The 19th Annual Houston QFest Kicks Off This Week

The yearly LGBTQ movie festival returns with an eclectic lineup.

With Joe Leydon July 21, 2015

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Babatunde Adebimpe and Kristen Wiig star in Nasty Baby

Image: QFest

The 19th annual QFest kicks off this Wednesday with a Festival Preview and Pre-Party at DiverseWorks and continues through July 27 at various Houston-area venues featuring an ambitious array of new and classic movies. The lineup is nothing if not eclectic, ranging from the seriously intense docudrama of I Am Michael, the Thursday opening-night feature starring James Franco, to the exuberantly campy silliness of Voyage of the Rock Aliens, which QFest artistic director Kristian Salinas has brought back—“By popular demand,” he gleefully reports—after its well-received revival screening at last year’s festival.

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I Am Michael stars James Franco and Zachary Quinto

Image: QFest

We sat down with Salinas a few days ago to talk about the more promising titles on this year’s QFest schedule. Here’s some of what he had to say:

BoulevardRobin Williams gives one of his final performances as a long-closeted married man who develops a relationship with a young gay street hustler. (Friday, 7:30. Rice Media Center)

Salinas: “What I love about Boulevard is that it deals with middle-aged people who are finally coming to terms with the fact that they are not who they have pretended to be–and they really are struggling to find their happiness. And Robin Williams gives this very honest, very moving performance.”

Tab Hunter ConfidentialThe former ‘50s Hollywood heartthrob opens up about his life and career as a closeted superstar. Hunter attends QFest along with partner Alan Glaser, the film’s producer. (Sunday, 5. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet St.)

Salinas: “You may recall that when Tab Hunter finally came out a couple years ago, he was a bit reticent about it. He didn't necessarily feel the need to talk about it in detail. He was of that generation that still believed that it was a personal thing. But in this documentary, he’s remarkably candid. He really speaks honestly and openly about what it was like in those times to be who he was, and having to put on this front because he was such a money-maker for Warner Bros. When you watch that movie, you just feel like you are in it.”

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Image: QFest

StandA young gay Russian couple witness what they believe to be a vicious gay bashing. Because of harsh anti-gay laws in their country, however, they are initially reluctant to report what they saw. (Saturday, 4:45. Rice Media Center)

Salinas: “This is my favorite film in the festival. And the amazing thing is, the guys who made it shot it in secret. They couldn't tell anybody what it was about, because they would have been a victim of the anti-gay laws themselves. They would have been arrested, they would have been harassed, whatever. The lead characters in the film wind up having to investigate the [gay bashing] on their own. Well, the stress of doing this starts to tear up their relationship. But what’s even more troubling is their lives become endangered. The reality is, because of these laws, there’s a climate of fear and you can't trust anybody.”  

TangerineCritically acclaimed comedy-drama about transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles, shot entirely by writer-director Sean Baker (and cinematographer Radium Cheung) on Apple iPhone 5s cameras equipped with anamorphic adapters. (Monday, July 27, 7. Rice Media Center)

Salinas: “I think it is easy to focus exclusively on the fact that it was shot on iPhones. And that’s interesting, because it shows you that you can really make films on a shoestring. But, you know, I used to work just down the street from a number of the locations they were at. And they really caught the grit of that environment, which is one of my favorite things about it is. I’ve actually had people ask me, "So is this film problematic? How does it portray the trans community?" And I’ve said, ‘These are people portraying themselves. These are people who have lived a hard life, but they are not shying away from the portrayal. They are giving you everything.’”

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