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"Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America"
Out of Film will screen "Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America" as part of its June--July Pride Movie Month: A Virtual Film Festival. "Unsettled," screening at 7 p.m. Thursday, follows LGBT asylum-seekers in the United States. (Courtesy of Apple)

Documentary launches Out on Film’s Pride Movie Month virtual film festival Thursday

Lining up at the box office, grabbing some popcorn and settling alongside a bunch of eager/annoying strangers in the dark to experience the communal watching of a movie isn’t something we can do right now. But Out on Film, partnering with another Georgia mainstay, is trying to keep the movie tradition — and Pride Month — alive with four online screenings followed by live video Q&A sessions.

Georgia Equality reached out to us a month or so ago,” Out on Film director Jim Farmer says about the statewide organization focused on fairness, safety and opportunities for LGBT citizens. “I’m very excited about it. Both organizations are normally very busy during Pride month, so it’s great we can collaborate and give back to our community.”

“Community” is the key word, regardless of how each of us continues to shelter in place. The same impulse will drive this fall’s annual Out on Film Festival (more on that later).

Beginning Thursday (June 11) and continuing into July, Pride Movie Month: A Virtual Film Festival begins with Tom Shepard’s  Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America. The documentary focuses on the stories of LGBT asylum-seekers who’ve fled to the United States to escape persecution in their native countries.

As with a traditional, in-person festival, the screenings are destination-viewing events: All films will be shown online at 7 p.m. and will only screen once, although the subsequent Q&As will be recorded and remain online. The series is free but donations are accepted. To register and watch, go HERE.

The screenings touch on such issues as immigration, sexism, racism and representation. “We’re showing films that are entertaining but also deal with subjects in the news today,” says Farmer, also an ArtsATL contributor. “We’ll have a filmmaker online afterward in some sort of talkback format, to keep a communal feeling.” Director Shepard will be on-hand for a Zoom chat after Unsettled.

actor Wilson Cruz
Screening June 16: An episode from “Visible: Out on Television,” which includes Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”). He’ll  chat live afterward. (Courtesy of CBS)

The second installment, June 16th’s Visible: Out on Television will feature the third episode of the five-part Apple+ LGBTS miniseries The Epidemic. It looks at the ways television first ignored, then brought attention to, HIV/AIDS. Actor Wilson Cruz, who did Rent on Broadway and first found fame in 1994’s My So-Called Life, will follow with a live chat.

“Last year we tried very, very hard to get Wilson Cruz down here for a 25th anniversary screening,” Farmer says. But the timing didn’t work out with the actor’s shooting schedule on Star Trek: Discovery, on which he plays Dr. Hugh Culber.

“As we started to think about what we could do this year, we thought, ‘Why not do something virtual with him?’” Farmer says. “Wilson Cruz is someone who is iconic to me. He’s been around for 25 years. He was the first openly gay actor to play a gay character on TV. It’s exciting to me to screen an episode of his documentary and to have a live conversation with him.”

The virtual film festival also includes:

JUNE 18 (tentatively). The Gospel According to André, director Kate Novack’s documentary about Southern-born fashion guru André Leon Talley.

JUNE 25. Queering the Script, written and directed by Gabrielle Zilkha. It features actors Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess), Angelica Ross (Pose) and others in a history of queer female representation on TV and its effect on fans.

JULY 2. Changing the Game, writer–director Michael Barnett’s documentary about the challenges faced by transgender high-school athletes.

"Pose" on FX
Screening June 25: “Queering the Script,” which looks at LGBTQ history on television, including scenes from the ball-culture drama “Pose,” pictured. (Courtesy of FX)

This fall’s 11-day festival, now in its 33rd year, is still on for September 24–October 4. But like many other film festivals around the world — or those that haven’t canceled entirely as SXSW and Cannes have — Out on Film will be a virtual, online event to some degree.

“In three or four months, we have to decide how we make our event into something that’s not just like staying home and watching Netflix,” Farmer says. “My hope is that we can have some live screenings, but the safety of our patrons is the most important thing. For the sake of our community, we have to consider that a lot of our patrons are older, they may have health conditions.”

Farmer says Out on Film may try to have some screenings with a live component, but as with so many things these days, time will tell.

Screening July 2: “Changing the Game,” which includes transexual Texas high-schooler Mack Beggs, who wrestled in a girls weight class in 2017. (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson)

This year marks the first time that Out on Film qualifies as a festival eligible for Oscar consideration. Specifically, the winner of best dramatic short will be submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its long list of feature shorts under award consideration. “Filmmakers are very excited, and there has been a huge flurry of submissions,” Farmer says.

“Since we started, we’ve always placed a premium on having a high-quality film festival and trying to be as diverse and inclusive as possible,” he says. “Our biggest concern is community. National recognition for us is great, but more importantly it gives our filmmakers a much bigger opportunity to reach a much bigger audience.”

Check back with ArtsATL for more news about Out on Film as September draws closer.


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