There's an air of celebration to this year's Fusion festival, the offshoot of Outfest dedicated to LGBT people of color.
British writer-director-actor and Fusion alum Rikki Beadle Blair will be presented with a Fusion Achievement Award ahead of a screening of his film Fit, a didactic ode to acceptance that only intermittently flashes the wit and charm of his gloriously pansexual, multiracial miniseries Metrosexuality, and never quite transcends its origins as a high school play that was used to teach and promote tolerance.
The festival also hosts a conversation with writer-director Dee Rees, whose exquisite lesbian coming-of-age short Pariah made a huge splash at the festival three years ago. Rees' same-named feature adaptation of Pariah was one of the darlings of Sundance this year: Focus Features quickly bought the feature for theatrical release this fall and signed Rees to a deal for her next script. Fusion will give the short Pariah one of its last public screenings before it goes into the vaults.
Also notable: Anna Margarita Albelo's Hooters: The Making of Older, Wiser Lesbian Cinema (2010) looks at the making of iconic lesbian writer-director Cheryl Dunye's last film, The Owls. Hooters is a riveting document of the near–train wreck production of Dunye's film, but while frequently funny (lesbian goddess Guinevere Turner steals every frame in which she appears), it winds up doing something of a painful-to-watch hatchet job on Dunye.
Julian Hernandez' experimental 2003 film A Thousand Clouds of Peace, about a gay teenager who wanders the streets of Mexico City while trying to decode the goodbye letter from his ex, is glorious on the big screen.
The shorts program is uneven — there's nothing as artistically, politically or emotionally accomplished as Rees' (yep, her again) 2010 Fusion short Colonial Gods. Still, two selections are eerily topical. Abdi Nazeman's Revolution, set in L.A. in 1989, centers on the queer teenage son of a wealthy Iranian businessman and navigates a heady mix of charged issues (immigration, religious fundamentalism, burgeoning queer identity). Likewise on trend: Melissa Osborne and Jeff McCutcheon's Change, in which a closeted black teen grapples with his sexuality against the backdrop of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and California's Proposition 8.
And the opening-night film? A sing-along screening of The Wiz, starring O.G. diva Diana Ross and her spawn, Michael Jackson.
FUSION: THE LOS ANGELES LGBT PEOPLE OF COLOR FILM FESTIVAL | March 4-5 | Egyptian Theatre | outfest.org/fusion2011
Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes