These tough economic times aren’t easy for many film festivals to wade through. Even established regulars such as Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival which is celebrating it’s 27th year. Ironically, however, the sad state of independent film distribution has given the festival one of its best slates in years.
Off the record, even Outfest regulars will tell you the opening night film is usually a turd and really just an excuse to show something after the organization’s lifetime achievement award is given out and everyone heads to the booze-filled after party. This year, saw the Sundance Film Festival selection “La Mission” screen and it is certainly one of the better openers of the last decade.
Produced by and starring Benjamin Bratt, “La Mission” follows a widowed hispanic man living in the Mission District of San Francisco trying to come to grips with the fact his only son is gay. While the story line may not be that original, director and screenwriter Peter Bratt (yep, Benjamin’s brother) shows a side of San Francisco latino life rarely shown on the big screen or television.
The most enjoyable part of the evening, however, occurred before the film. Newsworthy, Chaz Bono, Cher’s offspring who recently revealed he was transitioning from female to male, made the first speech of the night and heralded the festival for providing transgender films that encouraged him in his 10-year-battle in taking this life-changing step.
Bono was followed by Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow who gave a hilarious speech honoring the night’s lifetime achievement winner Don Roos. The duo starred in Roos’ groundbreaking indie film “The Opposite of Sex” which helped cement Ricci from a child star to serious adult actress even though she was only 17 at the time (it also proved Kudrow wasn’t a one-note “Friends” wonder). Described as a “Mary Poppins” director, the actresses dished how Roos still probably knows less about the filmmaking aspect of moviemaking than any director they know, but its his writing and overall vision which has made him so successful. The speech was so great I hope Outfest puts it on YouTube, but trust me, it pretty much made the night.
Roos, who also helmed “Bounce” and the severely underrated “Happy Endings,” then came to the stage and gave a very funny acceptance speech of his own, half of which couldn’t be reprinted on such a family-friendly site as HitFix. (Again, someone at Outfest please put these up on YouTube for prosperity’s sake.)
And besides Bratt, it turns out Josh Brolin and his lovely wife Diane Lane were also in the house racking up the celebrity quotient. Nice.
Outfest runs until Sunday, July 19 and will feature a closing night screening of Sundance dramatic competition entry “Dare,” a special sneak preview of Ryan Murphy’s “Glee,” a singalong of “Funny Girl” and the acclaimed documentary “Prodigal Sons.”