Outfest Filmmakers Get Political, Issue Call to Action on Opening Night

Filmmaker Angela Robinson on Thursday issued a call to action to attendees of the opening night of Outfest, telling the audience gathered at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles to vote and encourage others to participate in the upcoming midterm elections.

Outfest, the largest LGBTQ film festival in North America, took on a decidedly political tone this year amid a rolling back of protections for members of the LGBTQ community by the Trump administration and a looming fight over the confirmation of conservative judge Brett Kavanuahg to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robinson, who was honored with the Outfest Achievement Award Thursday, said that rather than speak about her career, she felt compelled to speak on the need for political organizing ahead of election that will decide the balance of Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

“I’m here to remind you tonight that we – queer folks – are warriors,” said Robinson, director of “D.E.B.S. and “Herbie Fully Loaded,” the 2005 Disney film starring Lindsay Lohan. “Each and every person in this room is powerful. I’m here to remind that assembling here tonight is a political act. That not only in many parts in the world still today you’d be imprisoned and executed for daring to have this celebration.”

Robinson’s remarks reflected the views of many Outfest filmmakers and organizers who on Thursday celebrated the inclusion of a record number of directors of color, women and transgender people in the festival. Two-thirds of films screened this year are from underrepresented groups, a milestone that Outfest organizers said will help level the playing field for filmmakers and help shed light on different segments of the LGBT community.

Robinson said the 2016 election shook her out of a complacency that had settled in during the Obama era, during which same-sex marriage was legalized and bans on LGBT individuals serving in the military lifted. The Trump administration has moved to ban transgender people in the military, among other actions.

“We all have to get off our bench and go back to our hometowns and find folks who want to roll back our rights and change their minds with our humanity,” Robinson said. “We need to convince people that are apathetic or plain out of the damn loop, to vote.”

Outfest executive director Christopher Racster also urged the audience assembled for the opening night film to become politically engaged.

“Looking at this past year… we have been taught that our rights our threatened,” Racster said. “Our privileges are threatened; however, over the past year, movements like #MeToo have shown us that when we stand together, mobilize, use our voice, embrace our allies, we can create real change for the better.”

He added: “There are important elections coming up. If we can use our voices to help drive a sea change in representation in our government.”

The opening night film “Studio 54,” is a documentary by Matt Tyrnauer that chronicles the rise and fall of the famed New York City nightclub. The doc featured many hours of rare footage bringing viewers inside the party palace, an exclusive haven for celebrities and members of the LGBTQ  community. The doc showed the nuts and bolts of how it was built and, later, how club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were forced to sell and shutter the club because of felony tax evasion charges.

The opening gala after the screening was Studio 54-themed, featuring go-go dancers on platforms and disco music by a live DJ.

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