Last night was the opening gala for Outfest 2006: the 24th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Props to Outfest for once again booking the Orpheum Theatre for opening night. This still-grand theatre is in the heart of the little-used downtown theatre district. I love downtown LA and the beautiful old buildings on Broadway and enjoy any opportunity to mingle with crack whores.   

After the obligatory (yes, Eliza, it is very necessary to clap for all the sponsors) thank yous and speeches (including a very compelling plea from Executive Director Stephen Gutwilling for the audience to contribute to the preservation of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender films), the opening night film, Maria Magenti’s Puccini for Beginners, finally started.

The film is a charming and funny look at a bisexual love triangle (And who doesn’t enjoy a little girl-on-girl/boy-on-girl action?). The performances were excellent, especially Elizabeth Reaser‘s marvelously understated portrayal of a typical, committment-phobic guy (who just happens to be a woman), and Gretchen Mol, as the girlfriend who really wants a committed relationship (with anyone). The film isn’t without problems… I thought the lead character’s transformation was a little forced, but it’s a fun little movie with an interesting take on gender roles and sexual identity.

One of the biggest things that struck me about this film was the fact that it was completely apolitical. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with message films, but it’s always nice to watch a movie with gay (or minority or disabled or senior) characters that doesn’t have to make a statement about it. Puccini for Beginners is about people. Some of them are gay, some are straight, and all of them are a little bit confused. Just like real life. I left the theatre with a really positive feeling about how far our society has come in regard to diversity and tolerance…

And then I read this morning’s paper.

Forty States have laws that prohibit same-sex marriage. And the last time I checked, it’s still legal to discriminate against gays in the workplace in most of the United States. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone sees these issues as any different than the anti-miscegenation or other discriminatory laws of the last two centuries. But then again, I don’t understand anyone who bases their moral perspective on superstition (BTW, before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy: Although I may not agree with your beliefs, I will defend to the death your right to be wrong.).

I don’t know if Outfest will change anybody’s mind, but maybe seeing films with realistic portrayals of all kinds of people will help.

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