Originally published August 19, 2011 at midnight, updated August 20, 2011 at 6 a.m.
FilmOut, San Diego's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender film festival, kicks off its 13th year tonight with "Going Down in La La Land." Here's a preview.
FilmOut is 13 years old and like any teenager, it's showing a little rebel spirit by trying new things. So, for the first time the festival will be held over two consecutive weekends in order to provide more convenient screening times. Another addition is the Lifetime Achievement Award, which will go this year to director Randal Kleiser. He made the groundbreaking 1996 film "It's My Party."
Nick: You better get a test. That flu, wasn't the flu. I got it.
Brandon: You tested positive?
The film was one of the first to deal with AIDS and Kleiser will be on hand Saturday [CORRECTION his film will screen Sunday at 2pm] for a 15th anniversary screening and to receive his award.
Last year the festival drew almost 6000 people and event organizers are hoping to reach 10,000 this year. The festival has come a long way from its roots as the thesis project of SDSU student Joe Ferrelli in 1999. It's been through a lot, even disappearing for a few years before re-launching in 2004. But the goal has remained the same: showcasing films by, for, and about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
Blakk Flamingo Pictures
Founder Ferrelli is a horror fan so he would likely appreciate the addition of horror films in recent years. This year, as with last year's "Zombies of Mass Destruction," the main horror entry is a comedy.
Brewster: What's happening?
Vogel: Oh not much. We're just trapped inside your truck with monster central outside. How are things with you, Mr. Seizure?
The film is"Bite Marks" and it serves up a gay couple working through some relationship issues while fending off a pack of vampires. Gay issues still come up but the film is most fun when director Mark Bessenger is flaunting his geeky knowledge of horror.
Cary: Vampires fear the cross.
Vogel: Not in "Fright Night."
Cary: You had to believe in it.
Vogel: Trust me there's nothing I believe in more right now.
Cary: They might not be able to get in anyway without being invited.
Vogel: That didn't work in "The Return of Count Yorga."
Cary: Of course not, that was American International.
Cary: So each movie makes it own rules none of it is grounded in reality.
As more gay filmmakers produce work, programmers are finding a much broader range of films to choose from. Mateo Guez' "Off World" serves up a search for identity but against the backdrop of one of the Philippines' most notorious slums.
Narrator: Moving closer, the beauty evaporates. The bay is now an open sewer. A toxic pond of junk.
The film feels like a documentary but it's fiction, and Guez endows it with a poetic sensibility, finding beauty in the most unlikely places. Another film that challenges narrative conventions is Joseph Grahm's "Strapped." It begins as a formula gay hustler film but quickly turns surreal as the main character can't find his way out of a building where all the tenants seem to know him.
Gary: I'm sorry. I know you?
Gary: Don't I know you?
Hustler: I don't know man, do you?
Gary: I swear I... are you new to the building? I mean did you just move in?
Hustler: No I was just visiting a friend and can't find my way out of this place it's like a f-cking maze.
Gary: Yeah you know when I first moved in here I thought it was like that hotel in "The Shining." Total labyrinth.
Grahm gives an existential spin to the hustler formula delivering a film that's challenging and engaging. Another film that tries to challenge stereotypes is "A Marine Story." It gives us Alexandra Everett, a female marine returning home.
Man: You lady marines all Semper Fi and sh-t?...
Alexandra: We're just called Marines.
Man: Yeah but you still deal with all that secretarial work right?
Everett has to deal with stereotypes both at home and in the military. The film gets on a soapbox now and again but boasts a lean, focused performance by Dreya Weber as Everett.
Red Road Studio
A father who can't let go of his stereotypes is at the heart of "Gun Hill Road."
Papi: What's up with your hands? Talk like a man. I didn't raise you to be like that.
Michael: You didn't raise me!
Transgender actress Harmony Santana plays the son Michael and delivers a stunning and at times heartrending performance.
And have no fear, the festival also boasts some more frivolous fare with the documentary "Hollywood to Dollywood" about a pair of brothers wanting to pitch a script to Dolly Parton; "Mangus," about a young boy who wants to continue the family tradition of playing Jesus; and the dance film "Leading Ladies" that features a production number in a grocery store.
Tonight the festival will kick off with "Going Down in La La Land," a film that aims to please attendees with a proven mix of humor, drama, hard bodies, and Hollywood silliness.
Candy: I wanted to let you both know I'm getting a slave.
Adam: A what?
Candy: A slave. You know I placed an ad for a quote-unquote sugar daddy, well, someone contacted me about becoming my personal slave.
Adam: And you accepted.
Candy: He's a middle-aged man who gets his thrills out of being dominated by and ordered around by beautiful women.
The films screening at FilmOut reveal the growing diversity of LBGT cinema and that is helping the festival -- and its filmmakers --- to reach beyond the LBGT community.
The festival runs this weekend and next. Check out the myKPBS Film Club later today for a chance to win passes to the festival.