Three Decades of Progress

Atlanta's Out on Film began in 1987, a decade before Ellen DeGeneres came out and longer before Will & Grace and Queer as Folk brought LGBT characters into your home every week. Aside from a rare commercial breakout, LGBT films were considered too "niche" for mainstream distribution. Those who wanted to find their lives reflected on screen had to search dusty shelves in the back of video stores (remember those?) or wait for this annual festival.

Today Out on Film serves a different purpose. With too much of all kinds of content available via video, cable, streaming, etc., the festival searches through haystacks and other stacks to bring you the sharpest needles. While some specifically target LGBT viewers and those curious to learn more about them, most can be appreciated by anyone who doesn't live in a bubble surrounded by mirror images of themselves.

This year's festival begins September 27 and continues through October 7 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas, with additional shows the final weekend at Out Front Theatre and the Plaza Theatre.

Out On Film director Jim Farmer seems to call every year's festival the biggest and best yet, but this year's does live up to his enthusiasm.

You can find full details, ticket info and last-minute changes at outonfilm.org, but here are some recommendations based on previewing about half of the festival's features.

My absolute favorite is Good Manners (Oct. 2, 7 p.m., Landmark), a Brazilian film that begins as a lesbian love story and changes at the full moon into a first-rate horror movie.

The others are easier discussed in pairs.

Art: If you're not turned off by the slow pace of many European dramas, A Moment in the Reeds (Oct. 4, 9:10 p.m., Landmark) and Sodom (Sept. 27, 9:15 p.m., Landmark) are worth seeing. Both are about two men getting to know each other, over a few days in Finland (Reeds) or one night in Berlin (Sodom).

Education: As exhaustive as college courses about their subjects, but far more entertaining, Dykes, Camera, Action! (Sept. 30, 5:10 p.m., Landmark) tells you everything you always wanted to know about Lesbian Cinema. Every Act of Life (Oct. 1, 7:05 p.m., Landmark) does the same for gay playwright Terrence McNally.

Fun: Because festivalgoers also want to have fun, Ideal Home (Oct. 6, 7 p.m., Plaza) and My Big Gay Italian Wedding (Sept. 29, 12:45 p.m., Landmark) are barrels of laughs, while scoring some serious and/or sentimental points along the way. In Wedding an Italian man brings his fiance home to meet his family and friends, including his homophobic father. In Ideal, Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan have been together for ten years when their household is expanded by the arrival of Coogan's grandson, also ten. (Note: The language is not for most ten-year-olds.)

Kink: Instability causing unpredictability features in two potential gay romances, Hard Paint (Oct. 3, 9:10 p.m., Landmark) and Devil's Path (Oct. 5, 9 p.m., Out Front), that shift gears often enough that they may be thrillers or horror films instead. No spoilers here.

Trans-cendentalism: Despite the increasing visibility of trans persons, many people don't know any - or don't think they do. TransMilitary (Oct. 6, 3:15 p.m., Out Front) and Call Her Ganda (Oct. 7, 3 p.m., Landmark) are documentaries that can change that, taking you deep into the lives of four trans individuals serving their country and one Filipina trans woman, Jennifer Laude, who was murdered by a U.S. Marine in 2014.

Competition: Man Made (Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Landmark) profiles four more trans persons, contestants in an Atlanta transgender bodybuilding competition. Atlanta also figures prominently in the festival's opening night feature, When the Beat Drops(Sept. 27, 7 p.m., Landmark).

The Good Old, Bad Old Days: History comes alive in Riot (Oct. 1, 9 p.m., Landmark), a docudrama about Australia in the 1970s and the gay men and lesbians who created Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras; and 1985 (Sept. 29, 7 p.m., Landmark), a drama set at the height of the AIDS pandemic, where a young man pays a final visit to his family in his Texas hometown.

In or Out? Sexual orientation isn't the hot-button issue it once was, as in For Izzy (Oct. 7, 1 p.m., Out Front), where an out lesbian befriends an autistic neighbor; but many individuals still struggle with finding acceptance from themselves and others, like the South African draftee in Canary (Sept. 30, 7 p.m., Landmark), who tours with a military chorus (in the mid-'80s).

Those are some of my favorites. Check the schedule to see what sounds interesting to you: outonfilm.org/2018-film-schedule



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