2021 Outfest Fusion Film Festival to honor Michaela Coel, Andra Day

The 2021 Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival kicks off this with panels, workshops, screenings, performances, a one minute movie contest, and networking events.

The five-day film festival — which showcases the work of queer and transgender filmmakers of color — opens Friday with two nights of shorts films in Exposition Park, which will be turned into a drive-in.

“Outfest Fusion facilitates an environment where QTBIPOC people are able to learn, teach, showcase their talent, and feel validated, bridging the gap between the industry’s gatekeepers and so many marginalized people who are typically left out of the conversation,” the festival’s executive director Damien Navarro said in a statement.

The Outfest Fusion lineup will showcase 10 feature films and 41 short films, and a dozen workshops and panels. Individual film tickets are $10; a festival pass is $99.

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The Rising Stars panel will feature a pre-recorded, roundtable discussion with five queer and transgender people of color actors: Harvey Guillén (“What We Do In the Shadows”), Shalita Grant (“Search Party”), Vico Ortiz (“Vida”), Ian Alexander (“Star Trek: Discovery”), and Sherry Cola (“Good Trouble”).

Here are three film highlights.


In the first gay love story out of Namibia, George, a middle-class insurance broker, lives openly and with acceptance from his family. However, his new boyfriend — Simeon, a working-class food vendor — remains in the closet, preoccupied by traditional notions of masculinity and the desire for peer acceptance. In a country where same-sex relationships are criminalized, these two men begin a romance that could flourish if they reject societal expectations and stigma.

‘Forgotten Roads (La Nave del Olvido)’

Claudina is a repressed woman from the countryside. Following her husband’s death, she meets Elsa, who opens Claudina’s eyes to the possibility of real love. Under the judgmental watch of a little conservative town in the south of Chile, Claudina begins a journey toward queer self-acceptance. During this process, she learns that true happiness may require leaving behind everything she knows.

‘Crystal Diaries’

Five members of Los Angeles’ queer house and ball community share personal stories about crystal meth addiction. They discuss their experiences in response to the death of ballroom community member Gemmel Moore, who died in the home of Democratic political fundraiser Ed Buck. The film spotlights a community banding together to heal and support, create awareness, and protest the justice system’s response to Moore’s death.

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On Saturday, Michaela Coel and Andra Day will be recognized at the film festival.

Coel (“I May Destroy You”) will be presented the Fusion Achievement Award and Day (“Rise Up,” “The United States v. Billie Holiday”) will receive the James Schamus Ally Award.

Michaela Coel

The 2021 Fusion Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to LGBTQ stories, arts, and media visibility. Past award recipients include Nisha Ganatra, Angela Robinson, Rose Troche, Wilson Cruz, Alec Mapa, Patrik-Ian Polk, Cheryl Dunye, Brickson Diamond, and Rikki Beadle-Blair.

Michaela’s “work in “Chewing Gum” and “I May Destroy You” portray complex characters who have helped open the door for more empathetic conversations about the issues facing members of this QTBIPOC community,” Navarro said.

“Outfest Fusion believes that honoring one of the most incredible, talented, and inspiring voices and storytellers of our generation will inspire Outfest Fusion’s Black creators, across all mediums, and also send a strong message within the industry that we need to include, support, and finance exponentially more independent voices.”

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Andra Day

The James Schamus Ally Award recognizes a great ally to the LGBTQ community.

“Too often in fictionalizing historic lives our LGBTQIA heroes remain closeted robbing our understanding of how complex their lives were and how long there has been a community supporting the fluidity of sexual desire,” Navarro said. “Ms. Day’s honest performance does not shy away from these truths. Her vulnerability and strength in Lee (Daniels’) film (‘The United States v. Billie Holiday’) gives our community the historic dignity it deserves.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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