New Black and Latino Gay Films Unleashed at the 2014 OUTFEST Fusion Festival

By Nick Delmacy | Posted Feb 20 2014 | 11 Comments  

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The Outfest Fusion LGBT People of Color Film Festival begins again in March this year with a whole new crop of films made by or about gays and lesbians. The festival runs from March 14-16, 2014 at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, California.

Here are a few of the standouts we’ve seen from the schedule of screenings over the run of the festival.


LE RETOUR aka THE RETURN (Directed By Yohann Kouam)

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This 20 minute french film looks right up my alley. The visuals look beautiful and the film features masculine young men not depicted merely as urban caricatures. On top of all that, they’re speaking french.

“It’s been a year since his big brother left, and Willy, 15, can’t wait for him to return. Willy thought he knew everything about Theo, but when he arrives back in the housing project, Willy discovers a secret about him.”

Reading between the lines, this means that the older brother is a regular masculine dude who doesn’t fit into gay stereotypes. This not only makes it hard to believe that he’s gay, it crushes the perception that the boy and his friends have about homosexuality. The story seems to take a typical gay tale not from the point of view of the closeted gay man afraid to “come out” but from the perspective of a younger brother who discovers that the elder sibling he idolizes is actually gay.

Raise your hand if you can relate to that. *Nick raises both hands*

Synopsis: Set in France, this beautiful coming-of-age story depicts an adolescent who stumbles upon the truth about his beloved older brother, then attempts to return to the life he once knew.

 


Blackbird

BLACKBIRD (Directed By Patrik-Ian Polk)

So we go from a fresh take on black gay acceptance in France…then we come all the way back to America for more of the same old regurgitated gay shit we’ve seen repeatedly.

Director Patrik-Ian Polk continues to be the most prolific black gay filmmaker that we have. From the film “Punks” to the “Noah’s Arc” series and movie to the feature film “The Skinny”, Polk has consistently released great looking projects with great looking casts. But they’re all the same shit. Patrik-Ian Polk may be playing a new game, but he’s dealing with the same old deck of cards.

Admittedly, we’re not huge fans of the content he creates, but we applaud him for continuing to create overly melodramatic stories representing the struggles of attractive effeminate black gay men in America.

Synopsis: A high school senior named Randy (Newcomer Julian Walker) and his band of queer friends fight for a life outside the constrictions of their small Southern town in Blackbird, a powerful film co-starring Academy Award winner Mo’nique (Precious) and Gotham Award nominee Isaiah Washington (Blue Caprice). Black, white, straight, gay and all things in between, these friends discover firsthand both the rewards and consequences of growing up as outsiders. The film reminds us that being a teenager is always hard, even when life tells you being young should be carefree and easy.  Its ensemble of young actors make an impact, as do Mo’nique and Washington as Randy’s conflicted parents.


 GAY LATINO LA: COMING OF AGE (Directed By Jonathan Menendez)

This documentary looks very interesting. It’s rare that we have a look into the American Latino Gay scene outside of homo-thug representations in erotic adult films. Unfortunately, based on this trailer, I get the sense that the lives of Latino gay men are not at all that different than the lives of stereotypical Caucasian gay men.

Synopsis: In Los Angeles, a city where dreams are born (and sometimes achieved), three young men come of age as gay Latinos. From different backgrounds, each struggles with family issues, cultural expectations and religious beliefs. Brian, a Salvadoran educated at Berkeley, covets a better world for him and others, but lacks the self-confidence to take action. Alex, born in Mexico, desires a better life and an education, but his dreams are compromised by being undocumented. Carlos, a Chicano homeboy, is caught in a self-destructive lifestyle that numbs the loneliness and pain of feeling unable to come out to his family. Director Jonathan Menendez takes us on a gripping journey as the three young men deal with the realities of being gay and Latino in L.A. Despite their internal conflicts with religion, dealing with family abandonment in a culture of hyper-masculinity, they find self-acceptance and care as they come of age in the City of Angels.


 KUHANI (Directed By Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine)

Many of you may recognize director Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine from his acting role as a cook on the New Orleans based HBO show Treme. His film Kuhani touches on the homophobia that gays living in African countries like his native homeland Uganda face. In 2011, he raised $6,000 over his $4,000 goal on Kickstarter for the short film.

Synopsis: A Missionary Position is a narrative short art film shot over 2 years in more than a half dozen countries. It is a creative response to the rampant homophobia that has gripped Uganda. In the film Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine plays the role of a Ugandan priest, loosely inspired by the true story of a Ugandan Bishop who was ex-communicated from the Anglican Church for supporting gay rights.


BOUNTY (Director Finbarr Wilbrink)

I had no idea what the fuck these Dutch people are saying in this trailer but I was still able to piece together what the story was about from the visuals, which is a good thing.

I gathered that the film is about a black kid being raised by a white lesbian couple. He seems to be teased by his friends for not being black enough once they discover that his biological father is a thug gangster rapper so they try to make “less white” by thugging him up. Sigh.

I get it, lighthearted comedy about a biracial kid with identity issues. Why do I feel annoyed? This seems full of stereotypes and the exploitation of black people for the sake of comedy, even in the Netherlands of all places.


 HECTOR: LOST SOULS WITH SWITCHBLADES (Directed By Jeff Compton)

While this Latino short film is mainly about lesbians, I really wanted to include it on the list to strike home the point made on the website (yet again) that black gay filmmakers lack originality or imagination. The creativity displayed here is simple yet engaging. Take a typical story and put a creative new twist to it.

Synopsis: A hot and reckless Latino Boi drowning his sorrows over the woman he loves finds himself in a bar brawl that has spilled out to the streets of East L.A.


 

About the Author
Nick Delmacy

Nick is a founder, editor and the pop culture expert at Cypher Avenue. Serving as the designer and webmaster of the site, he is the architect of The Cypher Avenue Matrix.

   
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11 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. Dre G | February 20th, 2014
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    Whoa,Julian Walker lived in Jackson for a while.Guess I know where he went now.

  2. SB3
    African King | February 20th, 2014
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    Wow look at all these films. The black French one looks well done along with the Latino lesbian one.

    I guess I’m not a huge movie buff but I am interested in the Latino documentary one and the Blackbird film. I never knew that the Latino gay community was that big. They do not get a lot of exposure. I think with gays that everything is pretty much black and white (mostly white) but those who are Latino, Middle Eastern and Asian definitely don’t get as much coverage or exposure at all.

    • lyriq88
      Lyriq | February 20th, 2014
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      Growing up in LA, I know that the Latino gay community is quite large man. I actually see a lot of intertwining of the white & Latino gays though. They make up most of West Hollywood on any given Friday night.

  3. hannibal
    Hannibal | February 20th, 2014
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    My friend directed the What It Was one. I guess since i’m in LA now I should go check it out. I just have an issue with the concept of Outfest Fusion since there’s Outfest. Its like they’re saying our films aren’t good enough for their huge gay festival so they just give us a really short black one to shut us up.

    • Ocky Williams | February 20th, 2014
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      I agree with your last statement. Lets not forget that white gay america is still white america.

    • lyriq88
      Lyriq | February 20th, 2014
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      In their defense, black films that don’t revolve around homosexuality don’t exactly pull in the white viewers either to be honest. I’ve battled with myself back and forth for years on the issue, but I think it just comes down to the fact that they can’t identify with our particular set of issues. I agree with @ocky in saying white gay america is definitely still white america. But I’m quite interested in a few of these films myself, so being a resident of LA I think I’ll definitely stop by and see some of these.

  4. Dante | February 25th, 2014
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    The movie “The Return” reminds me or is just like “My brother the Devil” about homosexuality in the Muslim community set in the UK. I do find American movies of homosexuality to “superficial”. Most of the Gay themed movies that have really touched me are foreign.
    They include Undertow( Brazilian), Weekend( British and my go-to movie when I feel down about dating), Beautiful Thing( British), The sex of the Angels (Spanish), We were here (American docu about the AIDS pandemic in San Francisco), Adore( Australian with Naomi watts). Just to mention a few check them out guys:)

    • JB4LA | March 17th, 2014
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      I liked the French short film “Le Retour”–Yes, it did remind me of “My Brother, the Devil.” We seem to have similar tastes in film. Although it was a bit silly and sentimental, the short Dutch film “Bounty” was enjoyable. There were two short films addressing the anti-homosexuality law in Uganda, but none as poignant and moving as the recent feature-length documentary “Call Me Kuchu.” Did you see the South Korean film “White Night”(“Baem Ya”) by Hee-il Lee Song? It’s the third in a series of medium-length films about desire, violence, violation, and despair–a bit of “the hunter and the game”–to borrow the language of a song by Grace Jones. I found that film to be quite riveting–perhaps because of my own experiences. There were some fine short films in the festival. I hate to sound like I am whining but I could not related to all the hooplah over Alec Mapa and his “Baby Daddy.” I don’t understand all this fascination with dated queeny humor. None of it sounded new to me–same old stuff gay comedians have used forever!

  5. JB4LA | March 17th, 2014
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    I attended 7 of the film screening “events” at Outfest Fusion 2014 this past weekend and saw many of the films that you mentioned. I found WHAT IT WAS to be an ambitious attempt at story-telling but confusing to the viewers. Having the same actress play the part of a conflicted teenage girl who sees herself as a “tomboyish” lesbian and then as an older glamorous actress who returns to her roots in NYC (the Bronx)just didn’t quite work. The character’s bisexuality is also confusing–perhaps because the director had several different ideas in mind, but not a clear plotline. The idea of repeated patterns in life and love is an important one, but the viewers had much difficulty sorting out story details which were often lost in long takes in a deliberate film-school arty style. I did not find GAY LATINO L.A. to cover any new territory about L.A. Latino gay culture. The director followed the story of three young Latino men in their process of finding themselves through the process of “coming out” to their families–one being a Salvadorean with a U.C. Berkeley degree, one a Cholo from South Central, and the third an undocumented man from Guadalajara in search of a better life. Their stories were moving, but the very dated Chicano Aztec dancer/poem bit was an unnecessary addition to the film. I wish the director had scraped that and framed his story with documentary film-footage of Latino gay culture from the 1970s and 1980s instead. Best film – WHITE NIGHTS.

  6. Brian | March 21st, 2014
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    Just a comment- I doubt that the filmmaker, for “Hector” got permission from the composer, Angelo Badalamenti (David Lynch’s favorite composer) to use his music in his film. (Or could afford what it would cost to use it). This shows a lot of disrespect, and lack of creativity, not to mention it being illegal. If you want to be an original, don’t steal from others.




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