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And Then We Danced follows the sexual awakening of Georgian dancer Melab, played by Levan Gelbakhiani (right).EXPAND
And Then We Danced follows the sexual awakening of Georgian dancer Melab, played by Levan Gelbakhiani (right).
Photo courtesy of Outshine Film Festival

Outshine Film Festival 2019 Lineup Brings Oscar Hopefuls to Fort Lauderdale

Here’s the lowdown on the Fort Lauderdale edition of the twice-a-year Outshine Film Festival. It begins Thursday, October 10, and runs ten days, featuring 33 award-winning feature flicks and inspiring debuts, plus 18 inventive shorts from 13 countries.

The celluloid array opens with the Southeast premiere of Adam and closes Sunday, October 20, at Savor Cinema with And Then We Danced by Swedish director Levan Akin.

You’ll definitely need a program to scan the plenitude of cinematic few offerings. If you check the schedule carefully, you may note a couple of the 33 films are strong contenders for an Academy Award nomination in 2020.

Those possibilities — and a bundle of other special film-related goodies — have brought smiles of joy to the face of Victor Gimenez, executive director of Outshine. “We’re especially excited for this year’s Fort Lauderdale edition and its unprecedented number of international award-winning and buzz-worthy features.”

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, directed by Céline Sciamma, was a strong contender for France's submission for the Academy Award's Best International Feature Film category in 2020, losing out to Ladj Ly’s "Les Miserables." The film, which Sciamma describes as "not to be missed," has already taken home the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay Award at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

The festival's closer, And Then We Danced, may also be in the running for the Academy's Best International Feature as Sweden's official submission. The film follows Merab, a dancer with the National Georgian Ballet, as he suddenly finds he's sexually attracted to the troupe's newest member and his chief rival. Merab's struggles, both within the dance troupe and at home, recall Moonlight and God’s Own Country.

South Florida film festivals centered around the LGBTQ+ experience and within gay communities trace their history to the 1990s. Miami kicked it off in 1998 with a four-day gay and lesbian film celebration. Fort Lauderdale followed suit in 2008. Originally running at the same time, the festivals were rescheduled to occur six months apart so as not to conflict.

Fort Lauderdale’s entry this year runs from October 10 through October 20. Outshine Miami 2020 is scheduled for April 16 through April 26, 2020.

Gimenez says he expects Fort Lauderdale's attendance will continue to increase. “The Fort Lauderdale Festival has grown about 15 percent a year. It has now expanded to eight days. Our end goal is to be the equivalent of the Miami event, which runs 11 days.”

Outshine Film Festival Fort Lauderdale will screen the comedy Adam on opening night.
Outshine Film Festival Fort Lauderdale will screen the comedy Adam on opening night.
Photo courtesy of Outshine Film Festival

Both movie arrays have the same mission, he said, “to inspire, entertain, educate and encourage a sense of community through international and culturally diverse media that offer historical and contemporary perspectives on the LGBTQ+ experience.”

“All the films tell the LGBTQ+ story. Some are lighter than others. Each year, for whatever reason, a sense of commonality develops. It’s nothing that’s planned.”

The theme emerging this year is a “fish-out-of-water state of affairs where characters move out of their comfort zones.”

The opening-night comedy Adam, directed by Rhys Ernst, takes that kind of turn. It's a lively coming-of-age comedy of errors that follows a young high-schooler as he navigates life, love and Brooklyn’s young LGBTQ+ community.

Opening night's screening will take place at the Museum of Discovery and Science’s AutoNation IMAX 3D Theater in Fort Lauderdale. A post-show opening night party will be held at Stache, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and entertainment.

“We are trying to get the star of Adam, Nicholas Alexander, to attend the opening festivities,” Gimenez says. “It’s always nice to have a director or a lead for opening night.”

Closing night events include the presentation of the Vanguard Award, given to individuals who help bring visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. This year’s recipient will be Lebanese-American actor Haaz Sleiman. The 43-year-old came out as gay in 2017 and is a recurring castmember on Jack Ryan. He's also had roles on Nurse Jackie, The Good Wife, Covert Affairs, and 24. He played Jesus Christ in the National Geographic film Killing Jesus and will be seen in an upcoming Marvel Comics movie.

In addition to the opening night at the IMAX 3D Theater, films will screen at the Classic Gateway Theatre (1820 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) and Savor Cinema (503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale).

Gimenez notes that while 95 percent of festival-goers are gay, “anyone would enjoy these films. A lot of the selections are from other film festivals or the art-house movie circuit.”

The audience gets a chance to rate the films, and festival organizers certainly take these comments to heart.

Outshine Film Festival. Thursday, October 10 through Sunday, October 20, at various locations; outshinefilm.com. Most screenings cost $13.

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