Outflix continues, ‘River’ returns, ‘Reparation’ debuts
The 19th Outflix Film Festival, which began Wednesday night, continues through Sunday at the Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill with 29 of its 32 films — including narrative features, documentaries and shorts — slotted to screen over its final three days.
The festival is dedicated to films with significant LGBT content, a parameter which, in practice, offers room for a great variety of stories from all over the world. Here’s a look at three of the films on the schedule that I watched in advance:
■ Directed by Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer (with actors Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci among its executive producers), the documentary “Check It” (9:25 p.m. Friday) follows several flamboyant members of a gay and transgender Washington, D.C., inner-city gang known as “The Check It,” founded by three ninthgraders in 2009 as a way to combat school bullying and the other abuses and “hate crimes” directed at young men with traditionally feminine mannerisms and wardrobes. Explains one member of the Check It crew: “To walk with us you gotta have a heart ... and a good sense of fashion.” At times suggesting a nonfiction version of “Tangerine,” the movie’s central characters — including Day Day, Tray and Skittles — engage in brawls (captured by cell phones), petty crime and worse. Several members of the gang make money as prostitutes on K Street, less than two miles from the White House (a 16-year-old says he plans to quit when he gets “older,” in 11th or 12th grade), but the movie glosses over the seamy and dangerous to concentrate on “inspirational” story lines that showcase fashion shows and boxing tournaments as avenues of rehabilitation and selfdiscipline for the reckless youths. “Check It” has much to recommend it as an observational portrait of its participants, but its square moralizing and somewhat comedic melodrama make it feel somewhat like a pilot for a reality series.
■ A German family’s vacation to the Thai resort town of Phuket proves more eye-opening than expected in “Patong Girl” (3:15 p.m. Sunday), an excellent romantic drama f rom writer-director Susanna Salonen. The younger of the family’s two sons, Felix (Max Mauff) is a gangly collegebound youth who becomes enamored of the lovely, soft-spoken Fai (Aisawanya Areyawattana), visiting southern Thailand from her farm village in the north. “The first time I saw a foreigner, I cried,” Fai tells the pale Felix. “I thought it was a ghost.” (Fai and Felix communicate with each other through the shared language of English, which makes this Thai-german co-production an easy watch for subtitle-averse Americans.) Since this is an Outflix film, Fai’s secret won’t surprise many moviegoers, but the revelation and its aftermath are wellhandled (Thailand is a nation of “three genders,” we are told: Men, women and “ladyboy”). The film also benefits from its wonderful locations; the welcome appearance of at least one elephant notwithstanding, Salonen avoids exotica in favor of an immersive tour of Thailand’s small business districts and residential streets, places with their own special charm and visual fascination.
■ On the level of escapism, the most entertaining Outflix movie may be director Mika Kaurismäki’s historical epic “The Girl King” (7:40 p.m. Sunday), which revisits, in bolder fashion, the true-life story of Sweden’s 17thcentury “virgin queen,” Christina, famously dramatized before in 1933 as
the thailand-set romantic drama “Patong Girl,” starring Aisawanya Areyawattana, will show at 3:15 p.m. sunday at the malco ridgeway Cinema Grill,