Bruce Vilanch Hosts the 21st Outfest Festival

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Outfest Opening with “Party”; Streep and Others Win Screen Idol Prizes
by Brian Brooks

Outfest is turning 21 this year and hitting the scene this summer with its film festival, the largest in Southern California. “Party Monster” will open the festival on July 10th while Samuel Goldwyn’s “Mambo Italiano” will close the twelve-day event. Additionally, Outfest has announced the recipients of the annual Screen Idol awards.

Outfest, one of the largest gay and lesbian film events of its kind, also announced that Meryl Streep has won a Screen Idol Award for best performance by an actress in a leading role prize. The awards honor four performances from a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered role in a feature film or television movie. Shane Meier will receive the best performance by an actor in a leading role prize for his performance in “The Matthew Shepard Story.” Best performance by an actress in a supporting role is Queen Latifah for “Chicago,” and Dennis Quaid was named best performance by an actor in a supporting role for “Far From Heaven.” Presentation plans for the awards are still pending.

“I am so pleased at the caliber and the scope of the actors who were both nominated and have won,” noted Stephen Gutwillig, executive director of Outfest in a release. “The household names mingling with the up-and-coming performers attest tot he remarkable visibility of gay and lesbian lives in today?s mainstream media.” Outfest members voted for their favorite performances, with five names in each category later advancing to an online vote by the general public.

The Sundance 2003 feature “Party Monster,” by writer-director duo Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, is based on the book “Disco Bloodbath” by James St. James. It is the story is the true account of club kids St. James and Michael Alig in New York in the ’80s and early ’90s, complete with unhindered indulgence, drugs and non-stop disco parties and finally, murder. Following the screening at the 2000-seat Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, the fest will host a “Party Monster” themed party with food from 20 different L.A. restaurants, dancing and “shenanigans.”

During this year’s festival, 188 films from 26 countries will participate in screenings in seven venues during the 12-day event. The closing night film will be “Mambo Italiano.” The coming out farce is adapted from the stage play of the same name by writer Steve Galluccio and is directed by Emile Gaudreault (“Nuit de Noces”).

This year’s Awards Night film is Alex Steyermark’s “Prey for Rock and Roll.” The film is described by Outfest as “sexy, loud, audacious and incredibly good fun [about] an all girl rock band on the verge of making it big or breaking up.” Preceding the screening will be the winner announcements hosted by Bruce Vilanch. This year’s Outfest Achievement award will be presented to director Jane Anderson who recently worked on the HBO film, “Normal.” Previous recipients include actor Sir Ian McKellen, producer Christine Vachon, director Gus Van Sant and Strand Releasing’s Marcus Hu and Jon Gerrans.

In addition to the annual festival, Outfest hosts a weekly gay and lesbian screening series and the Outfest Screenwriting Lab.

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