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Outfest Keeps Lesbian Cinema Alive

Celebrate Outfest’s Legacy Project with a gala on October 22.


A scene from Desert Hearts (1985)


Outfest, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization promoting equality by creating and protecting LGBT stories on the screen, will honor multiple award-winner Rita Moreno (West Side Story) and SAG award-winning, Emmy-nominated actress and equal rights advocate Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) at the 2017 Legacy Awards on Sunday, October 22nd. 


Moreno is receiving the James Schamus Ally Award, which honors the efforts of an individual elevating LGBTQ stories, for her role as Lydia Riera in the Netflix series One Day at a Time. Moreno portrays a Cuban grandmother who supports her 15-year-old gay granddaughter. Cox is receiving the Trailblazer Award in recognition of her groundbreaking role as Sophia Burset, in Netflix’s OITNB. Cox is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show.


Rita Moreno; Laverne Cox


Outfest Executive Director Christopher Racster said, “This year's honorees have made it their life's work to knock down stereotypes and barriers, and to advocate for a better, more inclusive world.” 


The Legacy Awards gala serves as a fundraiser to support the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, which celebrates its 12th anniversary this year. It is the only program in the world exclusively dedicated to saving and preserving LGBT moving images. 


The objective of the Legacy Project is to address the need to archive and preserve the landmark LGBT films made over the last 40 years, especially fragile original exhibition prints whose negatives have been damaged over the years. Over the last 12 years, the Legacy Project is proud to have collected more than 37,000 moving image items and to have restored 25 historically important film and video projects. 


Previous Legacy Award winners include Jill Soloway, Lisa Cholodenko (High Art), and lesbian directors such as Cheryl Dunye and Donna Deitch have benefited from working with the Legacy Project. The two most recently restored films were Dunye’s 1996 The Watermelon Woman, starring Dunye and Guinevere Turner, and Deitch’s 1985 landmark lesbian romance, Desert HeartsThe Watermelon Woman is about a black Philadelphia lesbian's archival search for a forgotten 1930s black actress who may or may not have been queer. 




Desert Hearts is the first lesbian feature in film history to have a happy ending. Donna Deitch, a UCLA film school graduate who was approached by the Legacy Project to include Desert Hearts in the archive, says it was “naturally important” to her that she support the Legacy Project. “I was honored to be asked to join a collection of films that contribute to telling and preserving our stories. It was thrilling for me in 2016 when Outfest joined Sundance and Criterion on the 30th anniversary of Desert Hearts to contribute to the cost of this restoration. Due to this restoration and what can be accomplished digitally 30 years after being shot on 35mm, Desert Hearts is now even more luminous cinematographically.”


Deitch said that she is impressed and astounded when she looks through the Outfest UCLA Legacy Collection and discovers “the sheer number of films by women that tell stories about women. Women are more than 50% of the population. Our stories should be more than 50% of the stories told,” she said. “If you’re interested in watching these stories and turning others on to them, that’s a reason to support the Outfest Legacy Project. There’s no better place to go.”




To find out more about the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, go here.

Watch the celebrity-studded sizzle reel featuring out queer women directors, actors, and entertainers who outline how the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project benefits LGBTQ women's filmmaking here.

To find out more about the Legacy Awards Gala on October 22 go here. To buy tickets, please visit: http://www.outfest.org/the-legacy-awards/

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