Opening-night highlights of this year's Outflix Film Festival. 

click to enlarge G.B.F.

G.B.F.

The Outflix International LGBTQ Film Festival celebrates its 16th season with a week-long run at Malco's Ridgeway Cinema Grill theater beginning on Friday, September 6th, and with an opening night that includes strong documentary and feature titles.

Directed by veteran television producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Bridegroom (7 p.m.) is a documentary that tells an intensely personal story that illuminates larger issues in gay life. It's the story of two young men from the Midwest — Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom — who find each other and build a life together in Los Angeles before Bridegroom dies in random accident. Told via Crone's own recollections and those of his family and friends, along with video diary entries from Crone started to document his journey from Montana to California, the story of the two young gay men coming of age in small-town, middle-American environments is sharp, and the story of their budding romance as adults is feature-worthy on its own. When Bridegroom suffers his tragic accident and Crone — who had lived with Bridegroom for six years — is first barred from his hospital room and then from his funeral, the films puts a very personal face on issues of legal protection and marriage equality. Bridegroom was an audience award winner at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Crone will appear at the Memphis screening and conduct a question-and-answer session.

An entertaining high-school comedy in the knowing, satirical vein of Mean Girls or Easy A, G.B.F. (9 p.m.) isn't quite as sharp as those mainstream antecedents, but it could easily reward audience attention beyond the festival circuit. The film focuses on the plight of two barely closeted teen boys at a moment and in a place where homosexuality is morphing from a subject of scorn to trendy fascination. That's an improvement, obviously, but the film's gentle point is that it's still dehumanizing.

G.B.F. — "gay best friend" — finds ample comedy in this subject. One female student's attempt to form a gay-straight alliance at the school is stalled by her inability to find a gay student, leading her to grouse, "My future GBF is just dying to come out of the closet and tell me how fierce I am."

When Tanner (Michael J. Willet) is finally outed, he becomes a status symbol the school's trio of rival alpha girls compete over and a potential solution to many looming problems — "We're doing The Wiz and we're going to need as many minorities as we can get," one student says, imploring Tanner to try out. He struggles as much to live up to his classmates' stereotypes ("Thank you. That's just the kind of bitchy, gay insight I'm looking for!") as he once did to cloak his sexuality.

The film's supporting cast is dotted with familiar faces (Natasha Lyonne, Rebecca Gayheart, Harry Potter's Evanna Lynch), but the casting never feels like a stunt. Particularly good is Megan Mullaly as an understanding-to-a-fault mother who subjects her son to the excruciating bonding of a mother-son Brokeback Mountain movie night.

For more on this year's Outflix slate, see "Sing All Kinds" at memphisflyer.com/blogs/singallkinds.

Outlfix Film Festival

Ridgeway Cinema Grill

Friday, September 6th - Thursday, September 12th

$10 for individual screenings; $90 for a full festival pass. For more info, see outflixfestival.org.

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