Since 2010, the OUT Twin Cities Film Festival has slowly become a terrific niche film festival in the Twin Cities. What started out as a two-day event covering various LGBTQ topics, mostly through film screenings, has blossomed into a four-day festival filled with films, guest speakers, professional script reading, and musical artists performing at various venues in Minneapolis. Opening on Thursday, May 31 and running through Sunday, June 3, the OUT Twin Cities Film Festival will be held at St. Anthony Main Theatre and features a diverse line-up—including perhaps its strongest film slate in its three-year existence.
On May 9, President Barack Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts that he supports same-sex marriages. Since his announcement, there have been plenty of debates and discussion—with a big decision coming up for Minnesota voters in November. According to a recent CNN article, “Minnesota will be one of four states (Washington, Maine and Maryland, being the other three) where voters will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages.” Minnesota holds one of the biggest gay pride festivals in the Midwest and Minneapolis was once dubbed the “gayest city in America” by The Advocate. Also, notes the article, “The day after Obama spoke, more than twice as many people signed up to volunteer for Minnesotans United for All Families than on previous days.” Minnesotans United for All Families is a statewide organization with many members helping defeat the constitutional amendment against same sex-marriages this upcoming November election.
I’m not really someone who follows politics very much, but I felt it was important to bring this topic up as there are two documentaries at OUT that explore different sides on the same-sex marriage topics. The first is the opening night film of the festival, Inspired: The Voices Against Prop 8. The story takes place after November 4, 2008, when voters of California passed Proposition 8 on same sex-marriages. What followed on November 5 only was the beginning of a whole new movement. Director Charlie Gage will be in attendance and a Q&A will follow the film screening—Thursday, May 31 at 5:30 p.m.
Another film featuring insight into the same-sex marriage conversation is director Macky Alston’s Sundance award winner, Love Free or Die. It follows New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. While he has been under scrutiny ever since, Robinson has been a savior for many straight and LGBTQ people. Love Free or Die follows Robinson’s career in the church and outside of church with his partner Mark and their family. Director Macky Alston will be present for the screening and a Q&A will follow the film screening—Friday, June 1 at 5 p.m.
Two other films worth seeing over at OUT are completely different in subject matter, but both feature extraordinary journeys.
In his directional debut narrative, Gun Hill Road, first-time writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green provokes powerful ideas and brings interesting challenges to his story, even if at times the film lacks surprise. Enrique (the always superb Esai Morales), who was just released from prison after serving three years, is about to be reunited with his wife Angela (Judy Reyes) and his son Michael (an astonishing debut performance by Independent Spirit Award nominee Harmony Santana), who has slowly started shedding his masculine self and becoming a beautiful young woman. Gun Hill Road makes great use of its locations in and around the Bronx (the title is a reference to its neighborhood), and the acting is among its strong points, but there is too much focus on Enrique, when the focus should have been on Michael and his transformation into a transsexual, which creates tension between father and son. An engaging film, it could have been equally chilling and haunting had Green turned his camera on the more interesting subject in his film, rather than on the father who cannot handle the truth. Gun Hill Road screens Friday June 1 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a panel discussion with RECLAIM.
On a lighter note, Hollywood to Dollywood (above) says it all in the title. Director John Lavin’s documentary focuses on twin brothers Gary and Larry Lane, who travel across the country from Los Angeles to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in order to hand deliver their (massive) screenplay called Full Circle to their idol, Dolly Parton. Packing up in their Winnebago—properly named “Jolene”—Gary and Lane discuss growing up in North Carolina, not knowing if coming out to their parents is a good decision and reflecting about their lives along the journey. The film breezes by and is sure to place on smile on any Dolly fan and/or anyone who risked everything in order to follow not only their dream but also their heart. Gary and Larry Lane will be present for Hollywood to Dollywood and will participate in a Q&A following the screening on Saturday, June 2 at 7 p.m.