California’s major LGBT film festivals, Frameline and Outfest, are right around the corner, but there are several queer-themed films screening at the L.A. Film Festival, which runs June 14-22 in and around Los Angeles. Among those to be screened is the highly anticipated documentary that investigates Whitney Houston’s rumored love affairs with women, a lesbian-themed indie with an original folk-rock soundtrack starring Tony winner Lena Hall, and the controversial Anything, which costars Matt Bomer as a trans woman.
In addition to seven LGBT-themed feature films, the festival boasts about a dozen queer shorts. If that’s not enough of a kickoff to the festival season, the festival will host Diversity Speaks, a series of panels at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on the 17th. Panel topics include a discussion of the problematic casting of cisgender people in trans roles and an interview with Lena Waithe hosted by Elvis Mitchell.
For those wanting to get a jump on all things queer and celluloid, the L.A. Film Festival is the place to do it.
In a mixed-media revelation, director and writer Arshad Khan blends home movies with clips from Bollywood cinema and animation to piece together his journey of self-discovery as a man who realized he was gay after emigrating from Pakistan to Canada as a teen. Arshad narrates his tale of coming out, coming of age, and the bonds of family.
And Then There Was Eve
Director Savannah Bloch’s debut film is part thriller, part love story. When Alyssa, a photographer, wakes up to find her apartment has been torn apart and her husband is missing, she enlists the help of a colleague, Eve, a jazz pianist who helps Alyssa move past her husband’s disappearance in more ways than one. Transgender actress Rachel Crowl wows as the charming Eve in this film that also boasts an excellent jazz score from Robert Lydecker.
Reeling from the death of his wife, Early Landry (John Carroll Lynch) moves from Los Angeles to Mississippi to heal. He forms a new bond with his neighbor Freda, a transgender sex worker. Director-writer Timothy McNeil’s debut feature has already garnered negative attention from casting cisgender man Matt Bomer in the role of Freda. Maura Tierney and Mark Ruffalo costar.
A Tony winner for her transformative turn as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch opposite Neil Patrick Harris (and several others in the title role) on Broadway, Lena Hall stars as Becks in this indie about a folk-rock musician who follows her girlfriend (Hayley Kiyoko) from Brooklyn to Los Angeles only to be dumped in the opening scenes of the film. Heartbroken and aimless, Becks drives back east to St. Louis to crash with her mom (Christine Lahti), a former Catholic nun only tenuously OK with her daughter’s sexuality. There, Becks gigs out at a dive bar where she falls for the wife of an old high school rival played with lovely openness by Mena Suvari. For those unfamiliar with the mind-blowing range of Hall’s vocal gymnastics, Becks offers up plenty of the sweeter side of her instrument with original songs from Alyssa Robbins. In this beautifully affecting film, Hall is poised to pull some heart strings with an entirely new fan base. Liz Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell directed the film, with Rebecca Drysdale joining them on the writing team.
A horror flick that preys on the culture of beauty, young, gorgeous Kira, who suffers from a disease that makes her skin crumble and break off, aging her prematurely, until she discovers that she can replace her skin with that of other people. Kira’s body count begins to pile up as she navigates a relationship with her new girlfriend, Sophia, who’s unaware of the horrific affliction. The film is directed by Norbert Keil with a script by Richard Stanley.
My Friend Dahmer
Based on the graphic novel by Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school friend John Backderf, the film depicts the formative serial killer navigating high school in 1977. An outcast with a penchant for sick hobbies that involve roadkill, Jeff falls in with a group of guys who find his fake “spaz” attacks at school funny. Marc Meyers directs the cast that includes Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Alex Wolff, Tommy Nelson, and Vincent Kartheiser.
Whitney: Can I Be Me
Beloved pop diva Whitney Houston was long rumored to have had relationships with women back in the ’80s, and this new film from prolific documentarian Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal investigates that part of her life as well as the addiction she suffered throughout her years. Archival footage of her transcendent performances melds with 30 years of interviews with the people who surrounded her.