Outfest 2012: Documentary Overview

Outfest leaves its twenties behind this Summer as Los Angeles celebrates the 30th anniversary of its popular LGBT film festival between July 12-22. Though I haven’t made it to the fest since 2008, it used to be one of my regular stops on the circuit when I ran NewFest, and always impressed me with its professionalism, fun, and ability to draw huge audiences despite being located in the most movie-saturated town in the world. Now that Outfest has entered into partnership with NewFest – something I tried to engineer twice during my tenure – I’m hopeful that both events will be enriched. I’ll sadly miss Outfest again this year, but wanted to wish my colleagues there well and highlight some of their documentary programming.

Of the more than sixty features in Outfest’s 2012 line-up – new films as well as retrospective anniversary screenings – there are nearly two dozen feature docs on offer. Two prime Gala slots have been allotted to non-fiction: Outfest opens its anniversary edition, fittingly, with VITO (pictured), looking back at the life of one of the pioneers of LGBT activism, Vito Russo, whose influential book THE CELLULOID CLOSET explored the representations of queerness in mainstream films; while the fest’s Documentary Centerpiece slot goes to another chronicle of LGBT history which is still all-too relevant, HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, on ACT UP’s fight for access to treatment.

In the main line-up, LA audiences should plan on checking out, among others, I AM A WOMAN NOW, a winning portrait of senior MTFs linked by the Casablanca doctor who performed their surgeries decades ago; THE PREP SCHOOL NEGRO (pictured), in which director André Robert Lee reflects on his experience attending a prestigious but primarily white private school; and THANK YOU FOR JUDGING, actor/director Michael Urie’s appreciation of the world of high school speech competitions. Other intriguing titles include the long in the works portrait of gay Latino former gang members, HOMEBOY; veteran lesbian burlesque performer profile SATAN’S ANGEL: QUEEN OF THE FIRE TASSELS; and the story of the greatest glam rock star who never was, JOBRIATH AD, whose music is also included in a corresponding special performance by Ann Magnuson.

Doc fans shouldn’t miss a few titles oddly listed under “US Dramatic Features” on Outfest’s website – while Jonathan Caouette’s WALK AWAY RENEE (pictured) does incorporate fictional elements to his TARNATION follow-up, viewers expecting fiction from either Barbara Kopple’s A FORCE OF NATURE or Katherine Linton/Harriet Hirschorn’s MISSISSIPPI I AM will likely be very confused.

Rounding out this overview, I highly recommend Outfest attendees see Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams’ classic 1996 doc on Japanese FTMs, SHINJUKU BOYS, screening as part of Outfest’s tribute to stalwart distributor Women Make Movies, celebrating its 40th anniversary. Finally, the fest’s always interesting cutting edge section, Platinum, includes a couple of docs I haven’t seen that should be worth checking out: SHE MALE SNAILS, a Jarmanesque hybrid doc/fiction about multiple genders; and THIS IS NOT A DREAM, a four-decade survey of queer video art.


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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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