It’s definitely film festival season and Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival that occurs every Summer is taking some time to honor and present FUSION, it’s sister film festival now in it’s 8th year which honors and presents films featuring and produced by people of color within the LGBT community. It is the only festival of its kind that also features short films, panels, workshops and parties that strive to celebrate the diversity of the LGBT community.
We caught up with Executive Director, Kirsten Schaffer to ask about the inspiration for Fusion:
Progressive Pulse: How did Outfest come up with the concept of producing a separate LGBT film festival dedicated to people of color?
Kirsten Schaffer: Outfest started Fusion in 2004 when a group of community organizations came to us and asked Outfest to play a convening role among LGBT people of color organizations in Los Angeles. We decided that the best way to do this was Fusion – a film festival of multi-cultural and gender-inclusive short films. The festival has grown to include feature films, but still seeks to bring together diverse audiences to celebrate LGBT people of color images and stories.
Progressive Pulse: Mainstream Hollywood doesn’t always do a good job of representing diversity in film, does Fusion offer an environment to feature not only multi-cultural film but actors, directors and producers?
Kirsten Schaffer: Two years ago we expanded our Access LA program, dedicated to nurturing emerging talent, to include Fusion. We have formed a partnership with NBCUniversal to host a day long conference for LGBT people of color filmmakers (writers, directors, producers) who want to grow their skill set. Topics for the conference include: Writers on Writing, the Art of Networking and Financing and Distribution.
Many of the films included in Fusion feature under-represented actors and are made by filmmakers (directors, producers, writers) of color. Fusion is a great place to see one-of-a-kind, high-quality films and to connect with the community.
For all you sing-along fans, the two day festival begins this Friday March 4th with THE WIZ Sing-Along. This may just be a perfect kick-off since it stars two phenomenal performers we’ve lost: Michael Jackson and Lena Horne plus the film was ahead of its time (1978) for re-working a classic featuring an all black cast.
The bulk of the festival will take place this Saturday, March 5th at the The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. A youth – centric theme seems to be permeating this year’s FUSION Festival with many of the films focusing on younger protagonists coming to terms and struggling with their identity. Schaffer adds to this by stating, “…the entire weekend is free for 21 and under!” One of the stand-out films being featured includes, “A Thousand Clouds of Peace”. The Mexican film from Director, Julian Hernandez was an official selection at Sundance in 2004. The print has been donated to The Legacy Project, a division of Outfest that in conjunction with UCLA Film & Television Archive preserves LGBT films for future viewings and teachings. “A Thousand Clouds of Peace” is a black and white mood film with effective cinematography. The story involves a 17 year boy, Gerardo who roams the streets mourning the loss of his lover, Bruno.
This year’s Sundance Film Festival selected the anticipated film, “PARIAH” written and directed by Dee Rees that tells the story of a Brooklyn teenager who juggles conflicting identities in her search for sexual expression. Both Rees and producer, Nekisa Cooper will be on hand at FUSION to discuss behind the scenes of the making of “PARIAH” that all began as a short film. The short film will be shown at this panel discussion including clips from the new film.
The afternoon will present, FUSION SHORTS PROGRAM which is becoming a great way to see a slew of great filmmaking all in in one sitting. Let’s hope more people can be exposed to some of these films and Outfest puts them up on iTunes, just like this year’s Oscar nominated live action short category. A few noteworthy films include “The Queen” about a Korean-American teenage boy named Bobby who works in his parent’s dry cleaning business on prom night. An unlikely meeting occurs between Bobby, the prom queen and her boyfriend. Directed By Christina Choe.”Change” is the title of another film and play on the campaign message of Obama’s Presidential Race, that features a gay African-American teenager who grapples with the first ever Black President and the reality that Proposition 8 has passed.
The festival will conclude with the FUSION GALA on Saturday night at 8:00 PM screening the film, “FIT” by Rikki Beadle-Blair. “Fit”continues the festival’s theme of youth today particularly the new millennials as young gay and straight teens have to coexist in a dance and drama class led by Loris played to perfection by Beadle-Blair himself. The film shows the incredible diversity of these teens often times blurring the lines of society’s expectations.
The finale to FUSION will continue with honoring Rikki Beadle-Blair for his contributions to the LGBT community and society at large. Beadle-Blair also wrote the movie, “STONEWALL” and wrote, directed and acted in the critically acclaimed international series, “Metrosexuality”. He was also a writer and story editor for the American series, “Noah’s Arc”. The party will continue at the Egyptian Theatre with cocktails, tasty bites and music to celebrate diversity! For the complete schedule and location information visit www.outfest.org/fusion2011