I can’t imagine any closeted gay person watching Lie with Me and not coming out. It will leave the rest of us feeling better than ever about our decision. Lie with Me is the sad tale of a man who lived and died in the closet, told through the eyes of his secret high school sweetheart, an openly gay author who returns after 35 years to their French hometown of Cognac for the bicentennial of the famous brandy named for its birthplace. The story is told in the trendy then-and-now back-and-forth style I often find annoying, but director and co-writer Olivier Peyon employs it perfectly. Stéphane Belcourt (Guillaume de Tonquédec, a Nathan Lane type) has become famous writing stories about Cognac, often fictionalizing his own experiences. As a nerdy 17-year-old (Jérémy Gillet) he was chosen by popular hunk Thomas Andrieu (Julien De Saint Jean) for gay sex that had to be kept secret. They couldn’t even be seen together, but at least one of them fell in love. In the present, Stéphane meets Lucas (Victor Belmondo), Thomas’ son, and they learn things from each other about the man they knew at different times. If Out On Film doesn’t sell cognac at the concession stand at this screening, they’re missing a chance to finance next year’s festival in advance.
A Big Gay Hairy Hit! Where the Bears Are: The Documentary — September 23, 8:15pm
If you’re into bears, you’ve probably seen the seven-season YouTube sensation, “Where the Bears Are.” I haven’t, but I’m looking forward to catching up after enjoying Eduardo Aquino’s film about the series and its creators Ben Zook, Joe Dietl, and Rick Copp. They were all in their late forties, getting what work they could in Hollywood, when a conversation in a Palm Springs hot tub led to them creating their own series, conceived as “‘Golden Girls’ meets ‘Murder, She Wrote’ with big, hairy gay men.” A comedy, of course, but designed “to serve an underserved community.” They financed the first season themselves, and it was a surprise hit that made enough money (through DVD sales) to pay for a second. They raised nearly $800,000 through Kickstarter to pay for the other five seasons. This documentary includes clips from the show and behind-the-scenes shots that show how much fun they had making it. They also look back on those good times, as do members of their crew, co-star Ian Parks and other actors who were in the show, including Tuc Watkins and Brooke Dillman. The millions of registered views indicate they’re not the only ones who had fun, and this making-of film is sure to boost that number considerably.
Big Boys — September 23, 6pm
The wrong expectations can ruin your enjoyment of a film. That “Big Boys” won director Corey Sherman the Best First Feature award at this year’s Frameline festival in San Francisco and now is in Out On Film could make you expect it to be wrapped in rainbows from beginning to end; and billing it as a comedy will make you expect more than a handful of mild chuckles. “Big Boys” isn’t funny. It could evoke more tears than laughter from gay men as it unfolds, stirring memories of their own coming out. Jamie (Isaac Krasner) is a 14-year-old virgin who’s not sure what he wants. He goes on a weekend camping trip with his older brother Will (Taj Cross), their 20-something cousin Allie (Dora Madison), and her boyfriend Dan (David Johnson III). Jamie’s attraction to Dan is subtly hinted at, but “Big Boys” is nearly half over before the youth starts having outright gay fantasies. Things play out from there, mostly in believable fashion — sometimes painfully believable for some of us. A few shorts prepared Sherman to avoid many novice mistakes in delivering a polished film with fine performances from his mostly unfamiliar actors. Because Krasner’s not a leading man type, I’m sure people are writing scripts tailored to him at this moment.
F.L.Y. — September 22, 9:10pm
When the stars of an indie are also the writers, producers, directors, etc., one has to suspect a vanity project. Then the question is, do they have anything to be vain about? The answer here is a hard YES. The title, “F.L.Y.,” is explained in the closing credits. No spoilers here, but it’s worth waiting for. Trent Kendrick and Rafael Albarran cram what seem to be too many ideas and themes into one movie, as if they’re afraid they won’t get a chance to make another; but somehow it doesn’t feel as plot-heavy as many simpler films. When we meet Max (Kendrick) and Raf (Albarran), they’re lovers in New York. Max, whose homophobic father had been abusive, is not a fan of many aspects of the gay world: bars, music, drag, and monogamy. Five years later, they meet again in L.A., where Max is house- and dog-sitting for wealthy friends and Raf has just arrived and found himself without an expected place to stay. So Raf stays with Max, who has a new boyfriend, Hunter (Alexeev Dismuke). Raf, who now identifies as nonbinary, is hoping to become a drag star. Max is a wannabe screenwriter who’s working on what will obviously become the script of this movie. Both frequently Facetime with their grandmothers and other friends and family, which is good, because COVID-19 has just broken out and Max is particularly paranoid about masks (yes!) and mingling (no!). The story unfolds as you might expect, with a few surprises. Albarran does a good J-Lo and Kendrick has a great smile he doesn’t show off enough because Max isn’t always a happy camper. If “F.L.Y.” doesn’t quite soar, it should still send you out of the theater on a cloud.
Golden Delicious — September 24, 7pm
Everybody wants to make a man of Jake Wong (Cardi Wong). His father, a former high school basketball star, trains Jake in the driveway to force him to follow in his footsteps. Valerie (Parmiss Sehat), Jake’s girlfriend of two years, wants to have sex, but he’s made her agree to wait a year until they graduate and can move in together. Ronald (Jesse Hyde), captain of the school basketball team, bullies Jake mercilessly. Aleks (Chris Carson), a new neighbor and classmate, can help Jake with all three problems. He coaches him effectively, stands up to Ronald, and — well, he’s openly gay, so Jake may have options. The movie’s almost half over before Jake begins exploring those options in what I found to be the most arousing scene I’ve seen in years. The Wongs have other issues. Jake’s older sister Janet is in cooking school, but their mother hates working in the family’s Chinese restaurant of the title and warns the girl to stay out of the business. This leads to bigger problems between the parents. If all that sounds like melodrama, it is — but it doesn’t begin to feel like it in a bad way until well into the second half, and by then we’re really caring about at least some of the characters. The first feature by skilled director Jason Karman, Golden Delicious is a workout for the cast, especially Wong, who goes through every emotion a human can in one crisis after another and makes us believe them all.
Our Son — September 21, 7pm
“It must be hard, fighting for the right to marry and ending up in divorce court like everybody else.”
That line pretty well sums up the plot of Our Son and our reaction to it. It’s spoken by a minor character, the nephew of one of the two men breaking up after 13 years together, legally since New York first allowed same-sex marriage in 2011. Nicky (Luke Evans), a book publisher, is the breadwinner. Gabriel (Billy Porter) is an actor who quit to become a stay-at-home dad when their son was born eight years ago. Owen was fathered by Nicky through a surrogate. Nicky is happy with things as they are, but Gabriel got restless and had an affair. This leads to separation and a legal battle over custody of Owen. Nicky feels he must fight for primary custody, even though Gabriel has spent more time with the boy and is far more parental. With all the romantic movies in the festival, I suppose there had to be an unromantic one; and this is certainly it. Director and co-writer Bill Oliver has recruited several familiar names, some of them openly LGBTQ like the two leads, for supporting roles. They all do fine work, but the film never rises above the good-but-not-great category. I watched it with my husband, each of us hoping it didn’t give the other ideas.
Studio One Forever — September 24, 6:10pm
This documentary about what is hyperbolically called “the very first disco” has its flaws, and I’d have to take them into account if I were on an award committee. But as a viewer of a certain age, I was caught up in happy memories of the disco era and sad ones of the AIDS years, and I could forgive a lot. Scott Forbes opened Studio One in West Hollywood in 1974. This was after Stonewall and the movement was in motion, but gays were still being hassled by police, even in Los Angeles. Studio One quickly became a hot spot where we could be ourselves and dance with each other, even doing drugs openly. Soon the Backlot was opened upstairs, a cabaret that attracted name performers, who in turn attracted allies, including straight and closeted celebrities, to see them. The film was inspired when a developer bought the property in 2018 with plans to demolish the legendary, long-shuttered nightspot. About half a dozen men who used to co-own or work at Studio One offer their memories. Photos show how they’ve changed in 40 years or so, unlike singers Julie Budd and Roslyn Kind, who look younger today than when they performed at the Backlot. Obviously, Botox is their drug of choice. Chita Rivera and Thelma Houston have aged more naturally. The stories, clips, and photos often seem too random, but I guess our thoughts weren’t always well organized in the disco days. Studio One Forever will be a source of memories for some generations and a history lesson for others. I’m glad they made it and glad I saw it.
Stuck in Greece: An LGBT Refugee Crisis — September 27, 7pm
Not your typical horror movie, but more horrible because it’s true, Stuck in Greece studies the problem of LGBTQ refugees from (mostly Muslim) countries where their orientation is a virtual death sentence. If they’ve made it to Greece, some via Turkey, things aren’t much better. They get no special consideration, and many are put in camps where they’re as likely to be beaten and abused as they were at home. The rest of the European Union is essentially closed to refugees, hence the title. Filmmaker Gerald McCullouch discovered the situation when he took his 2015 gay film Daddy to Greece for a festival and stayed for a month. It’s not clear whether he filmed the bulk of his interviews then or as late as last year, but we get to know several LGBTQ refugees who are trying to make a home in Greece if they can’t get out, other than by being sent back to their native countries and certain death. Nongovernmental organizations that separate LGBTQ people from other refugees and try to help them are formed or expanded over the years, and Greece itself becomes somewhat less conservative. There are a couple of individual happy endings in addition to the gradual progress shown, but the overall dilemma is far from resolved. Making more people aware of it, as McCullouch’s film does, can only help.
Unidad: Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos — October 1, 2pm
While the LGBTQ community continues to fight for diversity and inclusion, this documentary reminds us we haven’t always been so open to our own subgroups. Gregorio Davila’s “Unidad” takes us back to Los Angeles in 1981, when most queer groups were run by (and mostly consisted of) gay white men. Tired of being excluded, some gay and lesbian Latinos formed their own group, Gay & Lesbian Latinos Unidos, nicknamed GLLU (pronounced like “glue”). There was a learning curve as some men had to stop using sexist language and people from different countries became familiar with each other’s cultures. Some women were still not satisfied and formed an offshoot, Lesbianas Unidas, after a few years, though many belonged to both groups. Besides fighting for LGBTQ rights, GLLU marched with farmworkers, and César Chávez was an early ally. They hosted an international conference of queer people of color and women from LU attended a feminist conference in Mexico. Of course, AIDS was starting up and, as in most locations, lesbians became caretakers for the gay men who had largely ignored them. A Latin AIDS organization, Bienestar, formed in 1989 because existing groups shut most Latinos out. The importance of the subject matter, including lessons some of us could still apply today, outweighs any of the film’s shortcomings, including cursory introductions that make it hard to get to know the many GLLU pioneers who share their memories.
Barrio Boy — September 30, 4:30pm at Out Front Theatre Company
Writer-director Dennis Shinners, expanding his 2015 short into a feature, uses annoyingly tricky editing to show how boring the streets of Brooklyn can be. His original star, Dennis Garcia, doesn’t make the character of Quique much more interesting than his surroundings, and eight years on he’s a bit old to be living with three generations of his Puerto Rican family without being out to them. If the “Boy” is a man who appears to be well into his thirties, the title, though not uttered in the film itself, must be seen as an insult. Running a struggling barber shop, Quique has an oddly mismatched group of friends and associates, all bullied by the homophobic Black drug dealer Cuz (Keet Davis), who is not to be confused with Quique’s actual cousin, Rafa (Pierre Jean Gonzalez). The Brooklyn streets go on forever while plotlines seem to hit dead ends, some to be revived again as characters disappear and maybe reappear in each other’s lives in the most coincidental of ways. Most significant to Quique is Kevin (James Physick), a visiting Irishman with whom he may be about to have an affair, or even a long-term relationship. Scattered flashbacks make things even more confusing, and there’s a fair amount of Spanish dialogue, only some of which is subtitled. A leading man who hardly ever smiles may be okay in an action movie where he’s busy killing people, but in a romance, it makes him hard to relate to. If he doesn’t have much to smile about, neither does the viewer.
To purchase your tickets to Out On Film, visit outonfilm.org.