Here are a few of our faves from Outfest 2013 — standouts among the more than 150 films showing this year.
Set in 1985 in San Francisco, Test is a breathtaking little film about the early days of AIDS, the first HIV test, and life as a young gay man in a burgeoning artistic career. Comparisons to Parting Glances, the beloved and critically acclaimed ‘90s film, are warranted, but Test also has a dancer’s sensibility, a lithe fluidity to the narrative that lends itself well to the story. The lead character, Frankie, is a modern dancer, bullied at work for his lack of masculinity and his inability to be macho on the dance floor (in a dance company filled with gay men, mind you). Frankie’s also trying to become the man he’s meant to be — whatever that is — find love (or sex), and decide whether to get “the” test. It’s a reminder to viewers who are too young to remember what life was like before AIDS, but in a sexy way; like when Frankie and a love talk about whether they’ve ever used condoms — the answer is no, because in 1985 those are for straight boys — and end up in bed blowing them up like balloons. And because director Chris Mason Johnson was a former choreographer himself, the scenes of the dancers are always beautiful and captivating too.
TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo's Story
Outfest marks the world premiere Dante Alencastre’s documentary about the life of renowned Los Angeles-based trans Latina activist and leader, Bamby Salcedo, following her personal challenges to a transformative rise to prominence in the local trans community. Salcedo’s personal story shares the narrative of many trans immigrant women of color — who find themselves trapped by drugs, prison, sex work, and more — but more interesting is how she’s moved through loss and become a resilient advocate for social justice in multiple, overlapping communities her life has touched, including HIV-positive people, Latina, youth, and LGBT communities.
Salcedo is currently at the helm of the nation’s largest transgender youth program at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. TransVisible follows Salcedo’s creation of the life-saving Angels of Change program for trans youth, and her feminist advocacy for the Translatina Coalition. And though we still see the effects of the haunting loss of former partners to drugs or discrimination when Salcedo speaks, it’s clear that she’s a woman who has come into her own in mid-life, rising to greater heights than many in the same stead, and who seems both lovable and unstoppable. That makes TransVisible a heartwarming and human story — a rarity in a media that still portrays trans women as freaks.
In this riveting look at the healthcare crisis around HIV and AIDS in the rural South, director Lisa Biagiotti’s Deepsouth puts a personal face on the epidemic. There are the women — Monica and Tammy — who run an HIV resource retreat in Louisiana with almost no money, and Josh, a young, gay black man who is trying to stay in college while dealing with HIV, poverty, and cultural ignorance. All compelling stories, but the face that gets you most in this documentary is Kathie, the (presumably 60-something) director of AIDS Alabama, who is constantly lobbying, fighting, cold-calling, speaking, and otherwise working so hard to get money allocated to her state, to her region, that she seems literally worn out at the end. In fact, the film closes on a scene where she wants to go to bed — we want her to go to bed — but there is still so much to be done. Both sad and maddening, and at times heartwarming, this is a must-see doc for anyone who thinks that AIDS is over, that Obamacare solved everything, or that people of color aren’t adversely affected by the HIV crisis.