Outfest and American Black Film Festival bring compelling cinema to your car or couch

By Samuel Aftel

The two festivals elevate Black and LGBTQ+ voices

This weekend brings the 24th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and Outfest’s 2020 LGBTQ Film Festival to Los Angeles, remotely showcasing new, cutting-edge Black and queer cinema. Whether you choose to do a date night in on your couch or venture out in your car, both festivals bring compelling offerings to the table with social distancing in mind.

Outfest’s queer-centered LA film festival will virtually stream from Aug. 20 to Aug. 30 at outfestla2020.com. The festival also includes “Under the Stars” drive-in screenings at the 4000-acre Calamigos Ranch in Malibu if you’re looking for a change of scenery.

Among the highlights:

• Bill Benz’s 2020 Sundance title “The Nowhere Inn” is “a reality bending send-up of [Annie] Clark’s musical persona, St. Vincent,” according to organizers, and makes its Los Angeles premiere in the ‘Bu at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 21.

• The festival’s domestic centerpiece selection, Emma Seligman’s “Shiva Baby,” reckons with an undergraduate’s awkward encounter with her sugar daddy at, of all places, a funeral on Sunday, Aug. 23 at 7:45 p.m. at the Ranch.

• Trent Atkinson’s biopic “Three Chords and a Lie” follows at 8 p.m. and depicts gay country singer Brandon Stansell’s fraught reunion with his conservative family after years of alienation.

• And Matthew Rankin’s “The Twentieth Century” explores the rise of prominent Canadian politician W.L. Mackenzie King. (Watch online.)

ABFF, which spans from Aug. 21 to 30, will broadcast narrative features, independent short films, documentary features and web series that capture Black experiences, perspectives and cinematic endeavor at abff.com.

Among the highlights:

• Drew V. Marke’s “Get Luke Lowe” portrays the kidnapping of an alt-right troll by two women; the abduction ultimately goes off the rails.

• Elizabeth St. Philip’s documentary “9/11 Kids” examines the cultural impact of September 11, 2001 – and life in an America undeniably reshaped by the attacks.

• Lanre Olabisi’s short film “A Storybook Ending” narrates the experience of a young Black man who kills an undercover white cop in earnest self-defense and, thereafter, endures blackmail from opportunistic witnesses of the killing.

• Nick Cannon’s “She Ball,” a narrative feature, tells the story of a single father who tries to retain an Inglewood community center amid gentrification. The film’s particularly notable and intriguing given its prominent (and problematic) architects. Cannon, its director, recently got into some hot water for making anti-Semitic comments on his podcast “Cannon’s Class.” His co-producer, R&B star Chris Brown, got into some legal trouble back in 2009 for brutally beating his then-girlfriend Rihanna. Let’s see if the movie, which reportedly centers on a women’s street basketball team, might have some comeback potential for these filmmakers.

• Lastly, Loyola Marymount University film graduate Solomon Onita Jr., (whose short film “JOY” was profiled in The Argonaut in 2016 and screened on HBO) presents a new feature film called “Tazmanian Devil” about a 19-year-old Nigerian immigrant’s struggle to reconcile his conflicting desires to join a college fraternity with getting to know his strictly religious father.

Visit outfestla2020.com or abff.com for digital access passes and full schedules.

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