Out on Film, Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ film fest, feels the gravity of the moment

‘What we do is vital at any time, but especially now,’ says the director of the fest, which starts Thursday.
From left, Billy Porter, Christopher Woodley and Luke Evans star in "Our Son,"  a divorce and child custody drama as well as the opening film at this year's festival. Photo: Courtesy of Out on Film

Credit: Courtesy of Out on Film

Credit: Courtesy of Out on Film

From left, Billy Porter, Christopher Woodley and Luke Evans star in "Our Son," a divorce and child custody drama as well as the opening film at this year's festival. Photo: Courtesy of Out on Film

The 2023 Out on Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday with the Billy Porter-Luke Evans divorce drama “Our Son,” will confront a number of weighty topics including religious trauma, homelessness, the LGBTQ+ refugee crisis and the legacy of Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and left to die 25 years ago in Wyoming.

Jim Farmer, Out on Film’s director, said the Atlanta festival — which has presented LGBTQ+ films, documentaries and shorts for 36 years — remains important and necessary as the queer community continues to face adversity.

“What we do is vital at any time, but especially now. Our community is large, diverse and unified. There are so many strides we’ve made in the last decade. It feels like we take one step, then take another backward,” said Farmer, who is a regular contributor to the AJC. “To see what’s going on in our country right now is just shocking and disturbing: the sentiments against our community, the attacks on our transgender brothers and sisters, the attacks on drag. It’s so far-fetched and unreal. That’s why it’s important to have these festivals and tell these stories.”

This year’s Out on Film lineup — showing primarily at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and Out Front Theatre through Oct. 1 — includes more than 150 films, documentaries and shorts. There are star-studded comedies and dramas, including director Tom Gustafson’s “Glitter & Doom,” featuring the Indigo Girls and Kate Pierson from The B-52s.

This year, many actors featured in the films may not be in attendance due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, which prevents them from participating in promotional events for studio films. But Farmer said that many filmmakers will attend the screenings and participate in Q&A sessions afterward.

Megan Stalter plays the lead in "Cora Bora," a comedy about a young woman trying to win back her girlfriend. Photo: Courtesy of Out on Film

Credit: Courtesy of Out on Film

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Credit: Courtesy of Out on Film

“We have a lot of talent coming in, just not a lot of actors,” Farmer said. “Again, we could’ve had a lot of actors, potentially household names, if the strikes hadn’t happened.”

The festival fully supports the actors’ and writers’ strikes, Farmer said.

Out on Film’s documentary lineup is particularly strong this year, including several films with local connections.

The documentary "The Dancer," produced by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, explores Gerard Alexander's life and tragic death. Out on Film will screen "The Dancer" at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1. Photo: Joanne Savio and Duane Cyrus

Credit: Joanne Savio and Duane Cyrus

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Credit: Joanne Savio and Duane Cyrus

In particular, “The Dancer,” a documentary short produced for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne and writer Matt Kempner about dancer Gerard Alexander, will play at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1. The Hornes created the film to accompany Kempner’s article, and Kempner narrates the film.

“It was a challenge at first because we didn’t know if we were going to find a lot of footage of Gerard and how we would tell this story visually,” Ryon Horne said. “As we started digging in and finding people to speak to, we found an incredible, beautiful story about Gerard, one that was extremely tragic too.”

Ryon Horne said the film shines a light upon Atlanta’s homeless residents, revealing their struggles and a world that often goes ignored.

Filmmaker and part-time Atlanta resident Gerald McCullouch’s latest documentary, “Stuck in Greece: An LGBT Refugee Crisis,” will mark its U.S. premiere at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27. This will be his fourth feature film to be shown at the festival.

McCullouch spent six years working on “Stuck in Greece,” which features interviews with queer and transgender refugees who end up on the streets of Athens after escaping violence and death threats in the Middle East.

“I was so inspired by the resilience and the courage that these members of my community had,” McCullouch said. “I don’t know that I would have that courage, to get up and leave everything I knew with a backpack. They face a life of displacement, and it’s a huge emotional toll on them.”

In "Glitter & Doom," the festival's closing night film, Alan Cammish (left) and Alex Diaz play a serious musician and a care-free spirit who must deal with love at first sight. Photo: Courtesy of Out on Film

Credit: Courtesy of Out on Film

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Credit: Courtesy of Out on Film

“Truth Be Told” focuses on the positive and negative impacts that the Black church has upon its LGBTQ members. The filmmaker said that often Black churches nurture youth who have talent or serve the business of the church, disregarding homosexual idiosyncrasies so long as queer identities remain unspoken. The film will screen at House of Hope Atlanta at 8 p.m. on Sept. 30.

“It takes a look at how the LGBTQ community teaches the Black church about its own oppression,” Onuorah said. “We explore the double consciousness of the Black church, the ways that it can be harmful or hurtful — and the things that we love about it as well.”

Out on Film will also present “The Matthew Shepard Story: An American Hate Crime” for free at 4 p.m. on Sept. 30, before the film shows on the cable channel Investigation Discovery. The screening takes place at Midtown Art Cinema. Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie on Oct. 6, 1998. He died six days later at age 21 due to severe head injuries.

“Matthew’s story remains just as heart wrenching and relevant today as it was 25 years ago,” Jason Sarlanis, a Warner Bros. Discovery executive, said in a statement. “This tragedy ignited an incredibly emotional and influential chapter in the fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination that brought great progress. By revisiting Matthew’s story, we hope to educate a whole new generation and underscore the power love and acceptance play in continuing the fight against violence and discrimination in all its forms.”

For a week after the festival, all of the shorts and many of the features will be available for streaming on Out on Film’s website, Farmer said. But he is also excited to reunite with film fans at the venues.

“It’s great seeing the family of people who come to the event every year,” he said. “This is their best week of the year. They love coming out to see people they may not see otherwise.”


Out on Film

Thursday, Sept. 21 to Oct. 1. $50-$185. Multiple locations. 678-944-8158, outonfilm.org.