OUT ON FILM has a nice niche

My first reaction on seeing the lineup for this year's Out on Film festival, which runs Sept. 26 through Oct. 6, was, "Is this for one year or five?!"

Festival Director Jim Farmer assured me it was just for this year. Perhaps I was confused because the titles of most of the 125 narrative films, documentaries, short films and web series were unfamiliar to me. I hadn't seen them and they didn't have the Award Season buzz associated with this month's festivals in Toronto and Venice.

No, Out on Film, now in its 32nd year, is a niche festival about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their interests. That doesn't mean it can't be appreciated by everyone. You don't have to have flown a plane to enjoy Top Gun, or a spaceship to enjoy Star Wars. You don't have to be a toy – or a cartoon – for Toy Story to interest you.

We all like to see ourselves represented on screen, but we learn more about the world by seeing movies about people unlike ourselves; so a good mix is healthy.

Out on Film's opening night feature, For They Know Not What They Do, is an excellent documentary about four sets of parents, each of whom learned that one of their children was gay or transgender. All had been taught by their churches that these things were wrong, in some cases a sin or abomination. Their stories range from happy to tragic, but all are human and well told.

That screens on Sept. 26 at the festival's primary venue, the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas. Closing weekend films will be shown at the Out Front Theatre Company and the Plaza Theatre.

I've just begun previewing the festival at this writing but here are a few more titles I've enjoyed:

Before You Know It is less about director/co-writer Hannah Pearl Utt's character being a lesbian than the Off-Off-Broadway scene she and her sister are involved in and what happens when they learn the mother they thought was dead (Judith Light) is actually a big soap opera star.

Changing the Game
explores questions of transgender athletes in high school and which team they should be allowed to play on, through the stories of three students in different states with different rules. There no easy answers and rules have to be one size fits all.

5B is a historical documentary about the HIV/AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the early days of the epidemic, when even many health care professionals were afraid to touch the afflicted.

The Garden Left Behind will answer a lot of your questions about gender reassignment in the course of a story about a Mexican-American (Carlie Guevara) nearing 30 who's trying to begin transitioning.

Gay Chorus Deep South documents a tour of five Southern states (bypassing Georgia) by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus after the 2016 election. Like the tour, the film is less about music (though there is some) than starting a conversation about "religious freedom" laws permitting discrimination against LGBT people.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street
is about Mark Patton, an actor whose career peaked and virtually ended with the first Elm Street sequel after he and it were deemed "too gay." Eventually it became a cult classic and Patton found a new career attending Cons.

A full schedule with film descriptions and of course a chance to buy tickets can be found at outonfilm.org.

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