This weekend's tenth-anniversary celebration in Los Angeles of the Outfest Fusion Film Festival will incorporate some of the best representations of LGBT people of color not only of last year but of the last 30+ years. As the only multicultural platform of its kind, Outfest Fusion has grown from a mere festival into a full-fledged film development program that nurtures emerging artists and their projects.
One such artist, writer-director-producer Angela Robinson, will be honored with the 2013 Fusion Achievement Award on Saturday. Robinson's short film D.E.B.S., about a team of schoolgirl super-spies battling lesbian villainesses, was expanded into a hit 2004 feature. She subsequently became the first out lesbian to direct a Disney family comedy, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and has more recently helmed episodes of The L Word, True Blood and Hung.
A special retrospective of short films made in the last ten years and dealing with multicultural LGBT themes will kick off the festival tonight. Among these are such gems as 2009's The Queen, about a gay Korean-American teenager fantasizing about his ideal prom date; Julian Breece's unforgettable The Young and Evil, in which a troubled gay black teen tries to seduce an HIV+ prevention advocate; and Marlon Riggs' classic, poetic documentary from 1990, Affirmations.
Also on Friday night, Fusion digs even further into the past to showcase one of the first feature films to deal with the often conjoined issues of race and sexuality, Fame. This Oscar-winning musical, directed by Alan Parker, is set in New York's High School for the Performing Arts. It launched the careers of Irene Cara, Debbie Allen, Barry Miller and Boyd Gaines as well as a TV series and Broadway musical (and spawned a less successful 2009 remake). Paul McCrane is memorable as Montgomery, a gay teen struggling to come out of the closet.
The fest is carrying over several acclaimed standouts from Outfest 2012 including the teen lesbian tale Mosquita y Mari, Quentin Lee's White Frog and the engrossing doc Audre Lord - The Berlin Years. I've more recently seen and highly recommend My Brother the Devil, which won awards at last year's Sundance Film Festival as well as at Outfest. This excellent drama by Sally El Hosaini centers on two brothers of Arab-Muslim descent living with their parents in modern-day London. Mo (short for Mohammed and played by Fady Elsayed) is the younger of the two as well as a good student and the "good boy." Older brother Rashid (a strong performance by the handsome James Floyd) runs with a local gang and deals drugs.
The good son/bad son table starts to turn, though, as Rashid begins to question his sexuality while Mo also joins the gang and starts dealing. Although he has a girlfriend, Rashid takes a job as a gay photographer's assistant (in an effort to go straight, professionally speaking) and is soon sleeping with his boss. El Hosaini, in addition to having a great ear for contemporary street talk, handles the various volatile relationships within My Brother the Devil with intelligence and sensitivity. David Raedeker's lensing is superb and deservedly snagged Sundance's World Cinema Cinematography Award.
I rate the film an A-. But don't despair if you are unable to make it to the Fusion screening: My Brother the Devil will be released theatrically in L.A. and the U.S. beginning April 5th. For more information about the fest, visit the Outfest Fusion website
There are a slew of other intriguing and/or noteworthy indie movies opening in LA this weekend, so many that I couldn't screen them all in time. Be on the lookout though for The Happy Poet, in which a Texas bohemian works to open what may be the world's first vegan hot dog stand; Come Out and Play, a creepy remake of the 1976 Spanish film El Juego de Ninos about a couple vacationing in Mexico who run up against some killer kids (it is also currently available on VOD); Bob's New Suit, a romantic-comedy featuring a Trans character and a turn by gay actor Jack Larson (aka Jimmy Olsen on the old Adventures of Superman TV series); Dorfman in Love, starring the fabulous Sara Rue (Gypsy 83 and currently the best thing about TV's Malibu Country) as a woman cat-sitting for the guy she's crushing on; and, best of all, Hunky Dory, featuring Minnie Driver as a high-school drama teacher in 1976 who inspires her students to perform a glam-rock musical version of The Tempest!
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.