Gay cinema has come a long way. Where breakthrough indies like 1986's Parting Glances and 1989's Longtime Companion struggled to get theatrical distribution, more recent gay-themed films such as Far From Heaven, Brokeback Mountain, and Milk were widely seen and among the signature films of the past decade. But it can still be harder for films that present a gay or lesbian perspective to get into the larger commercial arena. And the Outflix Film Festival, a product of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center that is enjoying its 13th year, provides a local outlet for these films, screening 15 fictional and documentary features (along with a selection of short films) over the course of a week at Malco's Ridgeway Four.
Two standout domestic features at this year's festival are certainly strong enough to warrant theatrical distribution.
Handsome Harry (Monday, 8:30 p.m.), with television veteran Jamey Sheridan leading a strong cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Campbell Scott, and Titus Welliver, follows a middle-aged Vietnam veteran who embarks on a road trip to visit old Navy buddies after a violent incident from his past gets dredged up. And The Four-Faced Liar (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.), which screened at the Slamdance Film Festival earlier this year, is an engaging, polished film centering on the romantic complications of a group of twentysomething friends, including two ostensibly heterosexual couples and the lesbian roommate of one of the men.
There is also a strong slate for foreign films this year: Opening night film Children of God (Friday, 7:30 p.m.), a debut feature from Bahamian director Kareem Mortimer, weaves three characters around issues of sexuality and race in a climate of violent homophobia. I Killed My Mother (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.) is an intense, impressive autobiographical film from 20-year-old filmmaker/actor Xavier Dolan that was a minor prize-winner at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Eyes Wide Open (Sunday, 1:30 p.m.) is an Israeli film about a budding romance between two men in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community. And the closing night film, Undertow (Thursday, 7 p.m.), is a Peruvian film about a young husband and soon-to-be father who harbors a secret relationship with a local painter who has been ostracized from the community because of his homosexuality.
The leading documentary this year is probably Stonewall Uprising (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.), which covers events surrounding June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a mob-run gay bar in Greenwich Village. The patrons' refusal to be led to jail resulted in a violent three-day insurrection, or "a Rosa Parks moment" (sort of), as one patron remarks, which fueled the broader gay rights movement. The film is built around contemporary interviews with Stonewall patrons and activists who were on the scene, reporters who covered it, and a New York City cop who was part of the raid. Other notable docs are 8: The Mormon Proposition (Sunday, 7 p.m.), which examines the Mormon Church's history of opposition to gay rights, culminating in the church's role in the promotion and passage of California's Proposition 8, and Gen Silent (Saturday, 3 p.m.), which looks at the problems of LGBT seniors who fear acknowledging their sexuality will jeopardize their care.