An important platform for LGBTQ+ cinema, Outfest is one of the more unusual film festivals out there because it programmes and supports new content all year round, but each July it brings together a selection of its best discoveries to screen in Los Angeles. This is the event we cover at Eye For Film, and as we look forward to it starting on 15 July, we’ve been putting together our own highlights list to help you think about what to watch there. If you can’t attend in person, some of the films are available online, and we expect to see a lot of them emerging into cinemas around the world over the coming months.
Trust issues, career pressures and the challenges of coming to terms with being different are all explored in Alli Haapasalo’s subtly crafted coming of age film, but not necessarily in the ways you’d expect. It follows mall worker Mimmi (Aanu Milonoff) and promising ice skater Emma (Linnea Leino) as they tentatively embark on a relationship, along with their friend Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen), who wants companionship but is struggling with the fact that she doesn’t know what turns her on. Although it deals with some painful experiences, this is a warm and sometimes very funny film about the joys of friendship and getting into the swing of life.
Pat Rocco Dared Photo: Courtesy of Inside Out
One of the standout documentaries of the year, this film tells the story of Pat Rocco, who came of age in the 1950s and never even contemplated life in the closet. Spontaneous, warm hearted and larger than life, he was too much for homophobes to handle, so while others were living in fear he was living his best life, becoming a pioneer of queer film. Sultry and erotic but, as its is phrased here, nothing you wouldn’t want your mother to see, these films were among the first to show gay men in happy romantic relationships, with positive stories in which nobody died, and they had a transformational effect on audiences. Pat gives his last ever interview here and it’s a wonderful tribute.
You Can Live Forever Photo: Gayle Ye
Life is a little more downbeat in this thoughtful little independent film, as heroine Jaime (Anwen O’Driscoll) is sent off to stay with her aunt after the death of her father. This means finding her feet in a Jehovah’s Witness community, and it’s there that she meets Marike (June Laporte), a deeply religious girl who will nonetheless fall hard for her. The religious people presented here are never monstrous and Jaime is never put under pressure to convert, which leaves the film room to explore Marike’s internal conflicts as she feels she has to choose between love and eternal life, while we also see the subtler ways in which religious homophobia and control of women’s lives can do damage.
Uýra, The Rising Forest
Art documentaries are not everybody’s thing, but even if you’ve never intentionally engaged with such material before, this is a film which will wow you. It’s a portrait of a non-binary ecologist living in Brazil who uses performance art to explore her indigenous roots and to address issues around climate change and the need to save the rainforests. Uýra’s performances, which make stunning use of costume and movement, are astonishing to watch, but so is the way that she empowers other people to express themselves and to connect with the world around them in new ways, as part of a radical reconnection with traditional ways of relating to nature which have real political power.
Matthew Jeffers and Sarah Hay in Unidentified Objects
A modest little film made for next to no money, this is the story of a lonely gay dwarf driving his vivacious but troubled sex worker neighbour cross country so she can keep an appointment with aliens he doesn’t believe in. It sounds simple, albeit unlikely, but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface in what feels like it could become one of the year’s big sleeper hits. It’s garnering great word of mouth wherever it screens, to the delight of the director and cast, with a blend of absurdist humour and natural warmth which make it a joy to watch. Odd incidents along the way combine with an unlikely friendship to take all of those involved to unexpected places.
By Hook Or By Crook
By Hook Or By Crook
Alongside all these great new films, there are older ones worthy of attention amongst the festival’s retrospectives, and none more so than this 2001 indie gem. A bold experiment from completely untrained writers/directors/starts Harry Dodge and Silas Howard (both of whom have gone on to enjoy creative success), it tells the story of two young transmasculine people surviving on the margins in the big city, through scams and petty theft. Never explaining, never apologising, it’s a raw and immersive portrait of life on the margins which is nevertheless full of joy, turning stereotypes upside down. It’s every bit as powerful today as it was when first made.
Outfest Los Angeles runs from 14 to 24 July.