Want to join The Resistance? The cost may be as low as the price of a ticket to the movies.
Supporting visibility is a key component of protecting and advocating for members of vulnerable communities -- a reality stressed throughout the gala Saturday at Outfest Fusion, a film festival dedicated to showcasing the lives of queer people of color.
Christopher Racster, the executive director of Outfest -- an organization that promotes LGBT storytelling -- told the crowd at the Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood that "honest and true representations are our weapons of defense" against an administration that "has no intent to adhere to the campaign promises about protecting the LGBTQ community."
In order words, as hard-won rights for queer people, women, and immigrants are under attack, their stories become more essential than ever.
"We all must resist. We must fight to protect the progress we've made," said Racster, adding, "Outfest is redoubling our efforts to insist that LGBTQ people are seen and that we are heard."
These stories were on full display during the shorts program, which was the centerpiece of the gala. And their need was immediately demonstrated by Sidekicks, a smart and hilarious film that kicked off the proceedings.
Sidekicks shows what happens when a white, Carrie Bradshaw-esque female lead is taken out of the picture -- by the means of a speeding bus -- and her friends of color find themselves in charge of their own narratives. After wondering what to do with their lives -- and competing romantically for the same white coworker, who meets a similar end -- the pair finds they enjoy each other's company far more, as does the audience.
The short is a sly indictment of the implicit racism of Hollywood on multiple fronts -- highlighting bias in the types of scripts that are favored as well as the casting of lead roles, romantic interests, and supporting characters. But Sidekicks is also fresh and entertaining. It raises the question: Why tell a story that has already been told when there are so many funny, beautiful, and heartbreaking narratives and perspectives that have been overlooked?
The rest of the evening provided a showcase of what, historically, Hollywood has been missing. In Private Dick, a trans-masculine private investigator (D'Lo) shops around for a prosthetic penis. In the (excellent) According to My Mother, a gay Korean-American returns home for a funeral as well as a confrontation with his Christian mother. In Care, two women find love in an unlikely place: an assisted living facility.
However, this year could mark a turning point in visibility for queer people of color. "What queer person will ever forget the 2017 Oscars?" asked Farhaad Virani, the co-president of Outfest's board of directors. Moonlight, which also screened at the festival, made history at the Academy Awards, becoming the first LGBT film and the first production with an all-black cast and director to triumph at the entertainment industry's biggest night.
Moonlight's success -- it also had its biggest box-office take yet last weekend -- could engender a new renaissance of support for a diversity of narratives. Already, a review of other films that won at the Spirit Awards this year -- Spa Night, Kiki, and I Am Not Your Negro among them -- show a remarkable array of productions featuring LGBT people of color. These are excellent films that should all be seen and supported in theaters.
After all, Moonlight did not happen by chance. Its triumph was the result of the hard work from not only its creators, actors, and producers, but also the fans and allies who bought a ticket, told a friend, and voted for it as Best Picture over the very white and very straight front-runner, La La Land. More Moonlights require organizations like Outfest as well as a concerted effort from a community awakened to the need for representation, in a time when rights are lives are under attack.
As Tina Mabry, the director of Mississippi Damned, who was honored with the Outfest Fusion Achievement Award, quoted in her acceptance speech, "It's not just luck that got you there. You always have to remember that luck is the residue of hard work."