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Outfest: the largest gay and lesbian film festival

Fresh, new American and International filmmakers highlight one of the world’s largest gay and lesbian film festivals this year as the 24th edition of Outfest will showcase a very strong year of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender (LGBT) filmmaking at its finest and most diverse. Outfest 2006, July 6 – 17, will screen 207 high quality narrative and documentary shorts and features from 25 countries around the world and will host 45 rollicking parties, a Festival hallmark. This year’s Outfest will be held in nine venues across Los Angeles – including in West Hollywood, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Silver Lake, Los Feliz and downtown – to an expected audience of more than 50,000.

The Opening Night Gala film is the sophisticated screwball comedy “Puccini for Beginners,” starring Elizabeth Reaser, Gretchen Mol, Justin Kirk and Julianne Nicholson. Outfest will close with the bawdy Spanish musical delight “20 Centimeters (20 Centimetros).” Both the Opening Night Gala and Closing Night will take place at the spectacular Orpheum Theatre, a downtown movie palace.

After the Opening and Closing Night screenings, Outfest’s legendary after-parties will commence on the premises, with the huge, infamous Opening Night party attracting thousands of partygoers, food and drink from 30 different Los Angeles restaurants and purveyors, dancing and merriment.

For more information and for a complete listing of films in the Festival, log on to www.Outfest.org or call 213-480-7065. Festival tickets go on sale on May 30th to Outfest members and on June 8th to the general public. Special ticket packages are also available.

This year, Outfest is presenting a startling variety of new, bold and talented filmmakers from both the United States and around the world, in addition to some classic films and filmmakers, screening an exceedingly varied line-up of world class films, with such entries as U.S. Dramatic Features, International Dramatic Features, Documentary Features and 14 different shorts programs. Furthermore, Outfest has scheduled an interesting, provocative assortment of Special Events, film programs, an expanded Platinum section, a new directors’ spotlight, panels, a screenwriting lab, a unique look at what seems to be the next great craze – homo hip-hop – and, of course, the best parties in town.

“It has been a good year for LGBT images in mainstream media, and Outfest 2006 adds to that success with a rich, diverse crop of new films -- innovative, inspiring voices from talented first time and returning filmmakers,” said Kirsten Schaffer, Senior Director of Programming and Operations. “There are so many amazing new stories being told. We're proud to showcase heartwarming, eye-opening, tear-jerking, laugh-out-loud films from the American deep South to Iceland, from Southeast Asia to Silver Lake that offer tremendous cultural diversity and are highly entertaining. Outfest is both a launching pad for new filmmakers who are discovered at the festival and a great family gathering where the LGBT community comes together for the largest queer art and culture event in Los Angeles.”

This year’s Awards Night film is “Boy Culture”, Q. Allan Brocka’s sexy, smart and deliciously funny follow-up to “Eating Out.” “Boy Culture” celebrates the boundary-defying possibilities of gay relationships and screens July 16th at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. Preceding the screening will be the announcement of the winners of Outfest’s 12th annual film competition hosted by the wildly entertaining. The 16 awards – the most of any LGBT festival - are in three categories: Grand Jury Awards, Audience Awards and Special Programming Awards.

There are two Centerpieces in this year’s Outfest. The Dramatic Centerpiece is the sensual “Broken Sky (El Cielo Dividido)” from Mexico, written and directed by Julian Hernandez, who previous movie was the award winning “A Thousand Clouds of Peace.” In this stunningly gorgeous and deeply moving new film, Hernandez tells the intense and erotic story of two young men in love as they are challenged to define and accept the next stage of their relationship. “Broken Sky (El Cielo Dividido)” screens July 12th at the Directors Guild.

The Documentary Centerpiece is “Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner”, directed by Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock. One of our greatest living playwrights, Pulitzer and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”) is a consummate artist and indomitable political activist committed to equality and social justice. Entwining interviews with leading theatre artists and personal moments from Kushner’s life with scenes from his plays, including appearances by Meryl Streep and Marcia Gay Harden, the film – like its subject – becomes a compassionate voice for outsiders in a climate of repression and censorship. “Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner” screens July 11th at the DGA

Outfest has also expanded its Platinum Section, their signature showcase dedicated to films, videos, live performance and multimedia work that challenge boundaries, stretch cinematic sensibilities and go where none have gone before. Legendary performance artist Penny Arcade, makes a rare Southern California appearance in the Los Angeles premiere of her show “Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!,” which features searing comedy, heartbreaking characters, erotic dancing, groundbreaking video, outrageous improv, high energy music and an audience dance party. Bold, ballsy and titillating, the Platinum Section also includes six screening programs of avant-garde features and shorts. The entire section takes place downtown at REDCAT, the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Festival this year includes never before seen episodes of “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” and “The Book of Daniel”, the controversial show about a priest, his gay son and his bisexual sister in law, starring Aidan Quinn, Christian Campbell, Cheryl White, Kathleen Chalfant and Ivan Shaw, followed by Q&As with the cast and creators.

As always, Outfest will be offering a wide variety of films for every taste at this year’s Festival. In the U.S. Dramatic Features section, for example, films include

• “Coffee Date”, a romantic comedy from Stewart Wade where a practical joke causes a straight man and a gay man to strike up an unexpected friendship. Starring Sally Kirkland, Wilson Cruz and Jonathan Silverman;
• “Colma: The Musical”, a wildly original musical that blasts through the coming-of-age genre, from director Richard Wong;
• “Fat Girls”, an outrageous comedy by Ash Christian about the inner-Rubenesque friend in all of us;
• “Forgiving the Franklins”, a wickedly smart and subversive look at right-wingers who are mysteriously stripped of any sense of conservative propriety and begin to explore their long-deprived sensual needs from first time filmmaker Jay Floyd;
• “The Groomsmen”, written, directed and starring Edward Burns, as well as John Leguizamo, Donal Logue, Jay Mohr, Matthew Lillard and Brittany Murphy, and following the screening, Burns will be participating in a Q&A in the theatre;
• “Loving Annabelle”, an unabashedly romantic tale by Katherine Brooks of forbidden student-teacher love at an all-girl Catholic boarding school;

In the International Dramatic Features section, highlights include

• “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros)”, from the Philippines. The Winner of the Berlin Film Festival’s 2006 Teddy Award for Best LGBT Film, Auraeus Solito’s strikingly accomplished debut is a coming-of-age tale never quite seen before;
• “Looking for Cheyenne (Oublier Cheyenne)”, from France, is a deeply-satisfying love story between two women, director Valerie Minetto;
• “Queens (Reinas)”, from Spain, stars five of that country’s most celebrated actresses, including Almodovar favorites Carmen Maura, Veronica Forque and Marisa Parades. Directed by Manuel Gomez Pereira, sparks fly and hijinks abound as headstrong mothers converge on their poor sons as the country’s first-ever gay weddings are about to occur;
• “Time to Leave (Le Temps Qui Reste)”, from France, is written and directed by the acclaimed Francois Ozon (“8 Women,” “Criminal Lovers”) and stars Jeanne Moreau and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi in a moving contemplation of mortality;

Outfest is also proud to present the first lesbian films ever produced and seen from Indonesia and Romania as well as a Bosnian film that is the first dramatic feature with a gay Muslim protagonist.

In the Documentary Features category, which is sponsored by The David Geffen Foundation, highlights include

• “Camp Out”, from Kirk Marcolina & Larry Grimaldi, which follows a group of teenagers at the first overnight Bible camp for gay Christian youths;
• “Meth”, Todd Ahlberg’s compelling look at the rising wave of crystal meth use among gay men;
• “Pick Up the Mic”, Alex Hinton’s enthralling cultural phenomenon of Queer Hip Hop. Through raw performances and candid interviews, gay rappers defiantly break down the barriers of contemporary hip hop, spreading a passionate message of unconditional acceptance;
• “Saint of 9/11”, Glenn Holsten’s luminous story of Father Mychal Judge, a parish priest, recovering alcoholic and openly gay man who have his life on September 11th after administering last rites to a fallen firefighter at New York’s World Trade Center. A highlight of the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

Homo Hip-Hop is this year’s newest and most pervasive genre at the Festival, exemplified by five amazing and inspired hip-hop programs, complete with kick-ass performances, with a decided LGBT bent. The films and events include the aforementioned “Pick Up the Mic”, “Songbirds”, “Beyond Beats and Rhymes”, “Rappin’ ‘Bout Homo Hop” and “Rag Tag”.

Other interesting aspects of the Festival this year include “5 in Focus: New Directors Spotlight”, highlighting first-time feature directors with exceptional films in the Festival; and the Outfest Screenwriting Lab, nurturing emerging screenwriters and outstanding gay and lesbian-themed screenplays. There are also a host of Special Events this year at Outfest, including a sing-along to “West Side Story”, panels on Queer People of Color on Television, Rappin’ ‘Bout Homo Hop, Preserving Our Legacy about Outfest’s Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation and Video Fun House, which features recognized gay and lesbian screenwriters in person who will show film clips of movies that inspired them to be writers. Also returning is the supremely popular Annual Home Video Gong Show, and Family Fun at the Village with a screening of “Brother Bear II”.

Outfest continues to produce some of the most highly-anticipated parties of the summer, including a Project Runway event, featuring LA-based designers sponsored by Bravo. More details are forthcoming.
Outfest 2006 is presented by HBO, Axium and Absolut. Premiere sponsors include Adelphia, Avis, Bravo, Clear Channel, Directors Guild of America, here! Mercedes Benz and Tylenol PM.

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