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Outfest Review Roundup: Road Trips, True Love and Iconic Queer Memoirs

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by Kerensa Cadenas
July 19, 2013 3:45 PM
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Sarah Hagan and Drew Denny in The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On

This year's Outfest Los Angeles has yet again proven why they are one of the best LGBT film festivals in the country. They've had a spectacular line up of LGBT films including a few we covered at Sundance -- Stacie Passon's excellent Concussion and Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's documentary After Tiller.

Several of the women-directed and centric films I've seen thus far at Outfest (the festival runs until 7/21) have been terrific. Here are a couple of my favorites.

The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On - Written/Directed by Drew Denny

Drew Denny's directorial debut The Most Fun I've Ever Had With My Pants On is an autobiographical comedy about Andy (Denny) and her childhood friend Liv (Sarah Hagan) taking a road trip to spread Andy's father's ashes.

The relationship between the two wavers between nostalgia and tension--reminiscing about their childhood friendship which can bring up the fondest memories and also the worst. Liv is a reserved actress and Andy a free-spirited lesbian--the dynamic between the pair is if Rayanne and Angela from My So-Called Life grew up and went on a road trip. Denny and Hagan have excellent chemistry--they alternate between bickering, confessing and flirting seamlessly. It's an intimate look at female friendships and what happens when there's the potential for more.

Denny's film is utterly charming, emotional and gorgeously filmed--it'll make you want to hop into your car and drive through the sand dunes of New Mexico, stopping at diners and drinking cold beers outside your sweltering hotel room. More than anything, you'll be sure to want someone to share it with.

Bridegroom - Directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

The idea of true love feels like an obscure concept that is relegated to the epic romantic narratives of film and literature, not the stories of real life. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason follows the relationship between Tom and Shane--two men who met through mutual friends in Los Angeles. Bloodworth-Thomason chronicles the pair--each growing up as gay men in small, close-minded towns--Tom in Indiana and Shane in Montana.

Through videos and pictures the pair had kept, interviews with close friends and family--Bloodworth-Thomason chronicles the epic romance between the pair--the highs of traveling the world together and sharing a home and dog--to the woefully depressing lows--Tom's conservative parents threatening them when Tom came out.

When tragedy later strikes, Shane must figure out how to live without Tom, so he tells their love story in a YouTube video "It Could Happen to You." Reaching millions of people and changing lives everywhere, Shane's video spoke out about same-sex equality and proved, yet again, that love is love. Bridegroom is a joyful, heartwrenching and inspiring film.

Valencia - Directed by: Hilary Goldberg, Silas Howard, Cheryl Dunye, Aubree Bernier-Clarke, Lares Feliciano, Dia Felix, Alexa Inkeles, Jerry Lee, Peter Anthony, Sharon Barnes, Cary Cronenwett, Bug Davidson, Samuael Topiary, Olivia Parriott, Jill Soloway, Courtney Trouble, Michelle Lawler, Sara St. Martin Lynne, Greg Youmans, Chris Vargas

In high school, a girl with hot pink hair introduced me to riot grrl and queer media--Bikini Kill, Francesca Lia Block, zines, Alex Sichel's punk lesbian film All Over Me. Michelle Tea's Valencia was my first introduction to queer literature. At 16, I thought it was beautiful, romantic and made me want to be an artist in San Francisco. What I always loved most about Valencia was its frantic energy soaked in the romantic (and at times toxic) glow of Michelle's love life while living  San Francisco's Mission District.

The film, headed by Michelle Tea and Hilary Goldberg, had 21 queer filmmakers direct 5-7 minute shorts based on different chapters from the novel. It isn't quite linear in its chronology, the aesthetics dramatically change as do those who play Michelle, girlfriend Iris and other characters and lovers. By having the actors who portray Michelle and other characters vary in gender, size, ethnicity alongside the vastly different directorial styles and interpretations of Tea's work perfectly captures the frantic energy of the text.

While the segments vary, Tea's story remains constant--throwing zine parties, being sexually adventurous, making art, getting drunk and not being afraid to fall deeply in and out of love whether it's with Iris or fuck buddy, Willa. Ultimately what Valencia captures is Tea's willingness to live and love fearlessly.

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