Shirtless men, a lingeried Rumer Willis and steamy bedroom scenes run through Hello Again like surging hormones through a teenager. The opening-night flick for next week's QFest 2017: The 21st Annual Houston International LGBTQ Film Festival also reunites Glee cast members Cheyenne Jackson (Dustin Goolsby), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina Cohen-Chang) and Nolan Gerard Funk (Hunter Clarington) in a lust-fueled romp through the Big Apple. Before it’s over, you’ll be pinning posters of Tyler Blackburn on your bedroom wall like the rest of us.
Artistic Director Kristian Salinas tells us this 2017 release breaks away from the traditional narrative as it weaves together stories from various decades. And with all those Glee alums, we'll be sure to find plenty of singing. "It is a musical," says Salinas. "This year is really strange in that we're opening with a musical and closing with a musical [Thirsty]. That just happened."
Salinas says the organizers always try to be conscientious about programming films directed by women, and we'll see offerings from Hui-Chen Huang (Small Talk), Donna Deitch (Desert Hearts) and Andrea Weiss (Bones of Contention). He labels it a challenge, but says that festivals are often one of the few places where emerging female directors can get their start in filmmaking.
Also on the program is Maurice, a mainstream Merchant-Ivory film adapted from the posthumously published novel by E.M. Forster and starring James Wilby and Hugh Grant. Originally released in 1987, the elegant and passionate film with gay themes has been beautifully restored. "At the time that was still a bit edgy. A friend of mine was reminding me how well-known this film was at the time. Desert Hearts as well," says Salinas. "For a lot of us coming of age in the '80s, those were template films for us."
Longtime Houstonians remember the tragic story of Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old banker who was beaten to death outside a Montrose nightclub in 1991. A documentary screening in this year's festival tells the story of Bronx-born Julio Rivera, who was murdered the year before by three young men who thought attacking a gay man would eliminate homosexuality in their neighborhood.
"A young gay man was brutally killed by a gang of straight men and police were doing nothing to solve the crime," says Salinas. "There wasn't the public outcry in the beginning. His family and friends reached out and then it just blew up and turned around." He says the film feels raw and unpolished and that the director, Richard Shpuntoff, interviewed Rivera's friends and family. "This guy spent years making this documentary. He's shooting in 16mm, video, hi-def. That's how long it took him to make it."
The festival continues through July 31 with screenings at six locations, including the anything-but-traditional Ripcord. “We have the responsibility to be community-minded, community-focused. You can go into a leather bar and show a film,” says Salinas. "Some of the viewers aren't even gay. It's an unusual community environment."
QFest 2017: The 21st Annual Houston International LGBTQ Film Festival schedule:
Thursday, July 27 (opening night)
Hello Again, 7:30 p.m., DiverseWorks, The MATCH, 3400 Main, 713-223-8346, $12
Friday, July 28
The Fabulous Allan Carr, 7 p.m., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515, $10
In a Glass Cage (Tras el cristal), 9 p.m., Rice Media Center, 6100 Main, 713-348-4853, $10
Saturday, July 29
Julio of Jackson Heights, 1:30 p.m., Ripcord, 715 Fairview, 713-521-2792, free
Shorts Program: Come As You Are , 3:30 p.m., Aurora Picture Show, 2442 Bartlett, 713-868-2101, $10
Bones of Contention, 5:15 p.m., Rice Media Center, 6100 Main, 713-348-4853, $10
Desert Hearts, 7 p.m., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515, $10
Both Ways, 9:45 p.m., Rice Media Center, 6100 Main, 713-348-4853, $10 (no one under 18 admitted)
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Sunday, July 30
Small Talk, 3 p.m., Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore, 713-496-9901, $10
Maurice, 5 p.m., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515, $10
Tom of Finland, 8 p.m., Rice Media Center, 6100 Main, 713-348-4853, $10
Monday, July 31 (closing night)
Thirsty, 7:30 p.m., Rice Media Center, 6100 Main, 713-348-4853, $10
For more information, visit q-fest.com.