OUT Twin Cities Film Festival 2013: Reaping well-deserved national acclaim


Around a year ago, I wrote an article about the third annual OUT Twin Cities Film Festival. Right around that time, Minnesota was one of four states where voters would decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Less than three weeks ago, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage. Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill, and as of August 1, gay couples will be able to marry in Minnesota.

There were two documentaries in OUT last year that explored the same-sex marriage discussion, both taking different sides of the topic; eventually, there will be a documentary focusing on Minnesota’s recent victory on legalizing gay marriage. This year’s lineup does not feature any films about same-sex marriage; however, it will feature one of the most notable figures who spoke about and supported same sex marriage, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. 

Kluwe will be one of the keynote speakers kicking off, via Skype, the OUT Twin Cities Film Festival this Wednesday, May 29; Kluwe was released by the Vikings and signed by the Oakland Raiders on May 15. The opening night of OUT, entitled “Ally Appreciation and Visibility in Media,” takes place at the Graves Hotel and will feature comedian Ian Harvie, WCCO news anchor Edward Moody, and Twin Cities DJ favorite Shannon Blowtorch, along with the film screening of Break Through with the director and cast members present. The OUT Twin Cities Film Festival will then continue with film screenings at St. Anthony Main Theatre. Events after screenings will be hosted at Pracna, Honey, and the Gay 90’s, from Wednesday night’s opening gala through Sunday, June 2.

A few days before the start of the festival, I spoke by phone with festival director Chris Durant, who told me that one of the biggest differences between this year’s festival and last is how the programming was more structured than in previous years. “We designed the schedule to accommodate for ladies, guys, and gender-fluid people. We also created themes for each night and created an opportunity for people, who identify more in a certain area.” Some of the themed nights include, “Gender Fluidity is a Splendid Thing!”, “Ladies Night Out!”, and “Boys’ Night Out!”

“We also have more visiting guests coming to OUT than we’ve ever had,” said Durant. “Comedian Ian Harvie will be in town on Wednesday, but he is in a film, Ian Harvie Superhero [Thursday, May 30 at 7:45 p.m.] and director Melissa Johnson will be in town with her film, No Look Pass [Friday, May 31 at 6:55 p.m.]. Saturday, almost every director will be in town for Saturdays, Boys’ Night Out day, except James Franco, but we do have his movie and that should be a steamy experience.”

Although Franco will not be present for his screening of, Interior. Leather Bar. [Saturday, June 1 at 10:30 p.m.], which he co-directed with queer filmmaker Travis Matthews, the film caused quite a stir at Sundance and Berlin film festivals this year. The sixty-minute doc-fiction is inspired by the 1980 Al Pacino film Cruising, where director, William Friedkin, reportedly took out 40 minutes of gay S&M footage in order to avoid an X rating from the MPAA; those 40 minutes have never been screened publicly. Franco and Matthews have put together a re-imagined version of what those 40 minutes could have been, with actor Val Lauren in the Pacino role. Lauren does not seem to know what he has got himself into working with Franco and Matthews, behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, leading him to question other straight and gay actors on set, on what limitations they would perform on screen. No one under seventeen will be admitted to the film screening.

Durant, says without hesitation, “Following the screening, we will be having the after-party, which is called ‘Cruising’ and that will be at the Gay 90’s, and that is going to be a provocative, sexually, erotic performance art experience—you can quote me on that.”

Critics and audiences have debated Cruising ever since its theatrical release (it’s based on the 1970 novel of the same name by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker). Whether or not Cruising is a “landmark” queer film, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not think that performer and character actor Divine and gay activist Vito Russo were not iconic people in the GLBTQ community. In fact, Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead) was named by People magazine as “Drag Queen of the Century” and was a frequent actor in early John Waters films (Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Female Trouble). She’s the subject of a new documentary, I Am Divine (Sunday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m.), with director Jeffrey Schwarz on hand for a Q&A. Schwarz will be pulling double duty, as OUT will also be screening his 2011 documentary Vito (Sunday, June 2 at 4:05 p.m.), based on the life of Vito Russo, one of the founding fathers of the gay liberation movement and author of the breakthrough 1981 novel, The Celluloid Closet, that later was turned into the 1995 documentary film.

“After Vito and before I Am Divine starts, there will be a meet and greet with Jeffrey Schwarz over at Pracna,” Durant says, “and the entire time frame in between both features, there will be a fundraiser for the Trevor Project.”

Last week, one of the most lauded film websites, Indiewire, cited OUT as being one of the ten most notable GLBTQ festivals in North America, along with top tier fests such as Frameline in San Francisco, Outfest in Los Angles, and Newfest in New York City. Since the Indiewire post hit, Durant mentioned, the festival website has seen a significant jump in hits and in ticket sales. “It has taken a lot of work to where we are—and to be recognized for that work, it feels worth it.” He continues on to say how vital the GLBTQ community is in the Twin Cities and how OUT has grown every year. “I know as a filmmaker too, it is important to have a GLBTQ cinephile hub to offer to the community. We’re a non-profit, so all the profits will be turned right around into next year’s festival. We appreciate being honored with that and being part of the Twin Cities artistic community.” 

Here are three other film highlights screening at OUT (all synopses provided by OUT Twin Cities Film Festival).

Jobriath A.D. (Saturday, June 1 at 6:15 p.m.) with director Kieran Turner present. “Sprinkled with real life footage, fascinating bits of nostalgia and animated interludes, Jobriath A.D. is the story of the first openly gay rock star, who came out without apology or restraint, come what may.  A self-identified ‘true fairy,’ Jobriath was the dynamite that kick-started the 1970s glam rock scene and influenced iconic musicians like Pet Shop Boys, Def Leppard, The Scissor Sisters and Morrissey.”

The Main (Sunday, June 2 at 1 p.m.) with director Julie Casper Roth and subject Bob Jansen present. “In 1982 Bob Jansen was fired from his job as a college professor for being gay.  After suing the institution that fired him, he took his settlement money to open the first openly gay bar in the Duluth, Minnesota/Superior, Wisconsin region: The Main Club.”

Valentine Road (Sunday, June 2 at 2:27 p.m.) directed by Marta Cunningham. “Valentine Road chronicles the emotional aftermath and clumsy legal process that followed the killing of 15-year-old Lawrence ‘Larry’ King by a middle-school classmate, Brandon McInerney, who shot Larry twice in the back of the head during first period in 2008.”