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FilmOut Presents Short Fest

San Diego’s LGBTQ film festival focuses on smaller event while reorganizing

Photo credit: Jonathan Hammond

Sam Ginn stars as the title character in Jonathan Hammond's "Kathy."

FilmOut, San Diego’s LGBTQ Film Festival, is taking a year off for some reorganization and to find a new venue. But in place of the annual film festival you can enjoy a night of LGBTQ short films this Wednesday at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas.

Michael McQuiggan has been programming at FilmOut for the bulk of its two decades. But celebrating the 20th anniversary of San Diego’s LGBTQ film festival last year was a lot of work for the non-profit.

"We decided to take a break from the festival because frankly we were all a little bit burned out especially me after 17 years and the 20th anniversary we decided that it would be best for us to restructure our board bring in some new blood and figure out fundraising techniques," McQuiggan said.

In addition, the festival’s venue of The Observatory in North Park had been sold and FilmOut would have needed to secure a new location for a festival this year, which was daunting. But McQuiggan is happy to announce that the full festival will be back and better in 2020.

"So, we're going to expand to four days. So in 2020 our opening night will be April 30 at the at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park and then the rest of the weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be at MOPA (Museum of Photographic Arts)," McQuiggan said.

But McQuiggan didn’t want to go a two years without showcasing new LGBTQ films in San Diego so this Wednesday FilmOut will host Short Fest.

One of the 20 films showcased in the two-part collection is titled “Kathy” and was directed by San Diego filmmaker Jonathan Hammond.

"I would say that 'Kathy' is a dark comedy with a true story source and it's about the trauma of being a gay kid being raised in a household with stringent religiosity," Hammond explained.

And the occasional exorcism in the living room. Hammond is part of a growing wave of gay filmmakers who feel inspired to work within genres such as horror to explore themes that are important to them. That’s very different from the kinds of films showcased in the early years of the festival says Hammond.

"Initially it was stories about where we were and just trying to see ourselves and now we get to show ourselves in much more nuanced ways," Hammond said. "We get to see ourselves in stories where there is horror. We're getting to see ourselves in more complicated settings and where the characters can be far more nuanced. And that’s what's very exciting and what I'm really proud about how our community has evolved in society."

Photo credit: January Jones

January Jones' "Lone Wolf" to to young girls and sleepover culture.

FilmOut is also seeing more women filmmakers and this year McQuiggan is excited to showcase not just female but international directors. January Jones is both. The Australian filmmaker is thrilled to be having the world premiere of her film “Lone Wolf” at FilmOut’s Short Fest on Wednesday.

"I think as a filmmaker and as a queer woman being part of this community is really important to me and I particularly chose film festivals that supported LGBTQ people and women," Jones explained by phone from her home in Melbourne.

Jones’ debut film looks to a girls’ sleepover and the particular awkwardness a shy girl can feel as she tries to fit in. Jones is a journalist who decided to go back to school to study film. When she began writing the film she was in complete denial that it was about her own life.

"It was only when I was in preproduction and I kind of started thinking back to being a young woman myself and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, it's me.' So many similarities that I just didn't even think of when I was writing and thank God I didn't because I would have been so much more self-conscious in the writing process if I was looking at it like myself. But yeah there's a lot more of me in it that I thought of when I wrote it at the time," Jones said.

It’s that sense of identification that makes the film appealing. Jones uses comedy and a wonderful sense of compassion to make audiences identify with the young characters and what they are going through. And that’s one of her goals, to combine a very personal perspective with something universal that everyone can connect to.

"It's important to me to always have LGBTQ characters in anything I make," Jones said. "And I just want them to have human moments that anyone could have and anyone can relate to. Everyone knows what it is to feel awkward, to feel uncomfortable, to feel like they don't fit in. That's not that's not a queer feeling, anyone can feel like that."

FilmOut has been working for 20 years to showcase films by, for and about the LGBTQ community and to share those perspectives with a broader audience. The pleasure of a short film festival is that you can sample a diverse array of genres, styles, and perspectives all in one night.

Short Fest begins at 7 p.m. and the programming is broken into two sections, each requiring a separate admission, or you can buy a ticket for the entire night of films.

FilmOut, San Diego’s LGBTQ Film Festival, is taking a year off for some reorganization and to find a new venue. But in place of the annual film festival you can enjoy a night of LGBTQ short films this Wednesday at Landmark's Hillcrest Cinemas.

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