After a cooler-than-normal summer filled with Solstice and Fiesta celebrations, Santa Barbarans can mark the arrival of autumn with this weekend’s OUTrageous: The Santa Barbara Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Film Festival. The festival, in its 19th year, promises three days of excellent feature-length films and shorts, mostly playing at downtown’s Metro 4 Theatre.
As in years past, the slate includes pieces from around the world (Peru, New Zealand, Brazil, South Korea) and offers a good balance of fictional work and documentaries. “We try to get as broad a range of films as possible to reflect the wide array of gay experiences,” said Mashey Bernstein, founder and chair of OUTrageous. “The festival gives us a rare opportunity to explore queer lives in other countries and from other perspectives.” Bernstein’s team of 13 volunteers was also diligent about booking filmmakers and actors to attend the screenings.
Although things get started in earnest on Friday, UCSB’s MultiCultural Center kicks off the festival on Thursday with a free program of short films that focus on diversity within the gay community. The directors of You Can’t Curry Love (which follows a London transplant as he travels to his homeland of India and falls for a handsome local) and One on One (about two basketball players who try their hand at ballroom dance lessons) will be in attendance.
My Normal, a coming-of-age story about a twenty-something lesbian dominatrix in New York City, will immediately whip into shape (pun intended) the Friday-evening crowd. At 8 p.m., be sure to check out Undertow, Peru’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Oscars. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful movie that deftly mixes magical realism, tender romance, and one village’s long-held traditions.
If you’re still reeling from last year’s sold-out and decked-out showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (or at least Glee’s recent tribute to the cult classic), consider donning that feathered blond wig and denim short shorts for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. John Cameron Mitchell’s over-the-top rock musical follows Hedwig, an East German transsexual performer, as she tours divey chain restaurants and sings about love and loss.
After a smattering of women’s shorts on Saturday afternoon, Stonewall Uprising examines the pivotal riots in Greenwich Village in 1969 that jumpstarted the gay rights movement. Using rarely seen footage and eyewitness interviews, Stonewall illustrates the gravitas of a group of people who stand up against government-sponsored injustice. A Marine Story continues the discussion with a fictionalized look at the ramifications of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. A career Marine, Alexandra returns home from duty after being suspected of homosexual conduct. While acclimating to civilian life, she agrees to prepare a wayward young woman for boot camp, illustrating Alexandra’s unwavering commitment to military protocol and the maddening idiocy of discharging a competent servicemember because of her sexuality. The beautiful (and out-and-proud) Paris Pickard will attend the screening.
BearCity closes out Saturday’s schedule with a humorous look at a group of New York friends getting ready for an annual celebration of bear culture. Fans of Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show should keep their eyes peeled for scene-stealer Stephen Guarino.
Sunday starts with a program of men’s shorts, followed by what this writer views as the highlight of the festival, The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls. This documentary out of New Zealand follows yodeling lesbian twins, and yes, you read that correctly. The sisters started out as country-western singers who eventually grew into political activists and satirists. It’s a hilarious and at times poignant look at their relationship with each other and other New Zealanders.
Late Sunday afternoon, it’s all petticoats and Byron in The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, a BBC production based on the journals of a lesbian in the early 19th century who wrote extensively in code about her dalliances and methods of seduction. Think of Anne as the original Shane from The L Word. The festival concludes with South Korea’s A Frozen Flower, which chronicles a love triangle between a king, his queen, and his bodyguard.
Clearly, a wide range of films awaits attendees at this year’s festival, so try out a movie you might not ordinarily go to. You won’t be disappointed.
OUTrageous: The S.B. LGBTQ Festival takes place November 4-7. For more information and to purchase festival passes ($75), visit outrageousfilmfestival.org.