Outfest, the Los Angeles-based LGBT film festival founded by UCLA students in 1982, wrapped up earlier this week. Their mission states that the festival, “protects our past, showcases our present and nurtures our future by fostering artistic expression of gender, sexuality and LGBT culture and its transformative social impact on the world.”
Over the 31 years since its founding, Outfest has showcased and publicized thousands of queer-themed films spanning all genres of the film industry. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights in Outfest’s most recent years.
1. Documentary: How to Survive a Plague (2012)
This movie follows the true story of the beginning years of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the efforts of activist organizations ACT UP and TAG. It documents the struggle for equal representation under the government: the U.S. government and the medical establishment put research on AIDS and HIV on hold because of the fact that it seemed to mostly affect gay people and other minorities. With a few awards from various film festivals and a whopping 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this film illustrates both the stark hopelessness of the time when AIDS was first discovered and the long way we’ve managed to come since then.
2. Coming of Age Comedy: Spork (2010)
Spork is about an intersex 14-year-old who identifies as a girl. Unpopular, mistreated by her classmates, and very introverted, Spork has just one friend: her next door neighbor, Tootsie Roll. When Tootsie Roll hurts her ankle and can no longer compete in a dance competition at school, Spork decides to compete instead. While keeping a comedic and light air, the movie deals with issues such as racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and traditional gender roles, creating a perfect blend of fun and a positive message for those who can identify with our loveable protagonist.
3. Science Fiction: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2011)
This witty sci-fi love story follows an interspecies relationship between ordinary (human) shop-keeper Jane and an overemotional alien named Zoinx on a quest to get her heart broken. The film is lighthearted, low-budget, and shot in black and white. This movie’s important because it breaks way out of the shell of the usual queer-themed movies, which normally center around queer-ness. This one is of an unconventional genre and the sexuality of the characters is really secondary to the plot. And with a rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, plus several good reviews by the New York Times and other critical publications, it can definitely be considered a success.
4. Modern Comedy: G.B.F. (2013)
Originating as an idea with an Indiegogo funding campaign, Gay Best Friend, abbreviated G.B.F., is a social commentary about the stereotype surrounding the hype of having a gay best friend. The story is about two best friends, both gay and in-the-closet. When a plan to out one of them and make him the most popular guy at school misfires and outs the other one instead, they go from B.F.F.s to frenemies, and the three most popular girls at school fight over who gets a new G.B.F. With elements of drama, comedy, and the atmosphere of a real cutthroat high school world, G.B.F. was a realistic, if a little outlandish, hit.
5. Foreign Film: El Niño Pez (2009)
This film (The Fish Child in English) is an Argentine drama film about two girls who come from drastically different backgrounds and, unable to find acceptance in their environment for the love between them, commit a crime. It’s based off of a book of the same name, and features many first-time feature film actors and actresses, as well as a fairly new director. Affording opportunities for actors and characters alike, this film proves that the fight for intersectional equality is not limited to America, but can be seen in places all around the world.
All these films were featured at Outfest over the last five years, and they clearly display the variety of queer-themed movies that have become successes in that time. Across genres, casts, and even language barriers, they showcase the fight for equality and the growing number of its supporters.