SCREEN TIME: Out on Film Centers Queer Communities in Heart of America
The 36th annual festival includes local LGBTQ films and filmmakers
At a time of escalating attacks, legislative and otherwise, against trans people and the queer community, the Out on Film Festival performs a public service by simply providing such a reliable fixture for Atlanta film scene. The 36th annual celebration of LGBTQ+ cinema screens more than 100 documentary and narrative shorts and feature films from Sep. 21-Oct. 1.
Entries in this festival affirm the place of queer people at the center of American society while expanding the conception of what should be considered “normal” or “traditional.”
The festival opens with Our Son (Four stars, 7 p.m., Thu., Sep. 21, Midtown Art Cinema), a warm but wrenching depicting of divorce between two gay dads. Initially the couple seem to strike a perfect family balance, with Gabriel (Billy Porter) being the nurturing “Poppa” and Nicky (Luke Evans) the breadwinning “Daddy.” But their mismatched emotional needs drive them to divorce and lead to a fraught battle over custody for their son Owen.
Across the board the actors do excellent work conveying Gabriel and Nicky’s devolving relationship, as well as their increasingly complex dynamics with friends, family and their son. But while director Bill Oliver clearly doesn’t want to villainize any character, Nicky clearly makes the worst choices, with Evans’ performance like ticking bomb that may or may not go off. (Watching him is a little like seeing Marriage Story and waiting for Adam Driver to punch a hole in the drywall.) And much like how Kramer vs. Kramer captured the zeitgeist of divorce in 1979, Our Son offers a similar snapshot of the challenges of gay monogamy.
Open relationships get a more comedic treatment in Cora Bora (three stars, 7 p.m., Fri., Sep. 22, Midtown Art Cinema) a showcase for rising comedian Megan Stalter (a scene-stealer on Max’s “Hacks”). As Cora, a sardonic, struggling singer in Los Angeles, she returns to her longtime girlfriend (Jojo T. Gibbs) in Portland to find that they have different conceptions of their “open” relationship.
Cora Bora presents a ”trainwreck” comedy of an unhappy person behaving badly wherever she goes. If the movie’s neither quite as funny nor quite as moving as it strives to be, Statler proves admirably willing to embrace the role’s unlikability. It also provides an insider’s perspective on West Coast creative communities and regards nontraditional sexual relationships without judgment — but with a sense of humor.
A highlight of the “Homegrown Shorts” program (7 p.m., Thu., Sep. 28), and a significant entry in its own right, is “Blue Square Heart” (four stars) by UGA graduate William Means. A 30-minute drama with more psychological complexity than most feature films, it shows a drag queen’s (Sextia N’eight) complex reactions when their estranged mother (Jessica Lee Risco) comes to see their envelope-pushing show. “Blue Square Heart’s” extended prologue conveys the roots of sexual repression and creative expression, both of which find resolutions in the final performance. “Blue Square Heart” is a real emotional rollercoaster.
Other local shorts in this program include Ronnie Brathwaite’s “He They,” Andrea Maxwell’s “Nana Dara is Gay,” Molly Coffee’s “Come Correct,” Zoe Hodge’s “Skate,” Austin Bunn’s “Campfire” and Mya Brehana Morton’s “Proud.”
In addition, “The Atlanta LGBTQ Filmmaker Celebration” program (7 p.m. Tue., Sep. 26 at Role Call Theater) presents four Georgia-filmed shorts, including Rachel M R Thomas’ “TRANSWORLD Atlanta,” Carrie Miller’s “Beauty Within,” Bowie Nichols’ “Sweet Star Grief” and “Making ‘She Kills Monsters’,” directed by Abigail Donkor.
Winning short films of the “Best Drama Short” award will be eligible for the Academy Award’s Live Action Short competition. Out on Film also offers contests for Best Short Film Screenplay and Best Feature Film Screenplay.
$50-$185. Out on Film Festival. Sep. 21-Oct. 1. Midtown Art Cinema and other venues. outonfilm.org
They Live — Wrestler Roddy Piper plays a drifter who discovers that if you look through special sunglasses, you discover that monstrous aliens have been controlling society through consumerism. For its 35th anniversary, John Carpenter’s sci-fi action satire returns to theaters to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And it’s all out of bubble gum. — Curt Holman
Sun, Sep. 3, and Wed., Sep. 6. Atlanta area theaters. fathomevents.com/events
Dan Savage’s 2023 HUMP! Film Festival — The 18th annual HUMP! Festival of Erotic Shorts, organized by sex columnist Dan Savage, promises an evening of kinky, sex-positive, gender-fluid films “made by and for real people.” — Curt Holman
7:30 p.m., Sat., Sep. 9. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com
The Trial — The Tara Theatre partners with Videodrome video store to launch its new “Taradrome” series with The Trial, Orson Welles’ 1962 adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel. Fresh off of Psycho, Anthony Perkins stars as a bureaucrat put on trial without learning his crime. — Curt Holman
Tue., Sep. 12. Tara Theatre, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Rd. NE, Atlanta, 30324. taraatlanta.com
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar — Screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo play the titular midwestern gal pals who take a vacation and get caught up in increasingly unlikely adventures. The uproarious comedy went straight to VOD during the 2021 pandemic, so this screening, co-hosted by Wussy Mag, may be your only chance to see it on the big screen. — Curt Holman
7 p.m., Wed., Sep. 13. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306. plazaatlanta.com
A Haunting in Venice — For his third outing as star and director, Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as supersleuth Hercule Poirot for a mystery that may have paranormal element. This adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel Hallowe’en Party co-stars Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan and additional suspects. — Curt Holman
Opens Fri., Sep. 15. Atlanta area theaters
Georgia Latino International Film Festival — For its 11th year, this celebration of cinema produced and curated by Afro Latino film makers presents a program of 30 screenings drawing on the culture of Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean and Central and South America. — Curt Holman
$10-$150 passes. Thu., Sep. 21-Sun. Sep. 24. galiff.com
The Creator — This futuristic action film stars John David Washington as an ex-special forces agent who faces a crisis of conscience when ordered to hunt down an architect of A.I. that appears all too human. Gareth Edwards, director of Rogue One and the 2014 Godzilla, helms this original sci-fi thriller about a familiar subject. — Curt Holman
Opens Fri., Sep. 29. Atlanta area theaters
Saw X— Trap-obsessed serial killer John “Jigsaw” Kramer (Tobin Bell) turns his vengeful sights on healthcare scammers in the latest installment of the horror franchise. Set in continuity between the first and second films, the tenth chapter is directed by Saw stalwart Kevin Greutert. Coincidentally, the film opens the same day as Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie, leading some to suggest people make a Barbenheimer-style double feature of them nicknamed “Saw Patrol.” — Curt Holman
Opens Fri., Sep. 29. Atlanta area theaters