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TONIGHT: "Cloudburst" opens 14th annual FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival

SAN DIEGO -- The 14th annual FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival kicks off tonight with the traditional Opening Night festivities at the historic Birch North Park Theatre.

The Opening Night selection is "Cloudburst," a highly-praised Canadian film starring Oscar-winning actresses Olympia Dukakis (“Moonstruck”) and Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot”) as an elderly lesbian couple who go on a wild road trip with hunky newcomer Ryan Doucette.

Director Thom Fitzgerald wrote the part for Dukakis, who told a TV audience in Toronto that she is very proud of the film.

"When they [the characters Dot and Stella] became a couple there was nothing there -- not even a conversation, a dialogue, which is at least happening now. It puts a human face on the issue. ...

"I hope [the film] is received as a love story, because that was my first feeling about and that's what I cared about, how deep this love is between these two women."

New to Opening Night this year will be a silent auction to help raise money to sustain for the festival.

The traditional Opening Night Party has been moved from Top of the Park in Hillcrest to the Claire de Lune/Sunset Temple Grand Room directly across the street from the Birch.

Michael McQuiggan, program director for the film festival, spoke with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about how FilmOut has changed over the past 14 years, why the festival changed its dates, and his favorite picks to see.

SDGLN: How has FilmOut San Diego changed over the past 14 years?

MICHAEL: FilmOut has grown from a thesis project to a full on, respected LGBT film festival. What started as a few films has grown to include over 750 films since its inception. Our audience has grown over the past few years, and now is a destination for people that live in surrounding cities and states to attend as well. Filmmakers/casts love our event and especially the Birch North Park Theatre venue. Also, a lot of patrons turn it into a full on vacation and utilize the city for the other attractions that San Diego provides.

SDGLN: During that time, has the quality of LGBT movies improved, not only in the U.S. but abroad?

MICHAEL: The quality has definitely improved over the past several years. The films seem to have better production values, larger budgets, more mainstream actors, and an edge on direction. International features seem to be ahead of US features in terms of more socially relevant
issues (specifically over the past few years).

SDGLN: Why was the festival moved from August to late May and early June?

MICHAEL: The weather in August was simply to nice and people preferred to be outdoors during the Summer Months. We moved the festival up a few months since San Diego is notorious for its May Gray/June Gloom months. It is a perfect time to see films that you normally won't ever see play in San Diego!

SDGLN: What kind of attendance is expected for the festival?

MICHAEL: We are hoping for an audience of 7,500 over the 5 day film festival! Since we have world premieres, U.S. premieres, West Coast premieres, Sundance favorites and an in-person salute to Del Shores with a special screening of SORDID LIVES hosted by Dixie Longate, we are hoping that this 14th year is shaping up to be one of the best for FilmOut!

SDGLN: Do you have any must-see films?

MICHAEL: Absolutely! The Opening Night film "Cloudburst" stars Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker, and is essentially a variation on the quintessential road trip film. Excellent performances, well-directed and extremely entertaining. Not to be missed.

Our Boys Centerpiece is "Morgan," which deals with physical disability; and the Girls Centerpiece is "Three Veils," which tells the story of three different Muslim women's relationships.

The International Feature is a based on a true story. It is from Turkey and is called "Zenne Dancer." Excellent production values and relevant themes make this an important film to be seen at our festival.

The Sundance favorite "That's What She Said" is executive-produced by San Diego locals James Vasquez and Mark Holmes and is directed by Carrie Preston ("True Blood") and stars Anne Heche.

Todd Verow's "The Endless Possibility Of Sky" is a guerilla-style indie and is a raw, in-your-face assaultive drama about drug and sex addiction.

The "Best OF LGBT Shorts" offers the best shorts from around the globe. The German films "Romeos" and "Men To Kiss" show the extremes between full-on drama vs. full-on romantic comedy from Germany -- an interesting comparison on the styles. Other foreign highlights include "Speechless" from China and "Kiss Me" from Sweden.

We are proud to include the world premiere of our Closing Night film, "Nate & Margaret," which is an endearing romantic comedy about the friendship between a 19-year-old gay man and a 52-year-old straight woman.

There are 40 films screening over the five days, there is every genre represented, and there is something to offer any filmgoer!

SDGLN: How does FilmOut stack up against other LGBT film festivals across.

FilmOut is turning into one of the most sought out LGBT film festivals on the the U.S. LGBT film festival circuit. When we first started, we had to constantly solicit for screeners, now they are automatically sent to us. It has transitioned quite nicely, and let's face it, who wouldn't want to screen their film and attend a great film festival in America's Finest City?

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.

The details

WEDNESDAY, MAY 30

Wednesday, May 30, 7:30 pm - OPENING NIGHT
Co-presented by CICA

“Cloudburst” (2011), directed by Thom Fitzgerald, 93 minutes, Canada.

This romantic road movie stars Olympia Dukakis (“Moonstruck”) and Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot”) as Stella and Dot, an aging couple who have been together for 31 years and have faithfully accompanied one another through life's ups and downs. Now in their 70s, Stella is hard of hearing and Dot is legally blind. Dot's prudish granddaughter, Molly (played by Genie Award-winner Kristin Booth), decides the best place for Dot is a nursing home that will provide all the necessities. This forces Stella and Dot to make a bold decision: They will leave their hometown in Maine and make their way to Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. It's a last-gap bid to stay together. En route to Canada, they pick up a young hitchhiker, Prentice, played by newcomer Ryan Doucette. A small-town boy turned modern dancer, he is returning to Nova Scotia to visit his dying mother. Despite his bravado, Prentice is a confused and wounded soul who has much to learn from Stella and Dot as they wage their own unexpected battle – after three decades, can they keep their family together?

Shown with “Fallen Comrade” (2012), directed by James Valdez, 11 minutes, USA.
West Coast premiere

Relevant story about the bond between two soldiers in the U.S. Army and the impact after one is lost in combat.

Shown with “Performance Anxiety” (2012), directed by Reid Watterer, 15 minutes, USA.
West Coast premiere

Two straight actors rehearse for a movie's upcoming gay love scene. How will they make out?



Opening Night Party

The FilmOut board decided this year to keep all festival events in North Park, and moved the Opening Night Party to the Claire de Lune/Sunset Temple Grand Room across the street from the Birch North Park Theatre.

Tickets for the Opening Night film cost $15. Tickets to the Opening Night Party cost $20. To attend both events, tickets are discounted to $30.

Tickets are also being sold for Opening Night film, the Opening Night Party and the combo pass. Click HERE.

A Festival Pass – providing access to all movies and parties – is now on sale for $125. Click HERE to purchase a pass.