While most movie theaters remain shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, OUTshine Film Festival organizers have turned to the internet to showcase the best in new LGBT-themed features, shorts and documentaries.
More than 80 films will be available via internet streaming beginning Aug. 20. Like past festivals, films will have an official screening date and time, but then remain available for purchase and viewing through Aug. 30.
According to executive director Victor Gimenez, the pivot to on demand streaming has come with challenges, including new ticketing and screening platforms and the necessity for enhanced technical support due to the 24/7 availability. But, he’s also optimistic the new format will allow new audiences to explore LGBT films.
“Even though we’re based in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, anyone in Florida can watch the films. There’s no travel, parking, concessions costs, just the ticket price,” he pointed out. “The systems are all new to us and we’ve worked hard to make it as easy as humanly possible.”
Going virtual also has advantages, he added. Previously, tight budgets limited the number of filmmakers, actors, directors and writers the festival could bring to South Florida for talkback sessions following the screenings. The availability of Zoom and teleconferencing services will allow talent from around the globe to speak about their projects and the recordings will be available on the festival’s YouTube channel long after the festival ends.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if when we go back to a physical festival that we don’t offer some sort of virtual component,” he said, acknowledging the pandemic has already changed how film fans consume content.
OUTshine hasn’t gone completely virtual, though. The opening night film, “Stage Mother,” will also be shown on Thursday, Aug. 20 at the drive-in theater at Dezerland Park in North Miami, offering fans a socially distanced, retro movie experience.
“There really wasn’t a model for this kind of festival,” Gimeniz said, but his board and volunteers are eager to take these steps to ensure that LGBT film survives and thrives in this challenging era.
Here are SFGN’s mini-reviews of eight films from the OUTshine 2020 lineup:
Thursday, Aug. 20, 7 p.m.
When a conservative Texas church-choir director inherits her recently deceased son’s drag club, she surprises her closed-minded husband – and everyone else she knows – by moving alone to San Francisco to save the club from bankruptcy.
SFGN: “Stage Mother” is predictable, even cliched – sort of a mash-up of “Sordid Lives” with “Sister Act” – but it’s also the perfect feel good story we’re all craving right now, especially LGBT people who may have been raised in conservative, religious families.
Saturday, Aug. 22, 7 p.m.
Israel/French, Hebrew with English subtitles/90 mins.
An out and proud Muslim gay singer is on his way to represent France in Eurovision, Europe’s biggest song contest, until he becomes a Mossad target when ISIS plants an operative acting as his boyfriend into the French delegation.
SFGN: This film is just silly – no, downright campy – but offers the perfect escape from pandemic fatigue, even if you’re still watching from your living room. For those diehard Eurovision fans, we’re sorry, but please remember this is satire.
“Defiant Souls” (“Insumisas”)
Sunday, Aug. 23, 7 p.m.
Cuba, Switzerland/Spanish with English subtitles/94 mins.
This feature is based on the true story of a woman who, disguised as a man, became the first female surgeon in Latin America. A drama of epic proportions unfolds around one of the most scandalous cases in Cuban colonial history.
SFGN: This is a fascinating tale from history and who doesn’t love a period drama? While the film isn’t quite convincing, it would have been quite a feat to pull off this gender-bending charade nearly 200 years ago.
“The Sound of Identity”
Monday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m.
This documentary chronicles a historical moment: a talented transgender woman’s U.S. debut with a professional opera company as the title character in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” And, it happened in the reddest of red states in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
SFGN: Lucia Ludwig is a pioneer and an inspiration to all. She is so incredibly comfortable leveraging her trans identity to advance her career, despite the obvious challenges and risks that presents. Highly recommended.
“The Capote Tapes”
Wednesday, Aug. 26, 9:15 p.m.
Through newly discovered audio archives and interviews with Truman Capote's friends and enemies, this intimate documentary explores the rise and fall of America's most iconic gay writer and dwells strongly on his final uncompleted novel.
SFGN: While this film does little to further illuminate Capote’s illustrious career and infamous personal life, he remains one of the most fascinating figures in LGBT history and the well-made documentary is equally compelling.
“The Acrobat” (“L’Acrobate”)
Friday, Aug. 28, 9:15 p.m.
Canada/French, Russian with English subtitles/134 mins.
Montreal is snowed under and, while downtown construction cranes dance a hypnotic ballet, two strangers meet randomly in an unfinished apartment. Their chance encounter leads to a violent attraction and a dependency beyond reason.
SFGN: Filmmaker Rodrique Jean is clearly mesmerized by the snow and construction cranes, but when the story finally starts moving, it’s intense with graphic sex scenes. Short attention span? Skip the two-hour film and head to PornHub.
Saturday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m.
Colombia/English, Spanish with English subtitles/87 mins.
Young immigrants Adrian and Sebastian live an openly gay life in New York City. When Sebastian’s visa application is rejected, the couple must decide whether to return to Colombia – where they face rejection and violence – or fight to remain in the U.S.
SFGN: Even though the LGBT community has celebrated so many victories recently, this film effectively focuses on the plight of immigrants – especially Latinx people – who are trapped in our dysfunctional immigration system. No spoilers here…
Sunday, Aug. 30, 5 p.m.
Kate Murphy lost everything when she hit rock bottom. Now, 10 years sober, middle-aged and struggling to rebuild her broken life as a visiting home health aide, Kate marches quietly through her uneventful days until she is assigned a young, beautiful paraplegic patient.
SFGN: This is one of the most powerful, understated films of the festival, addressing issues of redemption, aging and disability (featuring several cast members successfully living with their disabilities). In case you were wondering, the title is a reference to the spinal cord injury.
The OUTshine Film Festival runs Aug. 20 – 30 and films can be screened from anywhere in Florida. Tickets for most individual films are $12 each with discounted packages available. For tickets and more information, go to OUTshineFilm.com.