By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
KANSAS CITY - Over the course of eight days, Kansas Citians had the chance to cram in 44 films selected for this year’s Out Here Now, Kansas City’s LGBT film festival. The Centerpiece Screening this year had local connections: Something Like Summer is based on the award-winning novel by Kansas City native Jay Bell.
Dubbed as the “gay La La Land,” the film follows the up and down relationship of high-schoolers Ben and Tim. The film traces their relationship from high school into adulthood, and features seven songs. Bell attended the local screening.
Liberty Press spoke with Festival Director Jamie Rich near the end of the chock-full week of films, to get his take on his favorite films in this year’s lineup, what films generated the most buzz, and if the politically-charged climate affected the tone of the festival.
Liberty Press (LP): What have been some of your favorite films included in this year’s festival and why?
Jamie Rich (JR): It was great seeing the strong response people had to the spotlight we shined on the storytellers whose work is at the heart of the 44 films selected for this year’s festival. It was standing room only for Kansas native Jay Bell whose best-selling gay romance novel, Something Like Summer, had its big screen, hometown premiere
Our audiences also strongly supported the expanded number of Audience Choice screenings which brought in more films from emerging filmmakers across the globe. Global voices from Armenia, Spain, Poland, Germany, and Ireland were featured.
We hosted the world premiere of a new work by an emerging Romania director and trans activist. Audience Awards went to filmmakers from the UK and Brazil as well as to three U.S. films by directors under age 25. The headline for this year might just be “Midwest fest has global impact.”
LP: What films have generated the most feedback and buzz from moviegoers?
JR: A capacity crowd turned out opening night for the riveting, new documentary, The Lavender Scare about the biggest workplace witch hunt against gays and lesbians in our nation’s history. This largely untold story cost thousands of federal workers not only their jobs, but their lives. Director Josh Howard led an after-screening discussion of his film and was honored with the 2017 Out Here Now Courage Award for bringing this important story to light on the big screen.
Also in attendance that night were many longtime area activists who learned of a new film being made locally about an historic Kansas City battle to protect the rights of LGBT people and people with AIDS. That effort continues at www.TheOrdinanceProject.com.
Another highlight was working with the KS/MO Dream Alliance to present Forbidden, an empowering profile of Moises Serrano, a queer, undocumented, rural American.
Audiences cheered the closing night film, Handsome Devil. which will soon be coming to Netflix and there was high praise for the lesbian romantic comedy, Signature Move and the moving trans film, Apricot Groves.
My personal favorite was the new musical, Hello Again and hearing first-hand from director Tom Gustafson about how it was to work with his star-filled cast and what an amazing editing work was required of a film that jumps multiple timelines and storylines all while people are singing!
People also really liked that we incorporated a live, spoken word performance into the line-up this year with The Untold Tales Of Kansas City curated by Joel Barrett.
LP: How has the current political climate altered the focus of the festival content (if at all)?
JR: We live in very challenging times. Those who stand against us want us to feel degraded, isolated and overwhelmed. But, our stories are powerful. Our film festival has a responsibility to shine a light on filmmakers whose stories transform, inspire and connect us. And, equally important at times like these is to de-stress. Sharing laughs together and escaping into entertaining stories can be wonderfully restorative.
For more information, visit www.outherenow.com or the “Kansas City LGBT Film Festival” Facebook page, which includes audience feedback and links to stories about several feature films. l