The OUTrageous! Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
by Matt Kettmann, with Elizabeth Schwyzer
With no more gay bars in town, it’s easy for the straight folks to figure there’s no longer a place for alternative lifestyles in Santa Barbara. But that’s simply not true: In addition to club nights specially for gays and lesbians, there are also a couple of annual events that bring out everyone under the rainbow. The OUTrageous! Gay and Lesbian Film Festival — which works under the umbrella of the Pacific Pride Foundation and is now in its 14th incarnation — is the cream of that crop.
Part of a growing trend in gay film fests, including Frameline’s international festival in San Francisco and the Outfest in L.A., OUTrageous!, explained promoter Lisa Angle, provides the chance to see films that “break down stereotypes and give people an opportunity to see what gay people really are. We’re not just Will and Grace. A lot of movies portray us inaccurately.” Even more, Angle said, “We’re trying to get people together, from Ventura, from Santa Ynez, so we can get to know each other and have fun.” And with films that range from serious to campy, there’s no better time for the whole Santa Barbara community — straight and gay — to meet up, see some thought-provoking stuff, and get to know each other a little better.
This year’s fest opens tonight, Thursday, November 2, with the free annual event at UCSB, where the festival always gets support, according to Angle. Showing at the MultiCultural Center Theater at 8 p.m., Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema proves the perfect starter for the festival, as it will follow gay and lesbian filmmaking from the 1940s to now.
The eclectic menu continues Friday through Sunday at the Fiesta 5 movie theater on State Street. Friday starts with Loving Annabelle (6:30 p.m.). Set at a boarding school full of sexually curious girls, this film follows the plight of one student — the cigarette-smoking, Buddhist-bead-loving daughter of an esteemed senator — who tries to woo one of her teachers into a love affair. Suppressed desires and individuality are the themes here, and Loving Annabelle treats lesbian love with the gentle, real-life strokes it deserves.
The night continues with Another Gay Movie (8:30 p.m.), a campy portrayal of a gay high school that examines various food products as potential sex partners. As such, it’s been dubbed the “Gay American Pie.” And then there’s more explicit sex in eXposed (10:30 p.m.), featuring Mr. Pam, who heads to Colt Studios to find out how those male erotic flicks are produced.
Short films are first order on Saturday at 4 p.m. Then at 7 p.m., there’s Ned Farr’s The Gymnast (7 p.m.), starring Dreya Weber and Addie Yungmee. Set in the slick and glittering Los Angeles suburbs, ex-national team gymnast Jane lives inside a deadened marriage to a sullen, heavy-drinking Ken-doll of a husband. Returning to gymnastics, Jane comes alive to the thrill of physical risk-taking and soon finds herself falling for the beautiful Serena — a sinuous, high-cheek-boned Korean Jew with a fascination for switchblades. Jane and Serena’s passion unfolds with convincing sizzle despite Farr’s tentative handling of would-be sex scenes. The film is peppered with judiciously chosen snapshots of high-end L.A. culture, like the waiters’ obligatory applause when a glass breaks at a pretentious restaurant.
Following The Gymnast is perhaps the most accessible, moving, and horrifying film of the whole festival. The French-made A Love to Hide (Un Amour à Taire) (9 p.m.) tells the story of two gay lovers in Vichy France who hide one lover’s childhood Jewish friend. As the war escalates around them and the Nazi influence spreads into the family laundry business, the characters find themselves embroiled in the most frightening of predicaments: watching as their friend, lover, and brother gets taken away by the Nazis. Amid an engaging plotline, the viewer learns that homosexuals were treated the worst in the concentration camps, burned alive in front of others, experimented upon by doctors, even lobotomized. This is recommended viewing for all.
On Sunday, the fest’s annual documentary feature is Meth (2 p.m.), and the director Todd Ahlberg will be on hand to discuss his exploration of how crystal meth has infiltrated gay culture. Next, opera and lesbians collide in Puccini for Beginners (5 p.m.) and then the festival wraps with Coffee Date (7:30 p.m.), the tale of a prim and proper straight boy who gets set up with a gay guy and gets turned on his head.
The OUTrageous! Gay and Lesbian Film Festival starts tonight, Thursday, November 2, and runs through Sunday, November 5. Tonight’s film is at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center, but the rest are at the Fiesta 5 on State Street; Saturday’s reception is at the Naked Wall from 8:30 p.m. to midnight. Screenings are $10 each, or a pass can be purchased for $60. Call 963-3636 or visit outrageousfilmfestival.org.