Am Divine, DGA 1, 9:30 p.m.
A fabulous documentary about the plus-sized transvestite who took drag to a level of anarchy, this affectionate film traces Harris Glenn Milstead’s life from childhood to Hollywood. Excellent interviews with friends and co-stars and video footage chronicle the underground star’s creation of Divine, his film work with John Waters and his popular music career. There is also talk of makeup, his weight issues, eating dog shit and working with Tab Hunter (twice!). Fans will especially enjoy his mother’s comments, as this larger-than-life cult icon gets the biopic he deserves.


Pit Stop, DGA 1, 7 p.m.
Yen Tan’s absorbing drama chronicles several lonely people looking for love. What makes Pit Stop so absorbing is Tan’s organic style of storytelling that allows viewers to slowly learn about the characters—Gabe (Bill Heck) and Ernesto (the miraculous Marcus DeAnda)—and see the patterns and parallels that emerge and form connections. Tan’s focus is on how things are not easy for Gabe and Ernesto, even when they have distance from their former relationships. His achievement is to show how both these guys belong together. Artfully lit and shot, and filmed with long, slow scenes accompanied by thoughtful music, this fine romance chronicles the figurative pit stop in these modest Texans’ lives. Audiences should embrace the opportunity to share this moment in their journey to self-discovery.

Southern Baptist Sissies, DGA 1, 9:30 p.m. 
Del Shores, creator of the cult classic Sordid Lives, has returned to the screen with an adaptation of his own hilarious (and heartbreaking) play, in which four young, gay Texans grow up as born-again Christians. The film features an impressive cast, including Willam Belli of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Leslie Jordan.


God Loves Uganda, DGA 1, 7 p.m.
No, this isn’t God Loves Orlando, but a documentary about how evangelicals are trying to get their anti-gay messages out in Africa. On the heels of Call Me Kuchu, about a gay rights advocate in Uganda, this documentary continues to depict how queer people in other parts of the world struggle for acceptance in the face of bigotry.


Pitch Perfect, Ford Amphitheatre, 8:30 p.m.
At this year’s sing-along night, viewers are encouraged to sing along with The Bellas, an a cappella group vying for a college championship. While Rebel Wilson gets the bellylaughs as Fat Amy and Anna Kendrick (of Camp and Up in the Air fame) shines, the film’s stealth comedienne is Hana Mae Lee as the ultra-soft-spoken Lilly, whose confession about her twin may be the film’s most pricelessly funny moment. Sure, Ace of Base’s “The Sign” will be an earworm in your head by the end, but this outdoor screening promises to be a blast.


Kink, REDCAT, 9:30 p.m.
Submit to Kink, the latest documentary to explore BDSM, and prepare to be enlightened. Produced by James Franco (who co-directs and stars in the kinky Interior. Leather Bar.) and directed by Christine Voros, we are excited to see what we might learn from this film. Hey, you never know until you try. And don’t come late—Todd Verow and Charles Lum’s outstanding short Tom’s Gift, about a queer bookstore, plays before the feature and is well worth a look.

Test, Ford Amphitheatre, 8:30 p.m.
Set in 1985 San Francisco, the low-budget Test is a well-intentioned drama about the onset of the AIDS crisis. Frankie (Scott Marlowe) is a dancer whose unease about the disease is palpable. His concerns are contrasted with those of his fellow dancer, Todd (the magnetic Matthew Risch), who has a more reckless attitude towards life and sex. Test conveys the anxiety of the early days of AIDS and the way young gay men grappled with their fears. While the long dance sequences—both rehearsals and performances—are nice to watch, they do seem to stretch out the thin narrative.


Hot Guys with Guns, Ford Amphitheatre, 8:30 p.m.
A bunch of drugged, naked rich guys are robbed at a sex party, and it’s up to actor Danny Lohman (Marc Anthony Samuel) and his wealthy ex-boyfriend Pip (Brian McArdle) to ferret out the bandits. Truth in titling, this stylish eye candy does feature some hot guys, and there is some gunplay as well. Samuel is fantastic, especially when he is grappling with his feelings for his ex. One hopes the actor gets a sequel, because his charismatic performance is this enjoyable film’s secret weapon.

Turning, REDCAT, 10 p.m.
Fans of Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons won’t want to miss this striking documentary featuring the angelic-voiced singer. Staging a series of shows featuring transwomen and genderqueer individuals in performance and song, this intriguing film shows how individuals can embrace and express their gender and sexuality in positive, empowering ways—and Hegarty’s music is simply divine.


Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, DGA 1, 11 a.m.
This documentary is a candid portrait of the queer writer, featuring interviews, TV and film clips, priceless quips, as well as anecdotes about his books, films, famous friends and details of his life with his partner Howard Austen. Gore Vidal is a good primer for those who don’t know Vidal’s life and work, but it is also satisfying for those who do. But what makes this film special is seeing Vidal in his element—be it clearing out his home in Ravello, Italy, fighting with William F. Buckley on TV or walking through the cemetery where Austen and his beloved Jimmy Trimble are buried.

Igloo, DGA 1, 4 p.m.
This Chilean film toggles back and forth in time as Daniel (director/co-writer Diego Ruiz) works out the issues in his life with the help of his neighbor Paula, a therapist. He is smarting from addiction, his breakup with a cheating ex, his parents reacting badly to his coming out and a general malaise. Ruiz makes Daniel’s pain palpable, but his relationship with Paula and a female co-worker are less interesting than inventive scenes of him crossing a street with some dancers or walking barefoot through the park at night. There are no major revelations here, but Igloo is heartfelt.


Interior. Leather Bar., DGA 1, 7 p.m.
It probes the blurry line between straight and gay, reality and fiction, but this hour-long documentary that “reimagines 40 lost minutes from Cruising” is too inconsequential to be an effective or thorough investigation. However, give co-director James Franco credit for attempting to shatter conditioned  hetero-normative responses to sex and sexuality. While it can be more exasperating than illuminating to watch straight actors express concerns about playing gay, at least Franco and his co-director Travis Mathews include a smattering of unsimulated gay sex scenes to compensate.

Go Doc Project, DGA 1, 9 p.m.
Fixated on his online crush, a college student (Tanner Cohen) writes to a sexy go-go dancer (Matthew Camp) and asks if he could film him. The film, which is full of references to Warhol and explores gay identity issues, employs split-screen shots and handheld camerawork to create an arty vibe. The guys’ relationship may be contrived, but the charismatic leads make an affecting romance.


Out in the Dark, DGA 2, 2:45 p.m.
This Israeli melodrama depicts Nimr (Nicholas Jacob), a Palestinian student, and Roy (Michael Aloni), a handsome Israeli lawyer. The men have no concerns that the other is ‘the enemy’ and fall quickly and deeply in love. After they consummate their relationship, however, the film starts to fall apart. The closeted Nimr argues with his brother, who is storing guns in the house; meanwhile, Roy’s ‘liberal’ parents are less keen on their son’s lover. Out in the Dark mostly wallows in broad moral quandaries, only to end on a nicely ambiguous note.

Free Fall, DGA 1, 1 p.m.
Two of the sexiest men on-screen this fest are Marc (Hanno Koffler) and Kay (Max Riemelt) as cops/lovers in this German romantic drama. Initially they fight each other in their academy training but soon they find themselves giving in to a mutual attraction. These hot guys, however, must keep their hot-and-heavy clandestine relationship to themselves. Not only is there homophobia at work, but Marc’s girlfriend is pregnant. While it’s only a matter of time before the guys’ affair is discovered or they fess up, the attractive leads provide enough eye candy to make this passable time-filler go by painlessly.

G.B.F., Ford Amphitheatre, 8 p.m.
Turning the drama of coming out into high comedy, G.B.F. is a bright—and brightly colored—romp. Tanner is inadvertently outed at school, but rather than becoming a pariah, he is wooed by the school’s three teen queens, who want him as their sexless accessory. Director Darren Stein ably provides the laughs as the characters all get their share of smart and funny jokes. G.B.F. is full of teen-speak, pop culture references and bitchy flamboyance, but the most fabulous part of G.B.F. is how it spins some stereotypes on their heads.

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