Outfest is already one of the world’s largest gay and lesbian film festivals and the largest film festival in Southern California. But 2004 marks Outfest’s 22nd anniversary and the inauguration of Fusion, the very first Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgend-ered People of Color Film Festival.
‘Fusion is a first-of-its-kind festival that builds bridges between L.A. communities, celebrates local artists, affirms identity and fights homophobia,’ said Stephen Gutwillig, the executive director of Outfest.
Fusion will be held in downtown Los Angeles from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1,
According to Eve Oishi, the curator of Fusion, while Outfest encompasses media works from the entire Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender community, one of the main problems in presentation was that the programs were often segregated in terms of their ethnicity. The team behind Outfest wanted to create an environment where everyone would have the opportunity to see each other’s work in a unifying context and with the benefit of promoting more of a dialogue between the different kinds of works shown.
Because the whole idea of Fusion was to get people in communities of color to look outside their own communities, feature films that tended to focus on only one ethnicity were withheld.
Fusion will feature 36 short films and videos, with each entry produced from the late 1980s to the present. This three-day festival is divided up into four programs of multi-ethnic, documentary, narrative and experimental short films and videos.
For the festival this year there was no open call for film submissions since the purpose of this year’s festival is to expose audiences to existing works that they most likely haven’t seen before.
‘Since there’s this whole rich history of work by queer people of color that people in the communities hadn’t seen, we decided to make the first year a retrospective of some of the most important and best work that’s been made over the last 15 years,’ Oishi said. ‘There are a couple of new pieces, but for the most part, it’s historic work that artists have been doing since the early ’80s.’
One of the highlights of the festival is a panel discussion that will be held on Jan. 31. The dialogue will center around media arts and community activism and will feature leading community activists who will discuss the diverse and creative ways they use media and the arts to empower the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender communities of color.
‘One thing we wanted to do with this panel was to get a dialogue going about how we define community activism and how we can use media in doing activism,’ Oishi said. ‘We tend to have a fairly narrow understanding of what activism really is. But there are people who are using new media to enact social change in a whole range of social ways.’
One of Fusion’s goals with this panel discussion is for it to incorporate and encourage audience participation as much as speeches from the panelists. It will be conducted as an open dialogue to hopefully get the audience talking. Ideally this situation will promote awareness, compassion and understanding.
In addition to being the curator of Fusion and Outfest, Oishi is in her seventh year as a professor of women’s studies at Cal State Long Beach. Her research and academic writings are on independent and experimental film and video.
Oishi says her interest and involvement began when she wanted to serve as a bridge between the world of independent filmmaking and the classroom.
‘When I first moved out to L.A., Outfest asked me to do a queer Asian-American program several years ago,’ Oishi said. ‘I think they know that I’m very familiar with all the work that has been produced in this area over the last few years.’
Oishi is now the curator for a wide range of international film festivals.
Oishi expressed the following: ‘The thing about this world is that it’s a small world and a lot of people know each other because they’ve helped each other out on their films, or have gone to school together and they pull their resources. It’s really interesting actually to look at the end credits of all the films. Because what you’ll start to notice is the same names will start to appear in each other’s films. So in that sense, this community really does have a family-feel to it.’
View the world from another’s eyes through the Fusion film festival. Perhaps you’ll learn something about others or even yourself.