Pride month is over, but L.A. cinema isn’t finished celebrating LGBT life. Outfest, one of the country’s oldest queer film festivals, kicks off Thursday, July 9 for more than a week of films about experiences gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and everything between or beyond. There’s something for everyone at the fest, even if you’re as heteronormative as they come (though obviously you’ll need an open mind). Here are nine things you can’t miss:
Addicted to Fresno
Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, and Aubrey Plaza star in this dark comedy from director Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader). Greer plays a sex addict who joins her sister (Lyonne) on a hotel housekeeping staff. We’re hoping the film will cement Greer’s leading lady capabilities; if nothing else, it will be a satisfying corrective to recent blockbusters (Jurassic World, for example) in which her immense talent is stifled by the bit parts she’s given.
Best of Enemies
In 1968, ABC took the unprecedented step of airing a series of live political debates between two public intellectuals. The combatants were liberal gay writer Gore Vidal and hardline conservative William F. Buckley. This documentary explores the vast differences and surprising similarities between their formidable but diametrically-opposed minds. It was a favorite for many at Sundance.
Born in Flames
Part of the “legacy” section of the festival, this cult hit from 1983 is a ruthless feminist manifesto disguised as a mockumentary. In a future, socialist U.S., a wave of radical female activists launch a revolution. Fed up with continual institutional misogyny, racism, and homophobia, they take direct action to a whole new level.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
Director Peter Greenaway, who rose to prominence during the brief period in which art films were somewhat fashionable (think The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover), has since returned to happily making whatever he feels like in relative obscurity. His latest film is an unusual biopic of legendary Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein (The Battleship Potemkin). This film has garnered controversy in Russia for claiming that Eisenstein embarked on a gay love affair while on vacation in Mexico. Fact? Fiction? It’s beside the point with this experimental narrative.
A Gay Girl in Damascus: The Amina Profile and The Cult of JT LeRoy
These two documentaries both unpack prominent hoaxes that rocked their respective communities. “Gay Girl in Damascus” was the popular blog of a Syrian lesbian commenting on the 2011 Syrian uprising. JT LeRoy was a literary rock star whose past stayed shrouded in mystery. Both of them were elaborate personas put on by straight people. With these films, we can learn the full and strange stories behind the deceptions.
Kristen Wiig plays a woman who agrees to be a surrogate for her two best friends who are trying to have a baby. What seems like a conventional setup gets severely upended midway through, with a dark twist that left Sundance audiences gobsmacked. Director Sebastian Silva tends to eschew traditional story routes, and this tale is no different.
A Sinner in Mecca
Every Muslim who is able must make at least one pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca in their lifetime. What’s it like to take such a journey when you’re gay, especially since homosexuality is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia? What’s it like to take such a journey with a camera in tow when filming is forbidden in the country? Director Parvez Sharma answers both questions with this documentary, in which he reveals how he lives as both a gay man and a devout Muslim.
Standup comic Tig Notaro broke out in a big way after her incredible show put a humorous spin on a slew of personal tragedies (chief among them getting breast cancer right after the death of her mother). Notaro’s friend Kristina Goolsby directs this biographical documentary about the buildup and aftermath of that pivotal set. What happens after you’ve survived so much and are faced with forging ahead into the future?