Still Going Strong – The OUTrageous Film Festival returns for a 19th year

Bettye Lane Photo

After 19 years, Santa Barbara’s LGBTQ film festival, OUTrageous, is back and bigger than ever. Things have come a long way from the festival’s first year, which organizer Mashey Bernstein remembers well as featuring just three films… total. It’s a lesson of tenacity and vision, and the four nights of shorts and features by and about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer alike offer something for everybody.

This festival, Bernstein says, is one of the top three gay community events in Santa Barbara, including the A.I.D.S. Walk and the Pacific Pride Event. And, because Santa Barbara still does not have a gay bar, the festival offers a well-needed chance to socialize, as well as see some great films.

At top, 'MY NORMAL'; Above, 'UNDERTOW'.
At top, ‘MY NORMAL’; Above, ‘UNDERTOW’.
“We wonder where all these people are all year long,” Bernstein says. “So it’s a good chance to meet and get to know people and see who’s in the community. It’s really enlightening in a way.”

According to both Bernstein and fellow committee member Gary Clark, this is a very strong year for features, and to be honest, some years have shown more promise in the shorts sections.

Closing night film “A Frozen Flower” (7:30 p.m. Sunday) is a rare thing: a gay movie from South Korea, a period piece, a blockbuster (in its native country) and a rollicking good tale of jealousy, betrayal, violence and steamy sex (of the bisexual kind).

The Peruvian film “Undertow (Contracorriente)” (8 p.m. tonight) has many people singing its praises. The film, which Peru has made its official Oscar entry, concerns a happily married straight couple expecting their first child. But the husband is also seeing a handsome drifter and painter of sensual nudes, Santiago. Beautiful to look at and full of magical realism, “Undertow” has swept up many fans along the way.

The documentary “Stonewall Uprising” (3:30 p.m. Saturday) takes viewers back to the repressive 1960s under the context of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which changed the game for gay liberation almost overnight. One of many interesting facts unearthed by the filmmakers after hours of eyewitness interviews is that the Stonewall wasn’t much of a bar. Controlled by the mafia, the drinks were overpriced and watered down, and you certainly didn’t want to touch the beer. But from such a dingy place, history was made.

Following the success of last year’s sing-a-long “Rocky Horror,” this year’s audience can get their song on with John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (10:30 p.m. tonight). Nine years later, this rock opera can easily claim cult status.

Other notable features include Ned Farr’s “A Marine Story,” which touches on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, “Bear City” — which is described as “Queer as Folk”-meets-“Sex and the City” — “The Topp Twins,” a New Zealand doc about singer-songwriter comedian lesbian twins, and “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister,” a British feature that comes on like a lesbian Jane Austen tale and is based on a true story.

Of the shorts, “The New Tenants” (part of the men’s shorts feature, 1:30 p.m. Sunday) has the honor of winning this year’s Oscar for best live action short. A bickering couple — he smokes and rants, the other wants his space — get their lives overturned in short order before they have even unpacked their moving boxes. “The Queen,” by Christina Choe, deals with a shy teen and his date for prom. There are nearly 20 shorts in total in three programs.

“I think shorts are great; they are calling cards,” Bernstein says. “And we will see the director one day with a feature.”

It’s really important, he says, to give these filmmakers, especially the younger ones, the opportunity to have their work shown in front of an audience. Even if they may never go on to make another — and in the crowded film world, that’s a risk — they need that exposure.

“They come here and they are ecstatic,” he says. “And that’s what we’re really about.”

When: Through Sunday
Where: Metro 4 Theatre, 618 State St.
Cost: $75 festival pass, $10 individual films

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