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Posted: June 3rd, 2016 | Arts & Entertainment, Feature, Featured | No Comments

FilmOut’s LGBT Film Festival is ready for prime time

By Ken Williams | Contributing Editor

If you like to laugh, FilmOut San Diego has something for you. If you like to cry at the movies, bring your tissues. And if you like films that are moody or dramatic, that’s on the festival program, too.

The 18th annual San Diego LGBT Film Festival returns Friday through Sunday, June 3 – 5, at the Observatory North Park, located at 2891 University Ave.

Director Casper Andreas snagged both the Opening Night (“Kiss Me, Kill Me”) and Closing Night (“Flatbush Luck”) films. The former is a film noir with a gay murder twist and the latter is a mainstream romantic comedy with a “coming out” subplot.

SDUN_060316_Film-Out-ImagewebMichael McQuiggan, FilmOut’s longtime programming director, chose 37 full-length and short films for the 2016 festival — out of more than 900 entries from around the world. It’s a daunting task to produce a final lineup.

“It’s difficult at times, because we have to turn down several really good films each year,” McQuiggan said. “However, we do manage to screen a few of them during our monthly screenings throughout the year.

There really isn’t a formula or specific “criteria” for choosing the films for the annual festival, McQuiggan said.

“We are constantly looking at other LGBT film festivals throughout the year and of course check out the films selected for Berlin, London and Sundance,” he said. “Filmmakers find us now since FilmOut is in a major LGBT film festival database.

“Short films are definitely more difficult to select — especially when you receive 700 of them,” he continued. “So hundreds of LGBT short films slip through the cracks. We could literally have an LGBT Short Film Festival and still not have enough room to screen them all.”

After 17 years, FilmOut has become special to a number of filmmakers, such as Andreas, whose films have been showcased at the festival for more than a decade. Board members regularly get highly positive feedback from filmmakers who attend the festival.

“We are a low-maintenance festival and we treat our filmmakers/talent exceptionally well — hotel rooms, air/travel for spotlight films, additional comp tickets, etc.,” McQuiggan said. “LGBT filmmakers talk [about the festivals they attend] and I have had dozens of messages each festival from filmmakers telling me specifically how well-respected FilmOut is as an LGBT film festival.”

A few years ago, FilmOut slimmed the festival down to only three days.

“Theater rental cost was a deciding factor,” McQuiggan said. “Ideally, FilmOut should be four days: Opening Night on a Thursday, then two movies on Friday evening and all day the rest of the weekend. Adding Thursday would allow us to add two more features that we normally have to pass on.

“As of right now, I am OK with a three-day streamlined festival,” he added. “Our festival is too big for Hazard Center in Mission Valley and Hillcrest Landmark Cinema. They only have 100-150 seats in their theaters. Some of our films draw 750 people. Observatory North Park or Ken Cinema are our only options. We will definitely expand for our 20th anniversary — the number of days to be determined.”

Scene from “Shared Rooms,” the Boys Centerpiece showing at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 4 (Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

Scene from “Shared Rooms,” the Boys Centerpiece showing at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 4
(Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

But McQuiggan is getting ahead of himself. What about the 2016 festival?

“The selections this year were pretty much dark in tone — ‘Kiss Me, Kill Me,’ ‘Paris 05:59 (Theo and Hugo),’ToY,’ ‘Downriver’ and ‘Closet Monster’ — or rom-coms, ‘Coming In,’ ‘Shared Rooms,’ ‘S&M Sally,’ ‘Front Cover’ and ‘Flatbush Luck,’” McQuiggan said.

“There really was no middle ground. There were a few more outstanding documentaries to include, but simply no room,” he added. “And documentaries that play at FilmOut are a tough sell, unless they are about a celebrity, like ‘Tab Hunter Confidential’; contain risqué themes such as ‘Interior Leather Bar’; are socially relevant like ‘In The Turn’; or are about our history, as in this year’s ‘Upstairs Inferno.’”

In all, the film festival will showcase two world premieres, six U.S. premieres and four West Coast premieres.

Here is the schedule of events for the festival:

FRIDAY, JUNE 3

  • 7 p.m. — Opening Night film and after-party

“Kiss Me, Kill Me” (U.S.)

Directed by Casper Andreas

California premiere

Screenwriter David Michael Barrett (“Such Good People”) and director Casper Andreas (“Going Down in LA-LA Land”) team up for a gay twist on the classic film noir set in L.A.

Van Hansis (“As The World Turns”) stars as Dusty and Gale Harold (“Queer As Folk”) as his wealthy boyfriend Stephen. After angrily confronting his cheating boyfriend, Dusty blacks out and wakes up in the middle of a murder scene. His nightmare only gets worse as he becomes the prime suspect.

The stellar cast includes Brianna Brown, Yolonda Ross, Jai Rodriguez, Matthew Ludwinski, Kit Williamson, D.J. “Shangela” Pierce, Allison Lane, Jackie Monahan, Craig Robert Young, Michael Maize and Jonathan Lisecki.

Shown with a 15-minute short film, “B” (Germany), directed by Kai Stanicke. The West Coast premiere is the story of “B,” who is torn between a loveless relationship with “K” and her feelings for another woman.

Tickets cost $30 for the Opening Night film and the after-party at the Sunset Temple.

SATURDAY, JUNE 4

  • 11 a.m. — Best of LGBT Shorts

Short 1: “The Tormentors” (Australia), directed by Darren L. Downs (16 minutes)

Short 2: “Wedlocked” (U.S.), directed by Puppett (11 minutes)

Short 3: “Back Again (De Vuelta)” (Spain), directed by Gabriel Dorado (13 minutes)

Short 4: “The Future Perfect” (Canada), directed by Nick Citton (12 minutes)

Short 5: “Girl Night Stand” (U.S.), directed by Jenna Laurenzo (9 minutes)

Short 6: “Vessels” (U.S.), directed by Arkasha Stevenson (15 minutes)

Short 7: “Buddy” (Netherlands), directed by Niels Bourgonje (11 minutes)

Short 8: “Spare Parts” (U.S.), directed by Yasmin All-Manaseer (7 minutes)

Short 9: “Spoken In Jest” (Mexico), directed by Rolando Trevino (5 minutes)

Short 10: “My Life Is A Dream” (U.S.), directed by Brian Benson (9 minutes)

Tickets for the 10 short films cost $10.

  • 1:15 p.m. — Girls Centerpiece

“ToY” (U.S.)

Directed by Patrick Chapman

Southern California premiere

Briana Evigan plays Chloe, a young, wealthy, talented but naïve artist whose newest artwork leads her to a beautiful, aging call girl named Kat (Kerry Norton). As each woman fights their own personal demons, they begin to grasp on to each other. It’s a story of second chances and the desperation to survive.

Shown with two 7-minute shorts: “Blind Date” (U.S.), directed by Adrienne Lovette, in its world premiere; “Partners” (U.S.), directed by Joey Ally, has its West Coast premiere.

Tickets cost $10.

  • 3:30 p.m. — Festival Spotlight

“Upstairs Inferno” (U.S.)

Directed by Robert L. Camina

This powerful documentary examines the true story of the largest gay mass murder in U.S. history. On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the stairwell leading up to the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans. Within minutes, patrons were trapped in the raging inferno and behind barred windows.

While a few heroes led some of the patrons to safety, 32 people could not escape the flames and perished. Camina, the Texas filmmaker who made the outstanding “Raid On The Rainbow Lounge” previously shown at FilmOut, interviewed emotional survivors, relatives and friends who condemn the callous behavior of the city’s police and fire departments, and its churches that refused to conduct funerals for homosexuals, and the media that barely acknowledged the horrible tragedy. To this day, no one has been convicted of the crime.

Shown with a 10-minute short, “Intrinsic Moral Evil” (Netherlands), directed by Harm Weistra.

Tickets cost $10.

  • 5:45 p.m. — Bisexuality Showcase

“Coming In” (Germany)

Directed by Marco Kreuzpainter

West Coast premiere

Kostja Ullmann portrays Tom Herzner, a notoriously hip hair stylist in Berlin who is viewed as a role model for the gay community. But things get complicated in this sophisticated comedy when Tom finds himself attracted to Heidi (Aylin Tezel), a sassy but unpretentious — and straight — hairdresser who runs an edgy salon.

Shown with an 11-minute short, “The Memory of You” (Sweden), directed by Nils Asen and having its U.S. premiere.

Tickets cost $10

  • 8 p.m. — Boys Centerpiece

“Shared Rooms” (U.S.)

Directed by Rob Williams

U.S. premiere

This romantic comedy looks at the meaning of home and family through three interrelated stories of gay men finding connections during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Stars Justin Xavier Smith, Eric Allen Smith, Daniel Lipshutz, Robert Werner, Christopher Grant Pearson, Alec Manley Wilson, David Vaught, and Alexander Neil Miller.

Shown with the 15-minute short, “Bed Buddies” (U.S.), directed by Reid Waterer and having its U.S. premiere.

Tickets cost $10.

  • 10 p.m. — The Late Show

“Paris 05:59 (Theo and Hugo)” (France)

Directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau

The extended opening scenes, filmed inside a Parisian sex club, are about as intense and graphic and sexy as a movie can be.

Two young men (Geoffrey Couet and Francois Nambot) lock eyes from across a darkened dungeon, beginning a long night of sex and conversation that leads to totally unexpected places. Couet and Nambot give electrifying performances that are totally believable and rich in depth.

Shown with the 20-minute short, “Sauna The Dead: A Fairy Tale” (U.K.), directed by Tom Frederic and having is U.S. premiere.

Tickets cost $10.

Scene from “Downriver,” showing at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 5 (Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

Scene from “Downriver,” showing at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 5 (Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

SUNDAY, JUNE 5

  • 11 a.m. — International Spotlight

“Downriver” (Australia)

Directed by Grant Scicluna

West Coast premiere

Reef Ireland plays James, a young adult just released from prison after serving time for his involvement in the drowning of a young boy in a river in Australia. Ravaged with uncertainty, dealing with his estranged family and forced to face the dead boy’s mother, James sets off for the river on a journey of self-discovery and a search for the truth. A dark, brooding and intense movie from Down Under.

Shown with two shorts: “Little Elephant” (U.K.), directed by Kate Jessop and having its U.S. premiere; and “Easy: A 3-Minute Love Story” (U.S.), directed by Robert Guthrie.

Tickets cost $10.

  • 1 p.m. — Comedy Showcase
Scene from “S&M Sally,” playing at 1 p.m. Sunday (Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

Scene from “S&M Sally,” playing at 1 p.m. Sunday
(Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

“S&M Sally” (U.S.)

Directed by Michelle Ehlen

Michelle Ehlen plays Jamie, an insecure lesbian who learns that her girlfriend Jill (Jen McPherson) has been going to sex clubs to enjoy BDSM — something she knows nothing about. But Jamie gamely decides to become “Sally” and join Jill on her sexpoits. It’s a hilarious comedy for all audiences.

Shown with two shorts: “Escape” (U.S.), directed by Simha Pradeep Katasani; and “Step” (Sweden), directed by Alva Lindenbaum.

Tickets cost $10.

  • 3 p.m. — Afternoon Showcase

“Closet Monster” (U.S.)

Directed by Stephen Dunn

Connor Jessup plays Oscar Madly, a creative and driven teenager who is unsure of his sexuality and haunted by horrific images of a tragic gay bashing he witnessed as a young boy. Oscar dreams of escaping the small town where he feels he is suffocating and in his fantasy he has created a talking hamster that helps him confront his surreal demons and discover himself.

Shown with the short film “Noam” (Israel), directed by Boaz Foster.

  • 5 p.m. — Asian Showcase

“Front Cover” (U.S.)

Directed by Ray Yeung

Scene from “Front Cover,” showing at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 5 (Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

Scene from “Front Cover,” showing at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 5 (Courtesy of FilmOut San Diego)

Jake Choi stars as Ryan, a New York City fashion stylist who has rejected his Asian upbringing. But an assignment to style a macho-acting but closeted Chinese actor (James Chen) forces him to reexamine his heritage and make a life-changing decision. This comedy/drama is nuanced and charming.

Shown with two short films: “True Colours” (Australia), directed by David Valent with its West Coast premiere; and “Family Values” (U.S.), directed by Val Singhal with its world premiere.

Tickets cost $10.

  • 7 p.m. — Closing Night film

“Flatbush Luck” (U.S.)

Directed by Casper Andreas

West Coast premiere

Tanner Novlan stars as former Wall Street hotshot Jimmy who works alongside his cousin Max (Robby Stahl) as telephone repairmen in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush. Jimmy overhears illegal insider trading and takes advantage of the information to make a killing in the stock market. Meanwhile, Max is engaged to be married to Donna (Jenna Perez), but gets cold feet when a massage by a hunky Latino (Juahn Cabrera) makes him question his sexuality. A terrific movie for all audiences, written by Andreas and James Balletto.

Shown with two shorts: “Lady Of The Night” (France), directed by Laurent Boileau; and “Dinner With Jeffrey” (U.S.), directed by Sam Greisman and having its U.S. premiere.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 2.35.59 PMTickets cost $20 for the Closing Night film and the after-party inside the theater, catered by West Coast Tavern.

—Ken Williams is a contributing editor of Gay San Diego and can be reached at ken@sdcnn.com or at 619-961-1952. He also serves a voluntary position as Film & Media Relations Director for FilmOut San Diego.

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