By Jim Farmer
Photo: PR, IMDB
One of the first things people ask me when the Out On Film schedule is announced each year is – what should I see? That’s a tough question. I like to think all our offerings are my babies. I’m fiercely protective of all of them. I think this year’s line-up of 128 films (and a staged reading) is extremely eclectic.
Some of this year’s best films look back at the ‘70s and ‘80s. “1985” is an excellent drama about a young man (Corey Michael Smith of “Gotham”) who visits home during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. It’s a subtle, heartbreaking work also starring Virginia Madsen, Michael Chiklis, and Jamie Chung. “Studio 54” takes a look at the infamous New York nightclub that hosted every A-lister imaginable, as well as its co-owners, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two friends from Brooklyn. “Doctor Who’s” Matt Smith (in a remarkable performance) appears in “Mapplethorpe,” about the legendary gay photographer who pushed the boundaries with his bold work. In “Canary,” a young man from South Africa, circa 1985, who worships Boy George joins the military as part of the South African Defense Force Choir and Concert group.
As with “Mapplethorpe,” real life subjects come into play with Rupert Everett playing Oscar Wilde in “The Happy Prince” and Molly Shannon portraying Emily Dickinson in “Wild Nights With Emily,” albeit a Dickinson we’ve never seen before. In “Larger than Life – the Kevyn Aucoin Story,” Cher, Isaac Mizrahi and supermodels galore remember the revolutionary make-up artist, while “The Ice King” looks at the life of John Curry, the first openly gay ice skater.
The Sexy Factor
A lot of people want to know what the sexy factor is. “Mario” (sponsored by Peach ATL) follows the plight of two soccer players who become roommates (and more) and asks the question if love is allowed in a macho sports zone. “A Moment in the Reeds” follows an unforgettable chance encounter over the summer for two men. Paul Rudd playing half of a bickering gay couple in “Ideal Home” is unexpectedly sexy. “Hippopotamus” and “Penis Poetry” are both part of the Sexy Silly Scary Funny program and neither skimp on full frontals, while “Hard Paint’s” central figure is a socially repressed young man who becomes extroverted in chat rooms as he paints his body with neon. “Sodom” pits the handsome Jo Weil with Pip Brignail in the tale of a one night encounter.
The most unexpected theme this year is horror. In “Good Manners,” a lonely nurse from the outskirts of Sao Paulo comes to work for a wealthy woman, serving as the nanny for her unborn child. Things take a major twist in this unpredictable gothic, lesbian werewolf movie. Out On Film’s first ever, Horror Night features two films and a series of shorts. “What Keeps You Alive” is a thriller about a married female couple who visit a cabin in the woods to celebrate one year together. It turns out that one of the women is not who she claims to be. In “Devil’s Path,” prolific gay actor Matt Montgomery turns to directing in a suspenseful story of two men who get caught up in a murder in a gay cruising park.
Lovers of the theater will cotton to “Every Act of Life,” about legendary playwright Terrence McNally, the man behind such shows as “Love! Valour! Compassion” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” It’s enjoyable with interviews with the likes of Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, Edie Falco, and Nathan Lane. Theater lovers will also enjoy a special event at Out On Film this year – a staged reading of the play “The Laramie Project” directed by Chad Darnell and featuring an all-star cast including Stephen Moyer of “The Gifted” and “True Blood,” and Randy Havens from “Stranger Things.”
Dramas with big hearts include “After Forever,” in which Mitchell Anderson returns to acting, the lovely “Friends in Law” and “Evening Shadows,” both of which feature mother figures who are unforgettable. For the ladies, there’s the nostalgic “Snapshots” and the award-winning “For Izzy.” “Riot” looks at a StoneWall-esque moment in Australia, while “Dykes, Camera Action” is an adorable documentary in which female filmmakers look at their queer identity through film.
Terrific trans features include local director T. Cooper’s “Man Made,” “TransMilitary,” a look at the personal and professional crises of four transgender individuals in the military, the haunting “Call Her Ganda,”about a mother’s fight to see the man who killed her transgender daughter get the jail time he deserves, the infectiously entertaining “TransGreek,” and “Venus,” about a transgender man who realizes he has a son. History buffs should love “ Cherry Grove Stories” and “50 Years of Fabulous” and drag is a huge part of “The Queens” and “Tucked.”
Need some laughs? Try the farcical “My Big Gay Italian Wedding.” “Freelancers Anonymous” is a screwball comedy about a woman who quits her job and joins forces with a ragtag team, all while juggling wedding plans with her girlfriend. “Two in the Bush – A Love Story” finds a recently dumped woman finding herself drawn to both a man and a woman who are themselves a couple, while “Ideal Home” has some broad, bawdy moments. “Femme” from Best of Men’s Shorts is a hysterical look at labels and self-esteem.
A full list can be found on www.outonfilm.org.
JJim Farmer is the festival director of Out On Film and has been coordinating the film festival since 2008. He is a graduate of University of Georgia, and also works as an arts and entertainment writer.