Thursday, September 13, 2018

Outflix Finale Features Drama And Community

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 5:29 AM

click to enlarge Pip Brignall and Jo Weil in Sodom, Outflix 2018's closing night feature.
  • Pip Brignall and Jo Weil in Sodom, Outflix 2018's closing night feature.

After a week full of thought-provoking and engaging cinema, Outflix Film Festival comes to a close tomorrow night with three films about navigating queer identity, within one’s self, through the LGBTQ community, and in relation to society at large. Being recognized, being witnessed, as a queer person can be hugely empowering, or deeply shameful, depending on the context, and these films explore those contexts, as well as the ones in between.

Sodom, (4 PM) directed by Mark Wilshin, kicks things off quietly, with a narrative that plays like a contemporary gay version of Before Sunrise, but with way more skin. Two men, not quite strangers but obviously not friends, are brought together by strange circumstances on a deserted street somewhere in Europe. During their night of unplanned fellowship, Will (Pip Brignall) and Michael (Jo Weil) question what it means to come out as gay, to look gay, and to simply be gay. The narrative circles around the idea that, as gay men, they are forced to make a choice of whether to act on their desires and potentially face expulsion from their communities, or to repress those feelings, play straight, get married, and live a lie. Wilshin gets melodramatic at times, but keeps coming back to the steamy side, luxuriating in beautifully filmed images of the male body.

click to enlarge A scene from Leilah Weinraub’s documentary Shakedown
  • A scene from Leilah Weinraub’s documentary Shakedown

The next feature of the night, Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown (6:30 PM) is an experimental documentary about the black lesbian club scene of early 2000s Los Angeles. Whether they arrived at the Shakedown dance parties on purpose or by accident, the subjects of the film describe the feeling of coming home, of rightness, of acceptance, upon finding the scene. The film delves into this tight-knit queer subculture and its role as a co-created chosen family, and the power and pleasure that kind of group can generate. This joyful documentary provides a sensuous, raw look into a world that no longer exists, but lives on thanks to Weinraub’s intimate videos.

click to enlarge Corey Michael Smith in 1985. - DUTCH RALL
  • Dutch Rall
  • Corey Michael Smith in 1985.

The final film of the night and of the festival is 1985 (8:30 PM), a narrative feature directed by Yen Tan, which received rave reviews at SXSW and has won several awards on the film festival circuit. Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his hometown to visit family and old friends during the height of the AIDS epidemic. He struggles to integrate the old life he left behind with the world he found, and is rapidly losing, in New York City. Shot on black and white film, the look and texture of the movie reflects its dark subject matter; the weightiness of the AIDS crisis is palpable. It’s a heavy way to end the festival, but seems to send a strong message—despite all our gains, the LGTBQ community still faces prejudice, violence, and systemic oppression, in our town and all over the world. The work is far from over. After we come to terms with our queer identities, we have to come to terms with the struggle, and to join the fight.

Tickets for the final night of Outflix 2018 can be purchased in advance online, or at Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill.

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