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This probably isn’t literally true, but we know what it feels like: “I pretty much stayed in bed for March, in total disbelief,” says Jim Farmer, director of Out on Film. (and an ArtsATL contributor).

Yeah, the arrival of a pandemic can do that. Nevertheless, the annual LGBTQ festival begins its 11-day run today (September24), transformed this year (and, fingers crossed, just this year) to a virtual event.

Before Covid-19 began to disrupt the party, Out on Film was looking forward to a great year (its 33rd). The festival had just become Oscar-qualified — meaning that the winner of the best dramatic short category is now eligible to be submitted for Academy Award consideration. As a result, filmmakers’ enthusiasm for the festival had heightened. Farmer hoped to have a flurry of starry guests attending.

Which is why he took to bed when the new reality set in. Then he realized the event could be virtual, preserving its normal place on the fall calendar. “We’re not scaling back,” he says. “We’re doing the same number of films we usually do.”

The festival might even benefit from some of the necessary, socially distanced changes, linking in with filmmakers and talent who might not have been able to visit Atlanta in person. Two examples: The fest will feature livestreamed chats with prolific film/TV writer-producer Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries), who shot his second Scream movie in Decatur in 1997, and comedian-actor Margaret Cho, celebrating the 20th anniversary of her concert film, I’m the One That I Want. (Cho will also receive the festival’s Icon Award.)

There will be none of the in-person community celebration that typically motors the festival but, as always, the focus is on the films. “We always try to create a program that’s high in quality and also inclusive and international,” Farmer says. “We also have a really strong year for women’s films. I think it might be the best we’ve had. I’m really proud of the diversity of our lineup. We have comedies, dramas, films from Atlanta, international films, and we have a horror night that we started doing three years ago.”

And for anyone desperate to get out of the house, there’s a drive-in 40th anniversary screening of Fame on October 3 at the Springs Cinema & Taphouse in Sandy Springs.

Farmer’s narrative-feature favorites on the schedule include Milkwater, Twilight’s Kiss and Ellie and Abby (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt). I’ve seen 10 of this year’s films, and not a one was a dud. See my mini-reviews below. Full information on Out on Film  is at www.outonfilm.org.

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BREAKING FAST (2020, 92 minutes, in English and Arabic). A nice, handsome Muslim doctor named Mo (Haaz Sleiman) has a bad surprise during Ramadan when his closeted boyfriend announces he needs to marry a woman due to parental pressure. One year later, Mo meets a nice, handsome non-Muslim, Kal (Michael Cassidy), who isn’t closeted, speaks a little Arabic and wants to share Iftar, the post-sundown Ramadan meal, which Mo sort of unbelievably, elaborately whips up each night. The romantic comedy is a little timid and wastes the wonderful Veronica Cartwright in a tiny role. Its most interesting passage happens when Mo gets legitimate pushback about the apologia he has for his religion (the sort of questioning/examination any organized religion deserves, not just Islam). Kal tells him he’s “bright-siding” the downsides of his faith. But just when you think the movie is getting somewhere challenging, it grabs for an easy, feel-good ending, complete with a gospel choir.

Out on Film 2020

The romantic comedy “Breaking Fast” is set against the twinkling lights of West Hollywood. Stream it from 10 a.m. September 26 to 10 a.m. September 29.

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CICADA (2020, 93 minutes, in English). The movie starts confusingly, with an unmoored montage of its main character, Ben (director and cowriter Matt Fifer), revolving through a series of beds and couplings with multiple genders. It’s exhausting — and reflects Ben’s state of mind. He’s young, unformed, uncertain about his sexuality and, when he hooks up with Sam (cowriter Sheldon D. Brown), he must start addressing the core of his confusion. (The feature, apparently, is strongly based on the filmmakers’ real-life experiences.) It’s peppered with a handful of familiar faces, including SNL’s Bowen Yang, Neil Patrick Harris spouse David Burtka and especially Cobie Smulders, whose role as Ben’s therapist starts off as a joke but turns into something deeper. Cicada maintains a relaxed, revelatory pace, letting us get to know its central couple and leading to a beautiful grace note of an ending.

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CURED (2020, 82 minutes, in English). We take it for granted now, but even in my lifetime (I’m old, but not so old), homosexuality was deemed a mental disease by the medical Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). When I surreptitiously checked the “homosexual” section in my mom’s volume of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex . . . , I found that gay life seemed to happen primarily in public restroom stalls. This documentary is a sharp reminder of the not-so-long-ago when being nonbinary, or even suspected of it, could lead to institutionalization, electroshock therapy, even lobotomy. Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer’s film documents what it took to effect change. As during the AIDS and ACT UP era, angry, bold, loud and articulate members of the LGBTQ community had to step up, take risks and get themselves heard until, in 1974, being gay was no longer considered “a disease.”

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GIVE OR TAKE  (2020, 98 minutes, in English). A milquetoast, middle-of-the-road dramedy that might have seemed edgy 20 years ago . . . but that’s not such a bad thing. Martin (Jamie Effros) comes back home to deal with the aftermath of his father’s death and the disposition of the family home, where dad’s lover Ted (Broadway’s Norbert Leo Butz) still lives. As he phone chats with his annoying girlfriend, Martin has a few too many tired conversations along the lines of, “OMG-I-can’t-believe-Ted-is-sleeping-in-my-dead-mom’s old bedroom.” From Garden State to Young Adult, the adult-returning-to-his-old-hometown genre is a little too familiar. But in general the movie is sweetly amiable.

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LOS FUERTES, or THE STRONG ONES (2019, 98 minutes, in Spanish). This is another drama about a man returning to his small hometown. His name is Lucas (Samuel González), he’s gay and he’s only in Chile for a few days before leaving for graduate school in Montreal. Complications arise when he meets Antonio (Antonio Altamirano), a local fisherman (for collectors of such things, they share a very good kiss — but so do the female leads of Shiva Baby). Lucas can’t understand why Antonio would want to stay in their backwater town; Antonio doesn’t understand why anyone would leave. A character study, Los Fuertes can at times seem rudderless, drifting from scene to scene. By its end, though, you realize it’s a fascinating and rare look at how class and opportunities can color a relationship and determine its fate.

Out on Film 2020

“The Strong Ones,” a Chilean romance, can be streamed from 10 a.m. September 27 to 10 a.m. September 30.

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MILKWATER (2020, 101 minutes, in English). Some things shouldn’t be done on impulse, like offering to be surrogate mother for the gay guy you hardly know. But that’s the decision Milo (Molly Bernard) makes when she becomes an acquaintance of older Roger (Patrick Breen), who mentions, in passing, that he’s always wanted to be a father. He shows more caution than Milo does when she offers to be his baby mama, and the caution helps ground a comedy that is, early on, a little too Brooklyn-hipster-glib. Gears shift when Milo gets pregnant and starts to imagine her role in Roger and the baby’s as something more than they agreed on. She gets pushy and stalker-y in ways that make the movie uncomfortable to watch but also really interesting. (Bernard is up for the challenge of being quirky-awful.)  Just when you think the movie is about to turn into some sort of baby-centric melodrama, like a descendant of Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and you’re as tired of Milo’s antics and self-absorption as everyone around her, the movie corrects itself and slides into a wise, balanced ending.

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SHIVA BABY (2020, 71 minutes, in English). This edgy comedy of discomfort would feel like a familiar, warm bath to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David. In writer-director Emma Seligman’s film, Rachel Sennott is Danielle, a bisexual and unmoored New Yorker summoned to the funeral reception of someone she hardly knows by her parents (Polly Walker and Fred Melamed, on point). “What’s my sound bite again?” she asks before entering the house, because they — and she — don’t have a reasonable explanation for how she’s drifting through life. To some, she claims she’s in law school, to others that she’s between majors. In fact, she’s making change via quick paid sex with sugar daddies, including Max (Danny Deferrari), who shows up at the reception with, um, other family members. Also a surprise attendee: Danielle’s high school squeeze, now estranged (Molly Gordon). Seligman works the claustrophobic setting with verve in one of those too-rare films that deserve to be expanded from their original short-film version.

Out on Film 2020

The black comedy “Shiva Baby” can be streamed from noon September 30 to noon October 3. The ensemble cast features Polly Draper (“thirtysomething”) and Broadway’s Jackie Hoffman.

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THROUGH THE GLASS DARKLY (2020, 103 minutes, in English). This narrative feature, set and shot in North Georgia, springs some nice surprises. In director/cowriter Lauren Fash’s working-class mystery, Robyn Lively plays Charlie Glass, a woman obsessed with finding the young daughter who’s been missing for a year and whose obsession is starting to alienate her lover, Angela (Atlanta actor Bethany Anne Lind). When another girl goes missing in her small town, Charlie pesters the sheriff, who dismisses her as a crank — for good reason, as we eventually learn. Glass embeds us with a very unreliable protagonist (the way she pops meds is a clue). The big reveal and the twist may not be completely convincing, but by that point you’re hooked.

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TWILIGHT’S KISS (2020, 92 minutes, in Cantonese). In this sweet, gently devastating drama from Hong Kong, Pak (Tai-Bo) drives his taxi all day, goes home to his wife, and occasionally has family dinners with his children and granddaughter. In his free time, he cruises parks and public restrooms looking for sex. Thus he meets Hoi (Ben Yuen), long divorced, with an adult son he raised mainly by himself. Cautiously, the two elders hook up, enjoying time together at a gentlemen’s sauna, even shopping for groceries on a stolen weekend like long-marrieds. Writer-director Ray Yeung’s film makes you care about this couple, even though you start to see how they’re challenged by faith, lifelong habits and fear. Kiss, like Two of Us (below), brings up vital questions regarding the safe, happy ways LGBTQ people can live out the last years of their lives.

Out on Film 2020

The feature film “Twilight’s Kiss” comes from Hong Kong. Stream it from noon September 28 to noon October 1.

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TWO OF US (2020, 99 minutes, in French and German). Like Twilight’s Kiss, this drama has a sense of loss that isn’t melodramatic but feels lived-in and earned. Nina (longtime German actor Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) live in separate apartments in the same building, but they’ve been lovers for years. Most of the time, they stay in Madeleine’s bourgeois flat, which explains why Nina’s is so spartan. But their relationship isn’t known to Madeleine’s adult children. That lack of openness leads to tremendous complications when a medical crisis throws barriers between the lovers, and Nina — considered a mere neighbor by Madeleine’s children — must justify her interest in their mother’s well-being. Sometimes suspenseful (Nina sneaks into her lover’s home at night) and often infuriating, the film dramatizes the ways, even now, same-sex couples can be kept apart — sometimes by their own lack of foresight.

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