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Outfest Los Angeles embraces the LGBT-friendly mainstream with ‘Ghostbusters’ and more

“Ghostbusters”
In the new “Ghostbusters,” the ghoul-fighting force is, from left, Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones).
(Hopper Stone/Sony Pictures)

Since its inception 34 years ago, Outfest Los Angeles has championed the stories of and by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community – long before it was trendy, profitable or politically correct. But as societal attitudes and local and national policies continue to change, major studios and other film festivals have also become welcoming spaces for LGBT-friendly productions.

That transition has benefited Outfest, painting the city’s leading LGBT film festival as the place to premiere works that may or may not be expressly LGBT but undoubtedly will be enjoyed by those who are. That’s how Outfest, which starts Thursday and continues through July 17, landed a pre-release screening of Sony’s “Ghostbusters,” a film that truly could’ve gone anywhere else of the studio’s choosing.

“While Outfest is an important queer-identified space and an opportunity for us to come together and celebrate our stories and really affirm our experiences, mainstream culture has shifted and people are interested in seeing diverse, good stories,” said Chris Racster, the festival’s executive director. “I do think the strength of Outfest as a festival and the respect that it has both in Hollywood and in the LGBT community [helped us land this screening], but it’s also a reflection of this point in time as we continue to be seen, heard, accepted and a part of mainstream culture.”

During the 11-day festival, more than 160 works will show throughout Los Angeles. While most will screen at Sunset Boulevard’s Harmony Gold theater and Directors Guild of America, others will take over downtown’s REDCAT and the newly renovated Ford Theatre on Cahuenga Boulevard. Opening night will be at the Orpheum, where Clea DuVall’s Sundance favorite “The Intervention” will be given its premiere.

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Watch the trailer for “Ghostbusters.”

Of all the festival’s films, the early viewing of “Ghostbusters” July 13 at the Ford, which premieres nationwide two days later, is the most notable. From “Bridesmaids” and “Spy” director Paul Feig, the all-female reboot of the 1984 classic stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. According to Racster, nabbing the film for a screening before its debut was a relatively simple process aided by a long-standing relationship with Sony and its LGBT employee group, OUT@SPE.

“When ‘Ghostbusters’ came up, we realized this was an opportunity to bring a family-friendly film that the LGBT audience would be excited about,” he said. “We can provide a place for our community’s families to come together in an LGBT environment, and Sony was thrilled.”

Sony stated that it “couldn’t pass up the opportunity to screen ‘Ghostbusters’ in the newly revamped Ford Amphitheater for Outfest,” said Wendy Armitage, executive advisor of OUT@SPE. 

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“The timing was perfect and it gives LGBTQ families a great opportunity to come and see the film in an LGBTQ environment,” she said.

It also doesn’t hurt that one of the film’s stars, McKinnon of “Saturday Night Live” fame, is an out lesbian.

Both Hulu’s “Difficult People,” premiering its Season 2 on Saturday, and Amazon’s “Transparent,” screening its Season 3 premiere on Sunday, are two other examples of notable productions that selected Outfest for their exclusive season debuts.

But where an embrace of more mainstream works, some of which depict LGBT people, is obviously present with this year’s slate, Outfest maintains itself as one of the go-to spaces for independent LGBT filmmaking. Two series of programming special to the festival this year, with focuses on Latin America and Los Angeles, highlight this the most, said Lucy Mukerjee-Brown, the festival’s director of programming.

“We have yet again discovered that some of the strongest content coming our way is coming from Latin America,” she said. “And these five incredible films, from Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, feel very timely.”

In the series, spread throughout the festival, the multiplicity of Latin American identity is on display.

In Papu Curotto’s “Esteros,” the festival’s international centerpiece screening Tuesday, two male Argentine friends reunite after 10 years to find their high school-aged attraction for each other is still palpable – but one of them has a girlfriend. In Julio Hernández Cordón’s “I Promise You Anarchy,” also screening Tuesday, two Mexican, punk rock skaters scheme for easy money. Also highlighted in the series is Andre Antonio’s “The Cult” (Saturday), Ingrid Veninger’s “He Hated Pigeons” (July 14) and Filipe Matzembacher’s “The Nest” (Saturday).

“They share common themes of familial and societal acceptance, themes that continue to be relevant in cultures where there is shame and prejudice,” Mukerjee-Brown said, noting how some of the people of color who died during the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., were not out to their families. “These Latin American films broach very difficult subject matters, but in a very sophisticated way.”

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The Los Angeles series, also sprinkled throughout the festival, is proof of the city’s “thriving landscape of queer independent film,” Mukerjee-Brown said. Films highlighted include Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle’s “Ovarian Psycos,” about a group of punk Xicana women who take to bikes to reclaim their East L.A. streets (Saturday and July 16), C. Fitz’s documentary “Jewel’s Catch One” about one of the nation’s first black discos (Sunday and July 17) and the world premiere of Dante Alencastre’s “Raising Zoey” about a local 13-year-old turned national  transgender activist (Sunday).

And for what can’t be found in films showing this year, Outfest has made the decision of “approaching the LGBT content that’s out there in a very holistic way,” Mukerjee-Brown said, welcoming television and Web series. Of note are the Web series “The Chadwick Journals,” an offshoot of the cable show “The DL Chronicles” that is coming back for a second season after a more than four-year hiatus (it screens Sunday), and “For Ex-lovers Only,” about a lesbian couple reconciling with their breakup (Sunday). Television network TBS also will screen the pilot episode of its new dark comedy “Search Party” on Saturday.

“The idea is that anyone can come to the festival and see themselves on the screen,” Mukerjee-Brown said.


What: Outfest Los Angeles

Where: Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd.; Harmony Gold Theatre, 7655 W. Sunset Blvd.; Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd.; REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St.

When: Thursday through July 17

Tickets: $15 general admission; select screenings more

More info: (213) 480-7065, www.outfest.org 

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Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson

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UPDATES:

2:58 p.m.: This article was updated with studio comment.

This article was originally published at 5:00 a.m. 


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