By Albert H. Fulcher
On May 15, FilmOut San Diego brought its LGBTQ ShortFest to the Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas for a double feature of 20 LGBTQ short films premiering for the first time in San Diego. The two showings included 10 original films in each tract with some Q&A sessions at the end with some of the producers and actors that were able to make the premiere.
All of the screened films exhibited originality, quality and purpose, regardless of their genre or cinematic elements. This was truly a festival of LGBTQ life and brought out a range of emotions from laughter to tears, delight and horror, and each film made you think about circumstances that our community faces today.
Making its California premiere, “Carlito Leaves Forever,” directed by Quentin Lazzarotto, told the story of Carlito, a young man living in an indigenous village in the Amazon jungle. Rejected by his people, he makes the decision to leave the only life he knows to start it with another young man who seems to be in the same position. The story was sad yet touching and the cinematography was stunning as it traveled through the Amazon on the titular character’s journey to freedom.
“Headspace,” directed by Jake Graf from the United Kingdom, was only a 4-minute film, but its impact was strong. This short takes viewers into the minds of transgender people and the fears that they face every day of their lives. Going from character to character, “Headspace” shows what happens when transgender people are faced with no access to a private restroom, when they walk in front of a group of construction workers, and when they are in a locker room and someone else walks in. The short film was so brilliantly composed, that you felt the fear and anxiety.
Directed by Carly Usdin and making its California premiere, “Misdirection” is a sweet story about a college student with obsessive-compulsive disorder crushing on her roommate. It’s entertaining and has some good light comedy as Camilia comes to terms with her own obsessiveness and, by chance, finds a way to deal with the existing problems in her life and move on. That is, with a little help from a street magician.
“Miller & Son,” directed by Asher Jelinsky, tells the story of a trans woman who juggles her life as a daytime mechanic in her father’s shop and her true identity that only emerges at night in clubs. All is well until a co-worker finds her while out at a bachelor party. Faced with being outed to her father, this film embraces the candid concerns of a parent, the struggles of living a double life and the bond of a family.
“Engaged,” directed by David Scala (a San Diego Alumni filmmaker), is about Darren and his boyfriend Elliot. Darren is trying to propose but keeps failing and begins questioning whether it is coincidence or himself that is blocking his path. Darren’s anxiety is humorous in this film as he tries to make everything perfect, but never finds perfection in timing. His insecurities get the best of him most of the time, but fortunately Elliot is loving and understanding. The humor in this film carries the story with a compelling ease and has you rooting for a happily-ever-after ending from the very beginning.
Another San Diego filmmaker Mark Marchillo directs and acts in “Gay Camp.” As cruel as conversion therapy is today, Marchillo, a straight man, came up with the idea of switching societal roles where homosexuality has become the norm and straight kids are sent to camp instead. This film is hysterically funny, and as outrageous as the concepts are in reforming the straight kids, it spotlights how ridiculous current gay conversion therapy is. “Gay Camp” sheds a light on conversion therapy in a comical way, but the subject matter is as serious as it gets.
“Romance Is Dead,” directed by Todd Jackson (San Diego filmmaker), is a dark comedy horror story wherein Donavan turns to his best friend (who is straight) to help him with a crazy scheme to bring his dead lover back to life. The comedy in this film is superb with great timing and storytelling. The addition of presenting it as a partial musical was brilliant and more than just entertaining. Look for this film — it is well worth 13 minutes of amusement over on the dark side.
“Pasos en la Noche,” directed by Daniel Garcia and Maximiliano Garcia (another San Diego film), is about a young man in Tijuana who enters a cumbia dance competition in the hopes of finally getting a dance with a man he has secretly admired and desired. Set in the mid-’80s, this film examines the cultural differences in a Hispanic family, the struggle of coming out of the closet and the desire that compels you to do whatever it takes to live your life as your true self.
“Kathy,” directed by Jonathon Hammond, is described as a “true(ish)” film about a young boy whose mother holds exorcisms in her house on a daily basis. The young boy is struggling with his sexual identity when Kathy shows up and disrupts his mother and her friends with her premonitions and godliness. But the question remains, is she godly or evil? The ending is remarkable and has a connection to the dilema of whether or not to come out of the closet.
FilmOut San Diego provided a night of great entertainment with a little bit of everything that falls in our LGBTQ+ umbrella. This was a stellar selection of films and would love another chance to see them again. Next up for FilmOut is “50 Years of Fabulous,” which recounts the rich history of the oldest LGBT charity organization in the world, the Imperial Court. Showing at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas on Wednesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit filmoutsandiego.com.
— Albert Fulcher is the editor of Gay San Diego, a San Diego Community News Network publication. Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.