Out of the Celluloid Closet

5 Films You May Have Missed at Outfest

· Updated on September 8, 2023

This year’s lineup for the 2023 Outfest LGBTQ+ Festival was jam-packed with stories filled with both depth and talent. Beyond the traditional “queer narrative”, many of the films took on topics that are so often overlooked – stories for those who are often left at the margins. 

Beyond platforming captivating cinema, this year’s event highlighted the struggles, hopes, and dreams of those who are underrepresented. INTO had a chance to catch a few of the films from the festival to provide some insight as to why these films should be on the top of your “to watch” list.

Big Boys

Written & Directed by Corey Sherman

Big Boys – Festival Clip ‘Safety Comes First’ from Corey Sherman on Vimeo.

While most queer coming-of-age films usually center a queer protagonist who is conventionally attractive, Sherman’s story is one that throws convention to the wind. Centering a teenage boy named Jamie (played by Isaac Krasner) who has an unexpected crush on his cousin’s partner, this film isn’t just about coming out: it’s a camping trip with a series of life-altering moments that feel real and relatable. From the awkward moments related to one’s body (and size) to navigating conversations about identity, it’s the perfect film from beginning to end. 

A film that began its run at festivals like Provincetown, Frameline, and now Outfest, this film finally makes room for “bears” to finally have a story they can call their own. More, this is finally a film that reminds us that everybody, and I do mean EVERY-BODY – deserves to have their stories told. 

Bottoms

Written by Emma Seligman & Rachel Sennott, Directed by Emma Seligman

As a film that can only be described a queer, horny Fight Club, Bottoms really shouldn’t work – but it does. Centering two misfit queer girls named PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) who start a fight club as a way to lose their virginities before graduation, the film is more than just a bunch of young queer girls beating up on one another. 

The film (which is a bit gorey I will admit), really does well to show how hard it is to be a queer teen in high school. Moreover, it shows how complicated it is to be trying to figure yourself out all while trying to do the things that “normal” teenagers do. Bottoms, which opened to rave reviews as SXSW 2023 – mixes comedy with moments of “did that really happen” that make for a really good time. Bottoms opens in Theaters Aug 25, 2023. 

Kokomo City

Directed by D. Smith

Some might watch this film and say it’s a little raunchy from beginning to end. I say if it makes you uncomfortable, then D. Smith did her job. 

A film that highlights the stories of four Black trans women sex workers (and the people who love them), this film is truly unconventional in all the right ways. Drawing from the vivid, straightforward “tell it like it is” candor of films like Paris is Burning, Kokomo City continues to challenge the ways in which we give agency and voice to Black trans women. Garnering much praise since its 2023 Sundance opening, the film is destined to make D. Smith the “go-to” director. While much of the film examines the hardships that comes with being a sex worker, there are so many deeply human moments in the film that show these women through a loving lens. Moreover, the film reminds us how real things are for Black trans women, considering the untimely death of one of the film’s stars, KoKo Da Doll, who was shot in April 2023. Kokomo City is in theaters August 4. 

Love, Jamie

Directed & Edited by Karla Murthy

As what can be considered one of the most important and touching films from Outfest 2023, Love, Jamie is a story about transformation and transcendence. The film centers on Jamie Diaz, a 65-year-old trans woman and artist who has spent almost 30 years in prison in Texas. Using any type of paint she can get her hands on and making brushes out of her own hair, Jamie crafts inventive paintings rich with meaning. 

The film highlights Gabriel Joffe’s relationship with Jamie and how their friendship began back in 2013. But at the center of the story is the miracle of how sometimes we find our family in the most interesting ways. As noted both in the film and in the press, “Diaz creates worlds of vibrant color and joy” in a story that will not only move you, but remind you how important a chosen family can be. 

Truth Be Told

Directed by Nneka Onuorah

Religion can be a very touchy subject for some, but when you add in conversation about oppression and intersectionality, you have the perfect documentary. Truth Be Told isn’t just a commentary on the Black church, but an unfiltered look at the expansive experiences queer Black people have with religion. 

Beyond its take on the complexities that still riddle the Black church, Onuorah brings in folks like Billy Porter, Tamela & David Mann, and Cedric the Entertainer to provide their thoughts. The aim is to not only spark a conversation that is both inclusive and forthcoming, but one that reminds the viewer that it’s okay to love who you are and to love God, too.♦

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