By Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
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 films shown showed originality, quality and purpose, regardless of the 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 cinemaphotography was stunning as you traveled through the Amazon on his 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 took you into the minds of transgender people and the fears that they face every day of their lives. Going from character to character, this showed what happens when transgender people are faced with no access to a private restroom, wondering what will happen as they walk in front of a group of construction workers, what do you do when you are in the locker room and someone else walks in. This was so brilliantly composed, that you felt the fear and anxiety. What a rare glimpse and extremely intense.
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, has some good light comedy as Camilia comes to terms with her own obsessiveness and by chance finding 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 transwoman who juggles her life as a day time mechanic in her father’s shop and only expressing her true identity at night through clubs. All is well until a co-worker finds her while out on a bachelor party at night. Faced with the outing 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.
“Thrive,” coming from the United Kingdom and directed by Jamie De Spirito is about two men who meet as a simple hook-up with no intentions of a relationship. After seeing the man’s medication on the counter, he confronts the other about his HIV status to find that he is recently diagnosed and terrified. What follows is a wonderous conversation that reminds us that we all need to be open about our status, without judgement. An excellent film.
“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 finding perfection in timing. His insecurities get the best of him most of the time, but fortunately his boyfriend Elliot is loving and understanding. The humor in this film carries the story with a compelling ease and from the beginning has you rooting for a happily ever after ending.
Another San Diego filmmaker Mark Marchillo directs and acts in “Gay Camp.” As serious conversion therapy is today, Marchillo, a straight man came up with the idea of switching the roles to where homosexuality is the norm and straight kids are sent to camp. 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. Camp Sohomo sheds a light on conversion therapy in a comical way, but the subject matter is as serious as it gets. This is a film that everyone should see and in comparison with the recent drama films that deal with the subject, has just as much impact on the ideology of how wrong conversion therapy is.
Director Michael Varrati brings a light comical view of a gay couple facing problems and finding themselves in couple therapy. In meeting with the doctor, their feelings come out as Chris and Bram begin talking seriously about Chris’ drinking problems and how it is affecting their relationship. As they work through it together, they find light at the end of the tunnel, but Varrati throws in a dark comedic horror ending that catches everyone off guard but made this film one to remember.
From Italy, Director Alessandro Samoali brings a beautiful story in “Pepitas.” Struggling to take care of his visually impaired grandmother and mother despite being in his 30s, this is a wonderful story about the love of family. A drag queen and not out to his family, his grandmother begs him to take her out with him. He finally agrees and takes her to his show that evening. What follows is a tender moment between grandmother and grandson, with her acceptance of Andrea, a star in her eyes. Wonderfully done with some stellar comedic moments that hurls this film into a heartwarming story of love and family.
“Romance is Dead,” directed by Todd Jackson (San Diego filmmaker) is a dark comedy horror story when 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 bringing 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 goes through the cultural difference 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 called 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 long-time problem 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 the Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas on Wednesday, July 10 at 7 p.m. For more information visit filmoutsandiego.com.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at email@example.com.