Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reverend's Preview: G.B.F. & More at Outfest

Like its protagonist, an outed gay student who suddenly finds himself sought after by the three most popular girls at his high school to improve their chances of being named prom queen, G.B.F. is becoming a huge hit on the competitive film festival circuit. Darren Stein’s hilarious, politically-incorrect comedy (the title is short for “Gay Best Friend”) won awards at FilmOut San Diego and has been chosen for the Long Beach QFilm Festival, which will run September 6th-8th. It is also being screened July 21st as the high-profile closing night selection at Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival.

“It feels great,” Stein told me about his new film’s reception during an interview last month. “I always knew audiences would love it. It’s great for people to see a mainstream teen comedy with a gay character and have it be so well-received.” G.B.F. is also set for a theatrical and VOD release in December.

Stein, who is out and 41 years old, has previously directed and/or produced the gay-themed films Sparkler and Wild Tigers I Have Known. He is best known though for his critically underrated 1999 movie Jawbreaker, which has become a cult favorite over the years and has been turned into a Broadway-bound stage musical. “We are doing it,” Stein reports, “but I’ve learned theatre takes longer to come together than film. We are having a reading in New York in September for producers and potential backers.” The curious can follow Stein’s Jawbreaker Broadway feed on Twitter.

I asked Stein how G.B.F., which was written by newcomer George Northy, found him. “Through the Outfest Screenwriters Lab,” he replied. “The script was one of five finalists and was matched to me for further development. I read it and fell in love with it, then I contacted the writer and said I’d love to find the financing and do it.”

The director soon found a cast that was equally eager to do the film. In addition to Rebecca Gayheart, Natasha Lyonne, Jonathan Silverman and SNL’s Horatio Sanz, Stein secured the gay-beloved Megan Mullally to play the mother of one of the film’s two gay lead characters.

“It was sort of incredible to work with her,” Stein reflects. “I loved the idea of her playing the cool mom of the gay kid after playing Karen on Will & Grace. She is so funny.” One of the standout gut-busting scenes in G.B.F. finds mother and son watching an assortment of classic LGBT movies together, much to her son’s discomfort. “She improvised most of her dialogue during the scene,” according to Stein.

G.B.F. also boasts a great soundtrack of both contemporary and retro pop songs. “We are still in the process of securing Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen,” Stein laughed in response when I asked whether there were any difficulties in securing the tunes. “I really wanted a soundtrack like the John Hughes movie soundtracks from when I was a kid (Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, etc.); I love that the songs bridge different eras.”

Stein made several interesting observations regarding the current state of LGBT filmmaking. “The positive thing I think is the VOD phenomenon, where people can see LGBT films everywhere and not just in the big cities. Financing remains as difficult as ever, though, both for LGBT and Hollywood projects.” He revealed that he is currently working on “a dark Hollywood melodrams that Chloë Sevigny is attached to, about a movie star and her transsexual son who wants to be a movie star just like his mother. It’s very different for me from my usual teen comedies; it’s more like an Almodóvar film.”

I asked Stein who his G.B.F. might be. “I have a couple of G.B.Fs,” he replied. He added: “I am the main G.B.F. for a girl for about 18-20 years. She now calls me her gay husband, so I’ve graduated to a G.H.!”

In addition to G.B.F., some other must-see movies being shown at Outfest between July 11th and 21st are:

C.O.G.: An acclaimed adaptation of gay humorist David Sedaris’ semi-autobiographical book about a young man (played by out actor Jonathan Groff of Glee and Broadway fame) who experiences both sexual and religious awakening while working on an Oregon apple farm.

Interior. Leather Bar.: James Franco and Travis Mathews’ fascinating rumination on the current state of LGBT acceptance in society, incorporating a graphic re-creation of missing footage from the controversial 1980 film Cruising as well as insightful conversations between the directors and their cast.

Pit Stop: A deliberately paced, reflective look at the deepening relationship between two closeted gay men in small-town Texas. This is the first US-based feature film by acclaimed Malaysian director Yen Tan (Ciao, Happy Birthday).

In the Name Of: A somewhat unfocused but still compelling expose of the life of an increasingly conflicted gay priest, who works at a reformatory for troubled boys in rural Poland.

In Bloom: Beautifully made if bittersweet deconstruction of the relationship between two gay former lovers, set against the Chicago skyline and an anti-gay serial killer’s rampage.

And don’t miss the terrific documentaries I Am Divine, about the late great drag performer and movie star; Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, based on the last work of the late great writer; God Loves Uganda, which focuses on the homophobic efforts of American evangelicals to criminalize same-sex love in Africa; and Born This Way, which similarly explores the growing influence of LGBT people in traditionally anti-gay Cameroon.

To purchase passes or tickets for Outfest films, visit their website.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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