by Hiko Mitsuzuka @TheFirstEcho
Outfest Los Angeles kicked off its festivities on July 7 with its Opening Night Gala at the downtown Orpheum Theatre. After a heartfelt and rousing speech from Wilson Cruz, the night belonged to Clea Duvall as her directorial debut, The Intervention, charmed audiences. The evening also filled guests' stomachs with diverse and flavorful fare that was offered at the enormous afterparty where a dozen restaurants and vendors served their best dishes. (Our fave: the mini lobster rolls.)
What distinguished this year's festival from other years was a reinforced sense of community and pride, especially after the tragic events in Orlando earlier this summer and the controversial police shootings that followed throughout the country. Also, new to the 2016 festivities was a stronger sense of security -- officers were stationed at venues, particularly at the Directors Guild of America, where most of the films were screened for audiences. Given the current (and heated) social climate in America, the extra precautions taken were understandable.
During Weekend 1, Outfest featured a smorgasbord of exciting programming and events.
Skin, a timely and playful collection of scintillating shorts about male sexuality from around the globe, included Spain's highly entertaining Doors Cut Down from director Antonio Hens and the standout from Cuba, Alfa, Javier Ferreiro López's tale about a Cuban porn star returning to a film set years after the loss of his boyfriend and acting partner. Festival guests were also treated to a sneak peek of Season 3 of Amazon's Transparent during a discussion panel featuring cast and crew from the groundbreaking, Emmy-nominated dramedy. Then, as a tribute to the late David Bowie, a late-night screening of 1983's The Hunger reminded audiences why director Tony Scott's cult classic is still as sexy and provocative as ever. (Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve's steamy scene continues to titillate.)
Things carried on smoothly throughout the next few days, from real talk about current trans issues (the Redefining Realness panel) and two French boys finding love while finding themselves (Being 17, Jury Award winner for Best International Narrative Feature), to a celebration of an indie-film legend (Film Hawk), a sexy look at life on the DL (The Chadwick Journals), a brother and sister caught in the ultimate awkward love triangle (I Love You Both, above), and a moving celebration of long-term AIDS survivors in San Francisco (Last Men Standing).
Andrew Ahn's Spa Night was also the talk of the festival, earning the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Best U.S. Narrative Feature Film. The drama explores one Korean-American family's dreams and realities as each struggles with the overlapping of personal desire, disillusionment, and sense of tradition in present-day Los Angeles.
And thanks to Outfest's film restoration initiative, the Legacy Project, Different from the Others, a German silent film from 1919, made its debut alongside a live accompaniment inside Theater 2 at the DGA.
Meanwhile, at the reopened Ford Amphitheater, BearCity 3 made audiences laugh (and gasp) with its concluding chapter in the hairy trilogy. During the Friday night screening, certain scenes were unintentionally accompanied by singing from the Diana Ross concert at the Hollywood Bowl a few blocks away.
Elsewhere, for highlighting the diverse array of issues facing black LGBTQ people today while also celebrating their vibrant culture with warmth, humanity, and a sharp eye for detail in an electric first feature documentary, the 2016 Programming Award for Emerging Talent went to Twiggy Pucci Garçon and Sara Jordenö for Kiki.
Finally, after 11 days of eye-opening content, networking parties, and celebrations of diversity, Closing Night took place at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel where writer-director Chris Kelly's Other People premiered to rousing applause. The semi-autobiographical film, starring a fine Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) and Molly Shannon (in a role and performance unlike anything you've seen her do), is about a New York comedy writer returning to his hometown to take care of his ailing mother. The film, which will be released in September, is a beautifully written piece of tragicomedy that didn't leave a dry eye in the venue.