Thursday, July 23, 2015


So ends another Outfest Film festival and it was another impressive event that brought us LGBT films that inspired, enlightened and empowered. First, here are the big award winners from the fest with "Nasty Baby" by Sebastián Silva taking the top prize of Best Dramatic Feature:

Grand Jury Awards

U.S. Dramatic Feature Film: "Nasty Baby"

Documentary Feature Winner: "A Sinner in Mecca"

Documentary Feature (Special Recognition): "Tchindas"

Actor in a U.S. Dramatic Feature: Curtis Cook Jr and Kerwin Johnson Jr (tie), "Naz and Maalik"

Actress in a U.S. Dramatic Feature: Judy Greer, "Addicted to Fresno"

Screenwriting in a U.S. Dramatic Feature: "Sebastian", Written by Carlos Ciurlizza and Mauricio Hoyos

International Dramatic Feature: "Everlasting Love"

Documentary Short Film: "Brockington"

Experimental Short Film: "The Lamps"

Dramatic Short Film: "Tremulo"

Special Jury Mention:"We Can’t Live Without Cosmos"

Special Programming Awards

Emerging Talent: Hillevi Loven, "Deep Run"

Freedom: Jim Chuchu and the NEST Collective, "Stories Of Our Lives"

Artistic Achievement: Rigoberto Pérezcano, "Carmin Tropical"

Audience Awards:

Dramatic Feature: "Fourth Man Out"

First U.S. Dramatic Feature: "Those People"

Documentary Feature: "The Glamour and the Squalor"

Documentary Short: "A Place in the Middle"

Dramatic Short: "The Letter"

I had an opportunity to see a few of the films this year. "Nasty Baby", which also took the Teddy Award for Best LGBT film at this year's Berlin Film Festival, stars writer/director Sebastián Silva as a gay artist who is trying to have a baby with his single, best friend (Kristen Wiig).  When his low sperm count is discovered, they approach his reluctant partner (Tunde Adebimpe of the band, TV on the Radio) to fill in. I found the film delightfully charming and offbeat until the dark unexpected turn in the final act and the disturbing resolution which left me feeling less than enamored.

Race, religion and sexuality is covered in "Naz and Maalik", the impressive first film by writer/director Jay Dockendorf. Kerwin Johnson Jr. (Naz) and Curtiss Cook Jr. (Maalik) both deserved their shared Best Actor win in this story of two Muslim teenagers in Brooklyn struggling to reconcile their religious beliefs with their blossoming romance. Though there isn't much to the story, it remains effective as we follow the boys spending the day together talking about life, their future college plans and how will they make their relationship work. The film adds the issue of the mistrust between law enforcement and African-Americans but it's handled clumsily and it's inclusion feels unnecessary. There was already plenty of drama to be found in the basic plot.

Mary Agnes Donoghue, the writer of the Bette Midler/Barbara Hershey camp classic, "Beaches", makes her directorial debut with "Jenny's Wedding". Katherine Heigl stars as the title character who wants to finally reveal to her blue-collar family that she's gay. Not only does she tell them but also plans to marry her long-time partner (Alexis Bledel) which causes some serious tension within her family. With a fine cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, stage vet, Linda Emond and Grace Gummer, Ms Donoghue has made a moving, well-written but unremarkable drama. But she shows great promise as a film maker and let's hope she gets another opportunity very soon.

In the documentary, "Best of Enemies", the low-ranked television network, ABC thought it might draw an audience if during the 1968 Presidential conventions they have two politically opposing figures debate the issues live in a series of ten episodes. With William Buckley, Jr., the conservative founder of the National Review and Gore Vidal, the gay, liberal writer of the scandalous novel, "Myra Breckinridge" going head to head in an intellectual battle of the minds, the network had no idea what it was actually getting and how this event would forever alter politics in the media. It was no secret the two men had strongly disliked each other prior to this televised meeting but once their final debate took an ugly, personal turn during the Democratic convention, it would haunt both men, in different ways, for the rest of their lives. This film, co-directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, is equally fascinating and disturbing as it displays the beginning of America's political parties using personal attacks to make their point and how compromise on ideology should never be an option.