September 5, 2008

Outflix Festival Onscreen — Event Brings Some Out-of-Mainstream Films for Annual Memphis Showcase

By John Beifuss

A movie about the Harlem Renaissance, a high-school musical fantasy inspired by Shakespeare, an Academy Award-winning documentary and a personal appearance by the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer are among the highlights of this year's edition of the Outflix Film Festival, which begins today and ends Thursday at Malco's Ridgeway Four.

A project of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, the festival this year will screen 16 features and seven shorts.

A Sundance Film Festival selection, "Brother to Brother," stars Anthony Mackie - a boxer in Clint Eastwood's Best Picture-winner from 2004, "Million Dollar Baby" - and includes such key Harlem Renaissance figures as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston in its cast of characters.

"Spider Lilies" is a love story from Taiwan. The impressive cast of "Steam" includes Ally Sheedy and Ruby Dee. "Freeheld" won the Oscar this year for Best Documentary Short Subject. The entertaining and often comic documentary "Pageant" will surprise those who didn't realize that the national Miss Gay America contest for female impersonators has been held in the Bluff City in recent years. (The winner, according to the film, receives $2,500 in jewelry, including a crown, scepter and tiara.)

"For every 'Brokeback Mountain' that plays in a Memphis theater, there are eight or nine other good movies that wouldn't come to Memphis if not for this festival," said filmmaker Mark Jones, Outflix director.

He said about 1,600 people attended last year's festival; Outflix should be even more popular this year, he said, in part because it will be held at the Ridgeway Four. (Last year's event was at the now defunct Peabody Place 22.)

"We've gotten calls from people planning to attend from Atlanta, Little Rock and Asheville, N.C.," Jones said. He said some fans were attracted by the chance to meet such stars as Charlie David ("Mulligans") and the cast of the Internet sitcom "3Way," which includes Kristy Swanson, who originated the role of Buffy Summers in the 1992 movie "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which preceded the TV series with Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The schedule

Tonight: Director Laurie Lynd's "Breakfast with Scot," about a hockey-player-turned- sportscaster (Tom Cavanagh) and a sports lawyer (Ben Shenkman) whose longterm relationship is disrupted when they become temporary guardians of a swishy 11-year-old boy (Noah Bennett), 7:30 p.m.; followed by a party in the theater lobby at 9:30 p.m.

Saturday: a collection of "webisodes" from "3Way," an Internet sitcom that would seem kookily traditional if not for the "gal pal lesbian hijinks and drama," 1 p.m.; the short "The Best Men," with Rob Williams' "3-Day Weekend," a drama depicting the relationships and tensions that develop when eight gay men spend a weekend vacation at Big Bear Lake, Calif., 3:30 p.m.; "Spider Lilies," a Taiwanese film from director Zero Chou about a young Web-cam sex star who falls for a pretty tattoo artist, 7 p.m; and director Chip Hale's "Mulligans," about an in-the-closet gay college student (Charlie David) who spends the summer at his straight friend's lakeside summer home, 9 p.m.

Sunday: Kyle Schickner's "Steam," a tale about a single mother, a college freshman and a recent widow (Ally Sheedy, Kate Siegel and Ruby Dee) whose lives are linked by the steam room at the local gym, 2 p.m.; the shorts "Prada Handbag,""Members Only" and "The Manual," followed by Cynthia Wade's 40-minute "Freeheld," the Oscar- winning documentary about a cancer-stricken New Jersey police lieutenant's fight to leave her pension benefits to her life partner, 4 p.m.; and the short "Police Box," followed by Robert Cary's "Save Me," in which a gay young man (Chad Allen) is checked into a religious program to "cure" his sexuality, 7 p.m.

Monday: The short "Swimsuit," followed by "She's a Boy I Knew," a documentary in which Vancouver filmmaker Gwen Haworth chronicles her psychological and surgical transition from male to female over several years, 6:30 p.m.; and "The Houseboy," a drama directed by Germantown native and past Indie Memphis Film Festival award-winner Spencer Schilly, 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday: "Pageant," a behind-the-scenes documentary look at the 34th Miss Gay American Pageant, held in Memphis in 2006, 6:30 p.m.; and Rodney Evans' "Brother to Brother," in which a gay black artist (Anthony Mackie) confronts issues of sexual and cultural identity and artistic integrity when he befriends an aging Harlem Renaissance poet (Roger Robinson), 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday: "Finn's Girl," in which the life of a happy "thoroughly modern lesbian" (Brooke Johnson) is thrown into turmoil by the untimely death of her partner, 6:30 p.m.; and Jonah Markowitz's "Shelter," in which a young working-class artist (Trevor Wright) begins an affair with his rich best friend's gay older brother (Brad Rowe), 8:30 p.m.

Thursday: Richard LeMay's "Whirlwind," in which "the faux fur really begins to fly" when a hunky stranger insinuates his way into the lives of a tightknit group of New York friends, 4 p.m.; and the short "Hunter4love," followed by Thomas Gustafson's "Were the World Mine," a fantasy musical in which a youth (Tanner Cohen) cast as Puck in a high school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" creates a magic love potion, 7:30 p.m.

Personal Appearances: The writer and star of "Mulligans" and a familiar face on such series as "E! Television" and "Ugly Betty," Charlie David , will attend the screening of his film Saturday and also be at a Sunday brunch at 11 a.m. at the Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Blvd. Brunch tickets are $20.

Also, the makers and stars of "3Way" - including Maeve Quinlan, Maile Flanagan, Jill Bennett, Cathy DeBuono, Nancylee Myatt, Paige Bernhardt and Kristy Swanson - will attend the 1 p.m. Saturday screening of their film, and then go to a meet-and-greet party at 3:30 p.m. at The Cockeyed Camel, 6080 E. Primacy Pkwy.

For more information, visit For a closer look at some of the films, visit


Outflix Film Festival

Today through Thursday at Malco's Ridgeway Four.

Tickets are $8 each, or $12 for two. A day pass is $20; a festival pass is $60. Tickets for tonight's opening film and party are $15 each.



Film critic John Beifuss interviewed Courtney Hunt about her prize-winning new movie "Frozen River." Hunt was born in Memphis and the headline on the story said: Native Memphian's 'very small story' leaps to 'universal level.'

East Tennessee Spy In Memphis said: "Nobody can ever call me "native Memphian." If they do, I'll sue for slander.

Originally published by John Beifuss / [email protected] .

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