“Audience members often tell me how much an Outfest film has changed them,” says Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of the world’s premier LGBT film festival. She shouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon. There’s definitely something for everyone’s cinematic palate this year — from already-acclaimed documentaries about seminal cultural figures such as historian-activist Vito Russo and pioneering openly gay musician Jobriath to the provocative erotic drama I Want Your Love. As always, part of the appeal of a film festival is the discovery of fresh new talent. Festival programmers have spotlighted a handful of these individuals with their Five in Focus selection, which includes Young & Wild star Alicia Luz Rodriguez, Joshua Tree 1951 cinematographer Michael Marius Pessah, Gayby actor Matthew Wilkas, My Brother the Devil writer-director Sally El Hosaini, and Wildness filmmaker Wu Tsang. Another feature to keep an eye has a screenplay from a first-time screenwriter you will recognize as one of your favorite television stars — Chris Colfer’s teen comedy Struck by Lightning will close the festival on July 22.
To make opening night especially memorable, Ricki Lake will present the Outfest Achievement Award to her Hairspray director, John Waters, the maverick filmmaker who’s corrupted the imaginations of several generations of moviegoers with his endearingly demented body of work that includes Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, Cry-Baby, and Serial Mom. As an added bonus sing-along version of the musical remake of Hairspray will be screened later in the festival. On the following pages you'll find our choices for some of this year's don't-miss movies. Outfest 2012: The 30th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival takes place through July 22 at the DGA Theatre, REDCAT, Sunset 5, and other venues in L.A. For tickets or more information, go to Outfest.org.