Screening Room

High school closets, Haaz Sleiman in love & conversion therapy, oh my! Our Outfest 2020 preview

COVID-19 be damned, Outfest will go on this year, albeit in slightly different form.

The world-famous LGBTQ film festival lands online this year due to the pandemic, and while we’ll miss the usual parties, galas, and screening in historic Los Angeles venues, we still call that a win.

This year, the entire festival will take place online, meaning anyone can take part and view the lineup of films from anywhere in the world. The lineup features a number of titles we’ve already seen and loved, as well as a few more that have our interest piqued.

So, take note and mark your calendars. Outfest offers an opportunity to see the films before they’re even released. Outfest streams online August 20-30.

Dramarama

We fell in absolute love with this young adult comedy, the debut film of writer/director Jonathan Wysocki. Dramarama follows a tight-knit group of high school theatre lovers the night of their final sleepover together before leaving for college. Years of parochial school has left them sexually repressed and sheltered, which poses an extra hurdle for Gene (Nick Pugliese of 13 Reasons Why) who wants nothing more than to come out to his friends. Complicating matters are his feelings for the handsome actor Oscar (Nico Greetham), who may just reciprocate his affections. Unlike other teen coming out movies which play like softcore, Dramarama knows that coming out is never easy or sexual, even when it should be.

Cured

Though Stonewall may have given birth to the modern push for queer rights, the American Psychiatric Association’s decision to remove homosexuality’s classification as a mental illness probably played an even more important role in queer people gaining social acceptance. Cured recounts the story of the brave individuals who took their case before the APA, pressing doctors to actually listen to their patients rather than diagnose them outright. Featuring interviews with pioneers including Dr. Frank Kameny, Rev. Magora Kennedy, Ron Gold, Dr. Charles Silverstien and more, the film recounts the torturous therapies—including ECT and lobotomies—that psychiatrists once subjected patients to, and the strategic arguments that paved the way for LGBTQ people to be seen as healthy.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

One of our favorite films from TIFF last year, this movie tells the story of a black, gay high schooler haunted by repeated visions of his death at the hands of police. The resultant film plays like a hallucination on queerness, race and police violence: the kind of movie that raises as many questions as it addresses. Actor Steven Silver (13 Reasons Why) proves his leading man talent in the title role, while up-and-comers Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel) and Spencer Neville (Days of Our Lives) show off their own range as Tunde’s best friend Marley, and his secret boyfriend Soren.

Monsoon

This year’s international centerpiece at Outfest features actor Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as a man facing the intersectionality of his Vietnamese heritage and being a gay man. Monsoon follows Kit (Golding) as he returns to Vietnam for the first time in three decades to scatter his parents’ ashes. As he does, he meets a handsome American, and begins to understand the plight of his family that fled all those years before.

The Capote Tapes

Another of our favorites from TIFF last year, The Capote Tapes—the debut from director Ebs Burnough—recounts the final years of author Truman Capote, and the legend of his final manuscript. Told with a combination of interviews with friends and associates, as well as archive footage & recordings, Burnough reconstructs the story of the manuscript, Answered Prayers, speculates as to its whereabouts and ultimately confronts an even bigger mystery: at his core, just who was Truman Capote? Tantalizing and fascinating, we can’t get enough.

Breaking Fast

Director Mike Mosallam enchanted us with this delightful romantic comedy earlier this year. Haaz Sleiman shows off his acting chops–and that he can carry a leading man role in his performance as a gay, Muslim doctor who falls for the handsome young Kal (Michael Cassidy). In short, we’re smitten and think you will be too.

Cowboys

Cowboys snagged actor Steve Zahn the coveted Best Actor award at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The film follows the story of a transgender boy (Sasha Knight) and his drug-addict dad Troy (Zahn), on the run from the law on horseback. Set in Montana, the film follows Troy and Jo as the pair try to evade their problems. Jo’s mom Sally (Jillian Bell) doesn’t accept that she has a transgender son, and when Troy’s erratic behavior gets him in trouble with the law, father & son resign to escape to Canada. It’s a beautiful father-son story, chock with gorgeous cinematography of the American Northwest, and a glimmer of hope for queer kids everywhere.

PS: Burn this Letter Please

A chance discovery of an old box in a storage led to the genesis of this film, another Tribeca favorite. Said box contained hundreds of letters to Reno Martin, the alter ego of Hollywood agent Edward Limato, from dozens of his friends. Limato, a gay man, died in 2017 without following requests from his friends to destroy their correspondence. Limato had befriended dozens of gay men and drag queens in 1950s New York. Their letters pulled back the veil of history to uncover life in the queer underground, and a community of friends leading double lives. PS: Burn This Letter Please reconstructs a hereto-untold chapter in queer history, and offers an inspiring happy ending to people who never dreamed of one.

House of Cardin

Documentarians P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes (Hit So Hard) turn their lens on style icon Pierre Cardin, the eccentric Italian-French designer who helped popularize Avant-Garde, futuristic fashion…and women of color on the runway. Featuring interviews with Cardin himself, as well as collaborator Jean-Paul Gautier and models Naomi Campbell and Sharon Stone, House of Cardin celebrates a gay fashion titan.

Twilight’s Kiss (Suk Suk)

Thank goodness it’s not about vampires. Twilight’s Kiss tells an unusual gay love story: that of two older men in Hong Kong, both of whom came out late in life. As their love grows, they must face choices regarding coming out in a homophobic society, living together…and how to play father to their adult children. As with several films earlier this year (notably the doc A Secret Love) this drama examines care for aging LGBTQ couples as they face their final years together.

Outfest 2020 streams online August 30-30

Note: This article contains portions of other articles previously published on Queerty.