Matt Tyrnauer’s vibrantly nostalgic documentary, Studio 54, featuring interviews with many of the legendary nightclub’s famous patrons, as well as those who worked behind the scenes during its heyday will open the 2018 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival. The festival will honor Angela Robinson as the recipient of the 2018 Achievement Award recipient. The Achievement Award Ceremony will take place at the Opening Night Gala at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles on July 12, followed by the screening of Studio 54.
Angela Robinson, a celebrated filmmaker and champion of LGBTQ rights, will receive the Achievement Award, Outfest’s highest honor, presented in recognition of a body of work that has made a significant contribution to LGBT film and media. In a time where women still only make up a fraction of directors, Robinson has carved a space for herself in both film and television, and frequently deals with LGBTQ topics in her work, such as D.E.B.S., “The L Word”, Herbie Fully Loaded, “True Blood”, How to Get Away with Murder”, and most recently Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
Outfest’s Executive Director Christopher Racster commented: “Outfest has a long and important legacy of launching filmmakers careers. I am incredibly proud that we have the opportunity honor an amazingly talented woman director whose career started at Outfest. Angela has forged a unique path of success within the industry. When jobs are hard to come by for women directors, Angela has blazed a path in high-profile television series, lauded independent films and major studio movies. Her unique vision, her sharp humor, and her humanity are constantly on display in each move she makes. Angela’s work is always fresh, intelligent and groundbreaking.”
“It is such an honor to receive the Outfest Achievement Award this year – I premiered the first short film I ever made at Outfest and every film I’ve made since. It’s a joy to be recognized by Outfest in this way so many years later,” Angela Robinson remarked.
Additional gala screenings include: Sundance NEXT Innovator Award winner We the Animals (U.S. Centerpiece), written and directed by Jeremiah Zagar; the sweeping French drama Reinventing Marvin (International Centerpiece), from filmmaker Anne Fontaine; famed choreographer and filmmaker Jamal Sims’ feature debut When the Beat Drops (Documentary Centerpiece) on the Deep South UNDERGROUND dance phenomenon known as “bucking”; and Our Future Ends (Platinum Centerpiece), a multimedia and multidisciplinary satire about near-extinct lemurs living on long-lost Lemuria.
The 2018 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival will close on July 22 at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel with Desiree Akhavan’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, an unapologetically bold take on the topic of conversion therapy, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher Jr., and Forrest Goodluck.
Outfest’s Direct of Programming Lucy Mukerjee commented: “After scouring the world for the past year to find the best LGBTQ films, our galas capture that queer pioneering spirit that lives across the ages. From our Opening Night Studio 54, where we learn the back story of the vibrancy that Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager brought to creating a safe HAVEN for LGBTQ folk to the urgency of expression in When the Beat Drops from long-time choreographer Jamal Sims, we see that freedom of identity cannot be held down. Even something as simple as coming of age in We Are Animals looks at new territory in Jeremiah Zagar’s deft hands. The breadth of our galas this year also continues Outfest’s commitment to celebrate female voices including the work of acclaimed director Anne Fontaine and Desiree Akhavan’s sophomore effort, proving once again we will be seeing exciting things from her for a long time to come. I am thrilled we are bringing back the Platinum Centerpiece – Our Future Ends – which combines many genres to tell a story about how to keep a culture from extinction. Happily our queer culture is far from that place!”
Studio 54 (Opening Night Gala) Director: Matt Tyrnauer
When disco was the epicenter of popular culture, Studio 54 was the epicenter of disco. Brooklyn-born college pals Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager took a former opera house and CBS studio (where “What’s My Line?” and “Captain Kangaroo” filmed) in what was at the time one of New York City’s sketchiest neighborhoods and turned it into a dance palace known the world over. Extroverted gay Rubell and introverted straight Schrager (the latter giving his most extensive interview to date about Studio 54) were a powerful team – but the swirl of sex, drugs, celebrity, and tax evasion brought this phenomenon to an end, as did the advent of Ronald Reagan, the AIDS crisis, and the “Disco Sucks” backlash.
But oh, what heady times there were during Studio 54’s heyday, which this vibrant documentary captures, mixing vintage interviews (Michael Jackson!) with reminiscences from the doormen, bartenders, and paparazzi who experienced the thrills and the beats on the dance floor and in the infamous balcony. There may never again be such a stately pleasure dome as Studio 54, but Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary pays homage to the hedonism, the hubris, and the outrageous delights that took place under the lights, behind the scenes, and on the other side of the velvet ropes.
We the Animals (US Centerpiece) Writer-Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Lovely and lyrical, this film received well-earned comparisons to Moonlight when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it earned the prestigious NEXT Innovator Award. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar makes his narrative debut with this haunting adaptation of the novel by Justin Torres about three boys navigating their parents’ volatile relationship and the aftermath of their breakup. Two of the sons clearly follow in the footsteps of their macho, anger-prone father (Raúl Castillo, “Looking”), while the sensitive youngest, Jonah (Evan Rosado), remains closer to their mother (Sheila Vand, Women Who Kill).
Exquisitely photographed by Zak Mulligan, the film captures both the beauty and terror of childhood, guiding us through the wonders of the world and the pain and confusion of marital dysfunction. Strains of Malick (and, yes, Moonlight) appear throughout, but there is nothing contrived or overly familiar about this achingly crafted coming-of-age tale. The entire ensemble (which also includes newcomers Josiah Gabriel and Isaiah Kristian) gives the film a raw naturalism – we feel like invisible observers as young lives unfold before us. Subtle and haunting, bursting with empathy and energy, We the Animalsheralds a new chapter for a brilliant and essential storytelling talent.
Reinventing Marvin (International Centerpiece) Writer-Director: Anne Fontaine
Martin Clement is about to give the performance of his life – his life story, that is, in an autobiographical stage play. As a child, young Marvin Bijoux was bullied by homophobic classmates at school and misunderstood by his often-neglectful parents, making him feel like a lonely outsider in his small rural French village. But when a kind school principal guides him to join the drama club, Marvin discovers his gifts for play-acting the misery that surrounds him. When he qualifies to attend a theatrical school, Marvin acts the role of the brash straight stud until he meets an older mentor who encourages him to acknowledge his sexuality and to exorcise his pain by putting it all on the stage.
This sweeping drama from director and co-writer Anne Fontaine (The Innocents, Coco Before Chanel) captures a life in the theater, as we see timid young Marvin (Jules Porier) blossom into adult Martin (Finnegan Oldfield, Nocturama) – with a little help along the way from Isabelle Huppert, playing herself. A moving tale of the past that many of us try to escape, but can never entirely leave behind, this film reminds us that no matter how far we get from our upbringing, a piece of it remains with us always.
When the Beat Drops (Documentary Centerpiece) Director: Jamal Sims
Drop into the electric and subversive UNDERGROUND dance scene known as “bucking.” As voguing exploded out of the ballroom scene of NYC, bucking was boldly pioneered in the clubs of the Deep South as a new form of self-expression. This film presents a fresh glimpse into the magnetic artistry and flair behind this emerging dance culture.
In his feature debut, famed choreographer and filmmaker Jamal Sims (who has worked with the likes of Madonna, Jennifer LOPEZ and “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) illuminates the warm-hearted and fierce queer black performers who make up one of the leading “bucking” groups in the city of Atlanta. As they train for their biggest competition yet, they risk losing their jobs and family to compete at the top levels of this dance scene.
Jamal Sims calls dance a “super power,” and with this film he crafts a vision of the power of dance to bring movement to new heights and to elevate the queer community.
Our Future Ends (Platinum Centerpiece) Writer-Director: Clement Hil Goldberg
Will queer culture go out with a stylish bang, or will the spirits of Lemuria inspire us to preserve our fabulousness? Clement Hil Goldberg’s multimedia and multidisciplinary satire envisions both near-extinct lemurs and long-lost Lemuria. Lemuria (a precursor to the occult city of Atlantis) was an imagined site of catastrophic loss populated by Lemurians, queer prehistoric entities that went extinct alongside the Atlanteans. Goldberg’s work illuminates the at-risk nature of queer spaces as well as the world’s most endangered mammal, the lemur. Pill-popping lemurs struggle to survive while Lemurians consult their crystals, as parallel extinction stories unfold through video, stop-motion animation, and live performance.
Starring Brontez Purnell, Heather María Ács, and Siobhan Aluvalot, with Zackary Drucker, Silas Howard, Xandra Ibarra, Ben McCoy, and Maryam Farnaz Rostami as additional voices of the animated lemurs. Come with them all on this disco journey to the brink.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Closing Night Gala) Director: Desiree Akhavan
Desiree Akhavan won us over in 2014 with her hilarious feature debut Appropriate Behavior, and she brings her trademark wit and sass to this impressive follow-up feature. An adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s celebrated queer YA novel, the film was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival for its warm, charismatic, and fearless performances.
Set in the early ’90s, the film follows lesbian teen Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz), sent to a religious conversion camp after she gets caught hooking up with her female best friend. At the camp, Cameron reluctantly undergoes various tactics used to “cure” same-sex attraction from persistent camp leaders Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who are intent on “saving” LGBTQ teens. While some of the teens embrace the treatment, Cameron resists, and instead forms an alliance with the rebellious duo Jane (Sasha Lane, American Honey) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck, The Revenant). The heartfelt bond shared among the three friends gives them the strength they need in order to RISE up and live their truth.
Akhavan’s unapologetically queer lens delivers a refreshing take on the troubling topic of conversion therapy (which is, to this day, still used in some states) while exploring the themes of self-love, identity, and chosen family, all with unexpected flourishes of humor.