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Fests of the West


Outfest staff members at 2010 launch party.

This week Frameline in San Francisco is winding down a seemingly endless array of films through June 27. Outfest hosted filmmakers in Los Angeles earlier this month with a launch party at La Vida, a swanky bar/restaurant tucked into an outer nook of Sunset Gower Studios. Both festivals are among the world’s most prestigious gay and lesbian film events.

Outfest’s opening night isn’t until July 8, so a new crop of filmmakers joined veterans of the festival experience at La Vida just before heading north to Frameline.

Every LGBT film festival around the planet is celebrating Wolfe Video’s 25th anniversary this year. Undertow, a film from Peru that company founder Kathy Wolfe calls “an absolutely beautiful film,” is the International Centerpiece at Outfest. Wolfe, the best known distributor of LGBT films, will be acknowledged the same night. 

“This is my big success story,” says Kathy Wolfe, who “absolutely loved” Undertow at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Wolfe Video negotiated the distribution deal, the next day Undertow won Sundance’s audience award. “That’s kind of like winning the lottery,” she says happily. 

Jennifer Arnold (Made of Honor, American Mullet) is back on the circuit with the moving documentary A Small Act. The film screens at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday [June 26], then at Outfest on July 11, the day before it premieres on HBO.

While the subject matter isn’t gay, the filmmaker is. The story follows a man’s determination to find a woman whose kind gesture, sending $15 a month to support a child in Kenya, changed his life. He eventually went to Harvard. “He had never forgotten her name,” says Arnold.


Anna Margarita Albelo surprises interviewer at Outfest launch.

Anna Margarita Albelo, a filmmaking force of nature, presents Hooters, a funny documentary/companion piece to The Owls, a film with Cheryl Dunye and Guinevere Turner, selected by both Outfest and Frameline. Owls (older, wiser lesbians) is an interesting mix of narrative and documentary, reminiscent of the unique filmmaking in Dunye’s Watermelon Woman. Hooters documents the making of The Owls.

“I’ve been working in France for the last 15 years and nobody’s more serious about documentaries than the French,” insist the effervescent Albelo.

I ask where the comedy comes in and during an animated 20 minute discussion I don’t believe she ever actually answers the question. But her sense of humor is evident in the clever title.


JD Disalvatore, Paris Pickard, Doria Biddle and Molly Sturdevant at Outfest launch party.

Among those mingling around the patio are JD Disalvatore, who has a hand in two Outfest/Frameline films, A Marine Story (see my behind-the-scenes piece in the July/Aug. Curve) and Elena Undone; Paris Pickard, the model-esque actress/co-producer of A Marine Story; radio personality Doria Biddle, and producer Molly Sturdevant, who also does double duty as producer for The Owls and for Other Nature, a documentary about Nepal’s same-sex marriage policy. How a Communist country accepts gay marriage when the home of the free condemns it is beyond comprehension.

“Nani Sahra Walker [the director] is in Nepal right now so I’m here to represent,” says Sturdevant, a tall, pretty blonde. “We went to high school together. She was born and raised until 10 years of age in Nepal.”

Now the country is in “complete disarray,” says Sturdevant, adding that Walker, director of Coming In From the Cold, is still trying to get out. “Nani is unable to e-mail me even.” Despite the turmoil, she says, “I love the country and the people.” 

For a complete schedule go to outfest.org.

 

Blogger Bio: For more than a decade Laurie Schenden has covered the entertainment industry for Curve, the Los Angeles Times and Germany's Spotlight magazine. Her cover stories for Curve magazine have included Sharon Stone, Melissa Etheridge, and the cast of The L Word. She’s also an award winning documentary filmmaker and one of the co-creators of the Laughing Matters film series, seen on Logo.