The lineup for the 2021 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, running Friday August 13th to Sunday August 22nd, has just been announced with a mix of outdoor events, indoor screenings for vaccinated moviegoers, and online streaming.
The 39th edition of the world’s largest LGBTQIA+ film festival boasts an impressive range of narrative features, documentaries, shorts and episodics, with panel discussions including Outfest’s 5th Annual Trans & Nonbinary Summit, plus cast and filmmaker Q&As and special appearances. For the full festival program head to OutfestLA2021.com.
The Opening Night Gala selection is the screen adaption of the inspired-by-true-events hit West End musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, at Los Angeles’ iconic summer outdoor events venue, the Hollywood Forever cemetery, the resting place of movie royalty such as Judy Garland.
The film follows Jamie New (Max Harwood), a teenager from Sheffield, who dreams of life on stage. While his classmates plan their livelihoods after they leave school, Jamie contemplates revealing his secret career ambition to become a fierce and proud drag queen. His best friend Pritti (Luren Patel) and his loving mum (Sarah Lancashire) shower him with endless support, while local drag legend Miss Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant) mentors him towards his debut stage performance. However, Jamie also has to contend with an unsupportive father (Ralph Ineson), an uninspired careers advisor (Sharon Horgan), and some ignorant school kids who attempt to rain on his sensational parade. In rousing and colourful musical numbers, Jamie and his community inspire one another to overcome prejudice, be more accepting, and to step out of the darkness into the spotlight. Special in person appearances planned by Max Harwood, Lauren Patel, Jonathan Butterell as well as Bianca del Rio. Friday August 13th at 7:30pm, Hollywood Forever. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie releases globally on Prime Video September 17th 2021.
Cut to the festival’s Closing Night and another legendary venue, Downtown LA’s Orpheum theatre, will host a gala screening of Fanny: The Right to Rock. Outfest alum Bobbi Jo Hart (Rebels on Pointe) follows Fanny’s early days as a garage band, garnering attention and accolades, through their difficulties breaking into mainstream success, to their reunion and recording of their latest album in 2018. Featuring interviews with some of music’s heaviest hitters (and Fanny proselytizers) including Alice Bag, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Bonnie Raitt, The Go-Go’s Kathy Valentine, Todd Rundgren, The Runaways’ Cherie Currie, The B-52s’ Kate Pierson, Charles Neville and David Bowie guitarist and bassist Earl Slick and Gail Ann Dorsey, Hart paints a full portrait of Fanny’s legacy, finally giving this criminally overlooked band the credit they deserve. Sunday August 22nd at at 7pm, The Orpheum. The screening will be followed by a live reunion performance by Fanny, including members Jean Millington, June Millington, Alice de Buhr, and Brie Darling, joined by Patti Quattro and Lee Madeloni.
Among the U.S. narrative highlights is writer-director Lauren Hadaway’s gripping feature debut The Novice, inspired by her own experience as a rowing-obsessed undergraduate. The Outfest U.S. Centerpiece screening follows the film’s world premiere at Tribeca where it won the Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature Film, along with Best Actress for its lead Isabelle Furman, and Best Cinematography for its DOP Todd Martin. August 15th at 4:30pm, DGA 1. Virtual screenings August 16th – 18th.
Other U.S. narrative films include Natalie Morales’ Teddy-nominated, SXSW Audience Award-winning Language Lessons, an absorbing two-hander starring Morales as Cariño, a Costa Rica-based Spanish teacher who has been hired to give California-dwelling Adam (Mark Duplass, who’s also co-writer) 100 weekly lessons as a surprise birthday gift from his husband. Initially taken aback by this disruption to his routine, including his morning swims in the back yard of the couple’s luxurious home, he comes to depend on Cariño when tragedy impacts his life. August 14th at 6:45pm, DGA 1. Virtual screenings August 15th – 17th.
Writer-director Marion Hill’s queer romance Ma Belle, My Beauty had its world premiere at Sundance, going on to win the Audience Award in the NEXT section of the festival. It’s a gorgeously sun-drenched character-driven drama set in the South of France where Lane (Hannah Pepper) unexpectedly visits her ex-girlfriend Bertie (Idella Johnson) and Bertie’s husband Fred (Lucien Guignard). Bertie, who had been in a polyamorous relationship with Lane and Fred back in New Orleans, is grieving the death of her mother, while Lane strikes up a new romance with an Israeli woman, Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon). Read our exclusive interview Marion Hill, Hannah Pepper, and Idella Johnson. Virtual screenings only August 16th – 18th.
Writer-director Wes Hurley’s SXSW Grand Jury Award-nominated Potato Dreams of America is the inventively told autobiopic of a gay Russian immigrant who falls in love with America as a child through catching pirate television broadcasts of 80s movies as the Iron Curtain falls and emigrates to Seattle when his mother gets a marriage proposal from an American Christian fundamentalist she’s never met. Hurley has previously explored his story on film with the documentary short Little Potato, featuring himself and his mother, which won the Grand Jury Award at SXSW in 2017, and the immersive VR film Potato Dreams. August 18th at 9:45pm, DGA 1. Virtual screenings August 21st – 23rd.
In Mari Walker’s captivating feature debut See You Then, two former lovers—performance artist and teacher Naomi (Lynn Chen) and tech whizz Kris (Pooya Mohseni)—are reunited more than a decade after they abruptly broke up and lost touch. In the intervening years Kris has transitioned and Noami, now married with kids, is seeing her as a woman for the first time. August 20th at 9:30pm, DGA 2. Virtual screenings August 21st – 23rd.
In her last major film performance, Cloris Leachman stars in writer-director Philip J. Connell’s Jump, Darling as the cantankerous grandmother to Russell (Thomas Duplessie), a down-on-his-luck drag queen who’s reeling from a bad break up and escapes to live in the countryside. Wounded and hurting, he slowly returns to life by injecting new energy into the sleepy local gay bar, all while his rapidly declining grandmother desperately fights to steer clear of a retirement home. At once humorous and heartbreaking, the film is an ode to new beginnings and the soulful journey toward healing. August 15th at 7:15pm, DGA 1. The screening will be accompanied by a celebrity memorial tribute to Cloris Leachman introduced by Cybill Shepherd, as well as a rare pre-recorded introduction by Cloris Leachman herself. Virtual screenings 16th – 18th.
Based on the novella by Johan Theorin, Swedish filmmaker Frida Kempff’s unsettling debut feature Knocking (or Knackningar in Swedish, such a delicious word), is a sophisticated psychological horror and a masterclass in tension, spare dialogue, and intricate sound design. At its centre is a compelling performance by Cecilia Milocco as Molly, a woman who has just been discharged after a year in a psychiatric hospital and moved into a new apartment building alone. As she stands by the window in her new home she recalls happier times with her girlfriend, a relationship we glimpse in flashback throughout the film; memories which bring some warmth to Molly’s isolated existence while underscoring her loneliness. Read our exclusive interview with Frida Kempff and Cecilia Milocco. August 14th at 8:30pm, Harmony Gold.
This year’s standout documentaries include Outfest alum Jeffrey Schwarz’s (The Fabulous Allan Carr, Tab Hunter Confidential, I Am Divine) amazing true story of Gloria Swanson’s attempt to get a musical version of Sunset Boulevard made, and the bizarre love triangle that derailed the whole venture, Boulevard! A Hollywood Story. Everyone knows about the 1994 Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical adaptation of Sunset Boulevard, but few know that the idea for a musical adaptation of Billy Wilder’s 1950 movie was actually first formulated by the movie’s star, Gloria Swanson. From 1952 to 1956, Swanson worked with gay couple Dickson Hughes and Richard Stapley on writing the book and score. They were almost finished when a love triangle between the three derailed the project. August 17th at 7:15pm, DGA 1. Virtual screenings 18th – 20th.
Directed and produced by Peabody Award-winner Vivian Kleiman (a longtime collaborator of filmmaker Marlon Riggs), the beautifully crafted documentary feature No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics, chronicles the history of queer comics by focusing on five lesbian and gay trailblazing cartoonists, with insights from the current wave of LGBTQ+ artists whom they inspired. As with Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein’s The Celluloid Closet, and Kleiman’s own Color Adjustment produced with Riggs before it, through insightful interviews with its subjects No Straight Lines also reflects on our desire for representation and how the impact of seeing ourselves portrayed in mainstream media can shape our self-perceptions. Kleiman has created a rich, fascinating, and affectionate tribute to queer comic book art and its pioneers. August 14th at 1:45pm, DGA 1. Virtual screenings 15th – 17th.
Angelo Madsen Minax’s remarkable documentary feature North By Current sees the filmmaker return from Brooklyn, New York to his rural Michigan hometown where his Mormon family is dealing with an unthinkable tragedy. Minax’s infant niece has died unexpectedly and when the film opens we learn that his sister and her husband, who had been implicated in the baby’s death by the local authorities, have been cleared of any involvement. North By Current is an extraordinary, deeply personal, transcendent work of great power that’s harrowing at times but ultimately a journey of healing, as Minax addresses faith, mental health, addiction, grief, and domestic violence, all of which have directly impacted his family, while at the heart of the film there’s a rarely seen, rich, layered portrait of trans identity. August 15th at 1:30pm, Virtual screenings DGA 2. 21st – 23rd.
Chronicling the legacy of gay porn studio Palm Drive Video, Ryan A. White and Alex Clausen’s loving tribute Raw! Uncut! Video! honors the history of the studio, whose revolutionary sleaze films showcased rugged blue-collar men enacting their most explicit sexual fantasies onscreen. Independently founded by leathermen Jack Fritscher and Mark Hemry, their infamous videos playfully depict hardcore kink rarely before seen in porn, ushering in a new era of sex positivity during the rise of the AIDS epidemic. This survey of their indelible work asserts the duo as an iconiclastic creative force and celebrates the beauty of raw, unbridled erotic expression. (Produced by Outfest alum Todd Verow, who has two shorts in this year’s lineup; Swimming to the End of the World which precedes the feature Boy Meets Boy, and Covid Summer in the Postcards from 2020 shorts collection). Raw! Uncut! Video! screens in-person on August 15th at 9:45pm, DGA 1. Virtual screenings August 18th – 20th.
Queer poet and filmmaker Bo McGuire’s Outfest Platinum Centerpiece Socks On Fire, which won Best Documentary Feature at Tribeca 2020, is at once a lyrical, inventively told, deeply personal portrait of McGuire’s Southern family, a hymn to the women who shaped him (“when these women talk at once it is my favourite chorus”), and an examination of the squabbles over his late grandmother’s estate. The film gradually expands to resonate with universal human experience, and pushes the boundaries of documentary as a storytelling form, merging documented ‘reality’, subjective recollection, and innovative recreations. August 14th at 7:30pm, REDCAT. Includes a pre-show drag performance emceed by director Bo McGuire. Virtual screenings 16th – 18th.
Harri Shanahan and Sian Williams’ feature documentary Rebel Dykes is a rousing, celebratory, and considered examination of London’s rebel dyke subculture of the 1980s and its legacy. The film’s punky, DIY aesthetic captures the anarchic spirit of the trailblazing brave women who donned their biker leathers and boots as visibly queer in the homophobic era of Thatcher, AIDS, and Section 28, frequently facing disapproval from fellow lesbians and feminists. Delightfully sex-positive, richly detailed, and lovingly-crafted, with a queer post-punk original score composed by Ellyott and quirky animated sequences by Shanahan, Rebel Dykes never takes itself too seriously, but the result is a stunning achievement, as necessary as it is entertaining. August 14th at 2pm, REDCAT. Virtual screenings August 18th – 20th.
With an overview of the ACT UP story having been told in compelling and detailed documentaries such as Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP and David France’s How to Survive a Plague, it’s pleasing to now see significant members being focused on individually, such as trans trailblazer Connie Norman, a broadcaster, columnist, and one of the public faces of ACT UP/LA. As it opens, Dante Alencastre’s 60-minute documentary, AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman, presents a treasure trove of archive photographs as it evocatively sets the scene of queer liberation in pre-AIDS San Francisco which the Texas-born Norman experienced, with some great nightclub images as we see the community “collectively shaking off years of shame and repression”, as one of the talking heads says. Then the early rumours about a “gay cancer” tragically curtail the queer sexual revolution. This is an important and lovingly-crafted tribute to “the self-appointed AIDS Diva” that powerfully makes the case for her as an integral part of LGBTQ+ history and an inspiration to the activists of today. August 21st at 11am, DGA 1. Virtual screenings 22nd – 24th.
This year’s Outfest LA will presents 13 diverse shorts programs including Enby Portraits, Fellas That Were In The Mood, Latinxcellence, Transcendental, What A Girl Wants, and Postcards from 2020, a collection of films created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By James Kleinmann, with additional writing from Outfest LA film guide with kind permission from Outfest.
Passes and tickets for the 39th Annual Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival are on sale now for Outfest members only. General public passes and tickets will be available from Wednesday July 28th. For more details and the full festival lineup head to the official festival website OufestLA2021.com.