Out and About

In 1999, when the annual Out Takes gay and lesbian film festival made its first appearance in Dallas, the fest screened a handful of films over four days, including two episodes of a controversial British TV series called Queer as Folk. This was before the Fab Five taught everyone how to properly apply hair product, and when Will and Grace were just being introduced as America's cutest "couple." Over the years, though, a few things have changed. For one, Out Takes now lasts 10 days and comprises a list of films that would fill up more than a few hands. And that once-obscure TV series from the U.K. has been Americanized and Blockbuster-ized. (Just look on the shelf somewhere between Old School and Sex and the City.) What hasn't changed, though, is Out Takes' purpose: "...to enlighten, educate, enrich and entertain diverse communities about gays and lesbians through the medium of film and video..."

To complete its mission, Out Takes has created a lineup that includes a variety of topics geared toward the gay community. There's everything from online cruising (Hooked) to coming out (Blue Citrus Hearts) to Parker Posey (The Event). The Texas Penal Code even makes a star turn in The Dildo Diaries, a lighthearted look at some of the laughable language used by the Texas Legislature in creating laws governing citizens' sex lives. Some of the personal interviews induce a few chuckles, and political columnist Molly Ivins gets in a joke about a "prick" and an "asshole" that's pretty funny, but what is truly hilarious in this film is the actual footage from a session of the state Legislature. When one completely serious representative describes activities he believes should be deemed felonies, it becomes clear that whoever coined the phrase "politically correct" never met this man. Out Takes takes a look at real life with a variety of other documentaries as well, among them From a Jack to a Queen, about Dallas performer Mark Alan Smith, who will be available for a Q&A after the film's screening.

Some of the features at this year's fest include Prey for Rock & Roll, starring Gina Gershon, and Gender Bias, a French murder mystery with plenty of twists and turns. There are also several sets of short films with program names like "Boys Will Be Boys," "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Men in Uniform" and "Girlz Rule!" We're not sure, but you can probably gauge your interest in these selections with a quick glance at the titles. The same goes for Sex, Politics & Cocktails, one of the films screening as part of the "Where the Boys Are" shorts program. Described as "the gay Bridget Jones," this flick takes a look at the politics of dating and looking for love after the big 3-0--with plenty of sex and cocktails thrown in for good measure. Favorite quote: "30-year-olds are basically fucked--or not."

By bringing such films to Dallas, Out Takes certainly succeeds in its goal of making gay-themed films available to the public. But with the number of films screening, there are bound to be some clunkers in the bunch--in fact, we're sure there are--but Out Takes' goals are admirable. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Walt Whitman Community School for gay and lesbian students, which has been Out Takes' beneficiary for the past four years. The festival has donated more than $37,000 to the school and, on November 23, will screen School's Out, a documentary about the students of Walt Whitman.