FilmOut, San Diego’s LGBTQ Film Festival, Opens Thursday Night
Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Joe Ferrelli, FilmOut founder
Beth Accomando, KPBS film critic
FilmOut, San Diego’s LGBTQ film festival celebrates its 20th anniversary Thursday evening. Let's take a look back to its roots as well as this year's films.
FilmOut opens Thursday with a comedy called “Ideal Home” in which Steve Coogan plays a gay man who suddenly discovers he has a grandson. Paul Rudd plays his spouse and business partner.
The film screens with a pair of shorts, “Turn It Around” from the Netherlands, and “Femme” from the U.S. All are West Coast premieres.
FilmOut San Diego has been celebrating films made by, for and about the LGBTQ community for two decades. But what people might not remember is that the festival began as a thesis project by Joe Ferrelli at San Diego State University.
“My actual thesis was about exploring a gay sensibility and not particularly in only gay films throughout the history of American cinema. So that’s what led to creating this FilmOut, because at that time San Diego did not have any kind of gay film fest,” Ferrelli said from his home in Buffalo, New York.
Ferrelli recalled seeing Terence Davies’ film “Distant Voices, Still Lives” at the Telluride Film Festival and being struck by the fact that he felt the film had a gay sensibility although there was nothing overtly gay in the story. Then filmmaker Davies came out after the film and began his Q&A by introducing himself as a gay filmmaker. This made Ferrelli interesting in things like the films of old time studio director George Cukor who was not openly gay in Hollywood but made films such as “The Woman,” “Camille,” and “Adam’s Rib” that Ferrelli felt revealed some kind of gay sensibility.
Unlike many of the other gay film festivals, Filmout was started more out of Ferrelli’s love of cinema than out of strictly political or social interests. As LGBTQ themes are become more prevalent and accepted in Hollywood films, Ferrelli said the festival has changed and evolved but he feels there is still a need for it.
“I think it is still important to still have this kind of community for people, especially younger people, who might not otherwise be in a community with gay people or even be in social situations, so it gives them a place to go other than the bars, so the idea was to give people a place to go,” Ferrelli said.
Ferrelli pushed people’s buttons in the early days with films that did not always meet audience’s expectations about what images of gays should be on the screen or even about what qualifies as a film. An experimental film called “Flaming Creatures” sent filmgoers running for the exit.
Ferrelli recalled that audiences complained about films like “Flaming Creatures” because “they weren’t always positive images but they were important images, not everything purports to represent an entire community. I think going off on those little tangents is helpful and enlightening for some.”
This year controversy has come up for festival programmer Michael McQuiggan about his closing night film “Anything.” The film stars John Carroll Lynch and Matt Bomer as a recently widowed man who forms a friendship with a transgender woman (played by Bomer).
Some in the San Diego trans community have asked for the film to be pulled because a cisgender actor is playing a trans character.
Kylene Kristen Steele is a trans woman who was brought in by producer Louis Runge and filmmaker Timothy McNeil to help work on the script. She worked as a consultant and producer on the film and defended the choice of Bomer to play the character of Freda.
“It’s an indie, it’s not like a big studio production,” Steel said. “The facts are this. We don’t really have that many trans actors and actresses out there that are known. We didn’t start coming into light until about two years ago really, in terms of getting the respect we needed or the acknowledgment that we are in society and we have always been here and now we are finally getting our turn at the wheel of social acceptance. It would have been great to have a trans actress in it, don’t get me wrong. We would love it but the business side of Hollywood is that you can’t get a film made without a star and Matt Bomer was the star and we already predetermined that he was going to be the lead.”
But Steele did try to bring in trans performers elsewhere.
“I said we need more trans people in this and we had trans actors and actresses, we had Christmas [played by Roxy Wood] and we had Belinda [played by Gia Ryan]. I think if you think you can play Albert Einstein and you are a man or you’re a woman or you are trans you should be able to audition for it. Actors channel and pretend to be someone that they are not and they became the character and if we say if you are trans you can only play trans characters that is just submitting to society’s social constructs again because you are limiting yourself once again.”
McQuiggan points to other films in the festival line up that he said are trans themed or featuring trans actors: “Mrs. McCutcheon,” “For A Change,” “Golden Boy,” “Something About Alex,” “Freelancer's Anonymous” and “Femme.”
“I also suggest that if you are trans and do not feel represented, go out and write a script, crowdfund it and make it. The tools are more readily at your disposal now and then you can submit it to the festival," McQuiggan said.
FilmOut, San Diego’s LGBTQ film festival celebrates its 20th anniversary Thursday evening. Look back to its roots as well as this year's films.
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