Despite greater inclusivity and attention to gay themes in mainstream entertainment, there’s still a need for film events showcasing gay stories, said Chris Durant, director of the Out Twin Cities Film Festival. One of the goals for a series like OTCFF is “helping to bridge the gap in bringing people together, to create an opportunity for dialogue through the medium of cinema arts.”
The program, running Wednesday through next Sunday at the Theatres at Mall of America, aims to advance that discussion with an international lineup of dramas, rom-coms, documentaries and shorts.
“We wanted to include a good mixture of narrative and non-narrative films, with a focus on films made by women,” Durant said. A prominent example is “To Be Takei” (8:05 p.m. Sat.) directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, a biographical portrait of actor/activist George Takei, best known as Mr. Sulu in TV’s original “Star Trek.” The film details his experiences as a child with his family confined in a World War II internment camp for Japanese-Americans, his career’s peaks and vicissitudes, and his long relationship with his spouse, Brad Altman. It also examines why Takei postponed coming out publicly until 2006. The 77-year-old Takei emerges as an unfailingly thoughtful and gracious man whose squabbles with his old co-star William Shatner are delightfully catty.
Another woman-directed entry is Sydney Freeland’s 2014 Sundance drama, “Drunktown’s Finest” (7:45 p.m. Thu.). The film follows three unlikely members of the Navajo nation in Gallup, N.M., including a transsexual who dreams of becoming a model.
“Five Dances” (3:50 p.m. Sat.) is a modern-dance romance starring Ryan Steele as Chip, a taciturn, startlingly talented teen from Kansas. He joins three other dancers and a choreographer to rehearse a piece in a downtown New York City studio. Writer/director Alan Brown wisely avoids “Black Swan” histrionics, instead telling his few-words story via extended dance scenes, moody music and lighting, gorgeous cinematography (by Derek McKane) and a small but compelling love story. It doesn’t hurt that the choreography is by the fiercely original former Merce Cunningham dancer Jonah Bokaer, or that Steele dances like an angel possessed.
As part of its outreach effort, the festival for the first time will present a “Family Friendly” program next Sunday. Participants will receive a free brunch followed by short films exploring issues faced by LGBTQ youth and parents and moderated group discussions of the films’ content. In the mix at 12:30 p.m. is “Kidnapped for Christ” (12:30 p.m. next Sun.), the nonfiction story of American teens who were taken from their homes and shipped to Escuela Caribe, an American-run evangelical behavior-modification program in the Dominican Republic where they experienced painful punishments based on their sexual orientation and mental health disorders. There’s also a large helping of lighthearted entertainment on Sunday’s schedule.
“All of Sunday’s programming is centered around youth and young adults, with family being the general theme,” Durant said. “We wanted to include a day where families could watch together and hopefully walk away with something that would involve interactions and some frank discussions. We believe Sunday’s programming has something for everyone.”
There’s edgier fare in the “Provocateur Section” showing Friday. “Power Erotic” (7:05 p.m. Fri.) is a study of gay men in consensual dominant and submissive relationships.