Entertainment » Movies

What to See at OUTshine Miami

by Frank J. Avella
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Apr 18, 2019

The 21st OUTshine Film Festival - Miami, once again paves the way for the year in queer cinema by showcasing some of the most exciting LGBTQ titles. Mark my words: You will see a host of these same gems programmed into some of the most prominent LGBTQ Fests later this year.

OUTshine runs from April 18th-28th and opens with Annabel Jankel's stirring UK period drama, "Tell It to the Bees," starring Oscar-winner Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger. Based on the novel by Fiona Shaw, "Bees" tells the story of repressed love and prejudice in post-WWII rural Scotland, and features nuanced work by the two leads. The film is also an important reminder that not that long ago, being open about your sexual identity could yield crippling consequences.

The Men's Spotlight Film is one of the most sexually charged I have seen in a while: Marco Berger's "The Blonde One" ("Un Rubio"), from Argentina. Quiet, introspective Gabo (Gaston Re) has just moved in with his colleague, outgoing and uber-macho Juan (Alfonso Barón). The sexual tension is off the charts as these two find a strange but potent affection, despite the "straight" lives they lead. Alas, how lasting can it be in a culture that demands heteronormative conformity?

The Ladies Spotlight Film, Chanya Button's "Vita and Virginia," was not made available for preview.

The Work-in-Progress banner boasts writer-director Mike Doyle's loving and intelligent dramedy, "Sell By," featuring Scott Evans ("Grace and Frankie") and Augustus Prew as a couple feeling a five-year-itch of sorts.

The most prominent name in the Fest provides one of the best performances. Matt Bomer delivers a fearless turn in John Butler's compelling "Papi Chulo," which deceptively begins as a silly comedy but emerges as something much more complex. Bomer anchors the film with a go-for-broke turn satirizing affluent gay-white-male privilege but delving much deeper into the soul of a man whose been broken by tragedy.

The Fest must be commended for featuring a handful of truly harrowing films with honest and sometimes devastating climaxes.

Chief among the best and most audacious is French auteur Camille Vidal-Naquet's
"Sauvage/Wild" about Leo, a 22-year-old male prostitute (Félix Maritaud in a truly remarkable heart-soul-n-balls-out performance) who has no desire to change his life, despite its increasing dangers. This one is absolutely nervy and riveting.

Based on shocking real events that happened in Argentina, Martin Rodriguez Redondo's astonishing slow-burn film "Marilyn" packs a wallops in its last few moments, showing exactly what can happen when someone isn't accepted for who they are, and are continuously beaten down and stifled. Walter Rodriguez is mesmerizing in the titular role.

Another bold, searing film with a gobsmacking conclusion is Darko Stante's "Consequences (Posledice)," from Slovenia. Handsome 17-year-old Andrej (Matej Zemljic) is placed into a correctional center by his parents. There, he crushes on a bully, Zele (Timon Sturbej), who uses him as his enforcer and collector - and occasional fuck buddy. In their world, bisexual behavior is acceptable only when it's on the hush-hush.

From Austria, Gregor Schmidinger's "Nevrland" is one of the most ambitious films, centering on a 17-year-old Jakob (an absolutely beguiling Simon Frühwirth), who is lonely, neurotic and longs for connection. This original work with startling visuals channels David Lynch and leaves the viewer in a surreal state of "WTF?"

Filmmaker Bani Khoshnoudi's anxiety-ridden "Fireflies (Luciernagas)" chronicles the sorrowful saga of Ramin (Arash Marandi), who escaped horrific persecution in his homeland of Iran only to end up in the limbo of Veracruz, Mexico, where he doesn't understand the language and feels out of sorts in the culture, missing his love back in Tehran.

Greek-South African helmer, Etienne Kallos, gives us "The Harvesters (Die Stropers)," an at once fascinating and maddening tale of brotherly rivalry in the South African Bible Belt. 15-year-old Janno (Brent Vermeulen) is forced to awaken to the realities of life thanks to the arrival of his troubled adoptive brother (Alex van Dyk). A convoluted narrative is saved by the two teen performances.

The titular character in Alexandre Moratto's "Socrates" is a 15-year-old child of the São Paulo slums forced to survive on his own when his mother suddenly dies. Scorned by his homophobic father, he hooks up with a messed-up older co-worker. This gritty, low budget feature shows promise, but needed to delve a bit deeper.

The South African film "Canary (Kanarie)," directed by Christiaan Olwagen, tells the tale of an 18-year-old boy, struggling with his sexuality, who gets called for military service in the '80s and is accepted into the Canaries, a defense force choir. The film deals with repression, racism, patriotism, and homophobia, and is a challenging, but rewarding, blend of comedy and pathos.

Madeleine Olnek's wacky "Wild Nights With Emily" depicts a different Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) than the usual maudlin, death-obsessed recluse. Not for all tastes, this whimsical, vignette-y cine-poem does offer some incisive moments.

I had the great good fortune of seeing "Everybody's Talking About Jamie," directed by Jonathan Butterell, live onstage in London this past summer, so I am thrilled that this marvelous and empowering musical has been filmed as is, for mass consumption, starring the fabulous John McCrea.

One of the glorious surprises at OUTshine this year is the number of films that hail from Italy, a country too slow to arrive at the LGBTQ film exploration table because of a culture steeped in intolerance toward gays. This is a banner year with four Italian movies, most quite good.

Simone Godano's funny and poignant "An Almost Ordinary Summer (Croce e Delizia)" is among the most enjoyable, with a fantastic cast led by the formidable Alessandro Gassman, the always-captivating Jasmine Trinca, and the super-hot Filippo Scicchitano. "Summer" (also titled "Mixed Blessings") is a tale of two older "straight" men from different classes who fall in love and must now deal with their somewhat homophobic and class-phobic families.

Trinca is featured in a smaller, but potent, role in Valeria Golino's "Euforia," which stars Golino's real-life husband, Riccardo Scamarcio, as a gay man who finds out his brother (Valerio Mastrandrea) is terminal and goes to great lengths to keep it a secret. It would have been nice for the (four) screenwriters to have allowed the Scamarcio character a love life to explore.

Two Sicilian-born dudes, Antonio (Vinicio Marchioni) and Agostino (Marco D'Amore), rediscover one another after a 15-year estrangement in Simone Catania's "Drive Me Home." Good performances and a subtle hand make this rare exploration of Sicilian homophobia a stand out.

Finally, Karole Di Tommaso's "Mamma+Mamma" explores the insanities involved with two women trying to have a child in a country (Italy) that does not in any way support them. A surreal, but sweet, touch makes this one endearing.

For more on OUTshine Miami, visit the festival's website.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He is also a proud Dramatists Guild member and a recipient of a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded a 2015 Fellowship Award from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and the Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation Playwright Award for his play Consent, which was also a 2012 semifinalist for the O'Neill. His play, Vatican Falls, took part in the 2017 Planet Connections Festivity and Frank was nominated for Outstanding Playwriting. Lured was a semifinalist for the 2018 O'Neill and received a 2018 Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Grant. Lured will premiere in 2018 in NYC and 2019 in Rome, Italy. LuredThePlay.com


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