Outfest LA – a showcase and celebration of films produced by the LGBTQ+ community – returned to Los Angeles with screenings running through July 22nd.
For cinephiles, creatives, and activists alike, Outfest LA has been running since 1982, and features short films, narratives, and documentaries from filmmakers all over the world.
My first year attending the fest, I was lucky enough to be offered tickets by my school. (College does have some perks after all!) I was pleasantly surprised to find that, in addition to a long roster of new and exciting films, the festival included all kinds of events from premiere galas, info panels, and post-screening receptions. Nearly every showing was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers and stars, providing all kinds of opportunities for mingling with industry professionals and learning about film and the local film and LGBTQ+ communities.
Here are the three programs I was able to catch this week:
Mapplethorpe: (Narrative Biopic) Ondi Timoner directed this new account of the life of iconic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (portrayed by Matt Smith of Doctor Who), whose work focused the underground BDSM and homoerotic movements in New York in the late 1960s to 1980s. A beautiful depiction of one of my favorite artists of all time, this film follows the photographer’s life. From his earlier struggles with his own identity and sexuality, to his complications caused by his ego as a successful artist, and his fight against HIV/AIDS, this film is a must see for any Mapplethorpe fans!
Writhing: (Narrative Short Film) LA filmmaker, Robert John Torres, wrote and directed this short film following Everett, a young gay man facing the looming results of an HIV test. Shot on Kodak Super 16mm film, he uses dance to convey the emotion of Everett’s internal “writhing”, as put by the director. (Whether it be “writhing” of life, of ecstasy and pleasure, or “writhing” of shame, neglect, and heartbreak.) With texture and aesthetics to boot, this film was a beautiful tribute to a struggle that is still too familiar today.
1985: (Narrative Feature) 1985 follows Adrian, a 20-something professional who left his childhood home of Fort Worth, Texas for an exciting life in New York City. He comes home to visit his religious, all-American parents and younger brother for Christmas 1985. He hasn’t come out to them, nor told them about his diagnosis: he is suffering through the later stages of HIV, and is unlikely to survive until next Christmas. The film shows Adrian’s strained relationship with his masculo-formative father, and growing connection with his brother Andrew, who seems to have more in common with Adrian than previously thought. Directed by Malaysian filmmaker Yen Tan, and starring Cory Michael Smith, 1985 was shot on black & white film, as director and director of photography describe wanting to contrast the the bright, colorful way the 80s (that are so often portrayed in film), to the cold reality of the AIDS crisis during that same period. This film is a bittersweet reminder that we are loved by someone, somewhere, no matter what. I highly recommend this film, but fair warning: it will make you cry, and you will want to hug your mom when it’s over.