Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Another Outfest has come to an end and I think it was a very strong year for the festival, particularly with documentaries. I never seem to see as many films that I would've liked but what I did manage to get to, I was quite impressed.

First, here is a list of award winners from this year's festival:

Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature Film:  
REACHING FOR THE MOON, Directed by Bruno Barreto

Audience Award for Outstanding First U.S. Dramatic Feature Film:
GEOGRAPHY CLUB, Directed by Gary Entin

Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film:
WINI + GEORGE, Directed by Benjamin Monie

Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film:   
BRIDEGROOM, Directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film:
FACING FEAR, Directed by Jason Cohen

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature Film:
TEST, Directed by Chris Mason Johnson

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting:
Chris Mason Johnson, TEST

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film:    

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film:  
Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda, PIT STOP (tie)

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Experimental Short Film:  
SHE GONE ROGUE, Directed by Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film:  
PERFORMING GIRL, Directed by Crescent Diamond

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film:
GOING SOUTH, Directed by Leesong Hee-il

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film:  
BORN THIS WAY, Directed by Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullman

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature Film:
IT'S ALL SO QUIET, Directed by Nanouk Leopold

Special Programming Award for Freedom: 
DEEPSOUTH, Directed by Lisa Biagiotti

Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement:
ANIMALS, Directed by Marçal Forés

Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent:
Diego Ruiz, Writer/Director/Actor, IGLOO

Now, to some of the films I did check out; "Concussion" follows Abby (Robin Weigert), a bored and sexually frustrated lesbian housewife who lives a very comfortable life with her partner and children. An accident caused by a flying baseball to the head releases the strong desires long held within Abby. While renovating their investment property in the city, Abby decides to take advantage of the place and hires a call girl with unsatisfactory results. Her contractor not only introduces Abby to a better quality of working girl but soon leads her to spending many days of the week turning female-only tricks herself. While this film by writer/director Stacie Passon is pure fantasy and slightly preposterous but it's fun and very sexy with some strong performances, most especially by Ms Weigert.

"Continental" is the latest documentary by the 2006 Outfest Grand Jury Prize winner, Malcolm Ingram that tells the story of Steve Ostrow, who opened the notorious Continental Baths in New York along with his wife in 1968. The not-exactly straight Ostrow brought a safe and clean environment just in time for the newly sexually liberated gay man. The frustrated opera singer also thought that entertainment should be a part of the club and it's well known that Bette Midler and Barry Manilow were discovered there but established artists such as Sarah Vaughan and Labelle made appearances to perform before the towel clad. Even Mick Jagger and Johnny Carson popped in to "catch" the shows. This fascinating film interviews former employees, patrons and performers such as Sarah Dash of Labelle who all share their remembrances of the short-lived bathhouse. It's a breezy affair that takes us back to a carefree sexual wonderland before AIDS would forever alter the world. The only downside is that there isn't much footage of the performers on stage and what's available is far too brief and not in great condition.

Finally, "God Loves Uganda", the disturbing but highly insightful documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker, Roger Ross Williams covers how American evangelicals decided to spread their dangerous message of intolerance towards the LGBT community in the African nation. After these religious ideas take a stronghold over Uganda, the country formed legislation that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. However, there are vocal opponents in Uganda who see through their destructive agenda including Bishop Christopher Senyonjo who risks excommunication as well as possible death to speak out against them. This immensely powerful film will most certainly put a frightening chill through you but it will also make you quite angry and serves as a sad reminder that we still have a very long way to go.