AFI Fest 2021 to showcase numerous queer movies, documentaries

AFI Fest 2021 showcases 115 films, from features and shorts to documentaries, including some titles with queer stories.

This year, approximately 13%  of all the films are directed by LGBTQ filmmakers.

The Hollywood-based AFI Fest 2021 opens Wednesday and will close Sunday.

Screenings will take place at the TCL Chinese Theatre and next door at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.

Moviegoers will be required to follow COVID-19 policies to attend the in-person screenings.

Here’s a rundown of the LGBTQ films.

Feature films

  • “Bernstein’s Wall”

Director Douglas Tirola documents the life of composer Leonard Bernstein (“West Side Story”) from his early life in New England, to his early orchestral career, his work on television and his constant advocacy of worthy causes.

AFI Fest 2021 J.C. Leyendecker

“Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker” explores the coded advertisements of legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, who quietly, but directly, acknowledged a community that was forced to live in the closet. Photo: Courtesy image.

  • “Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker”

 The coded advertisements of legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker quietly, but directly, acknowledged a community that was forced to live in the closet.

  • “The Girl and the Spider”

Lisa is moving out of the apartment she shares with Mara. Friends and neighbors arrive to assist and unspoken tensions simmer just beneath the surface.

  • “Great Freedom (Grosse Freiheit)”

Winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, this unlikely love story by director Sebastian Meise depicts the engrossing life of Hans, a man in postwar Germany who is continuously imprisoned for being gay.

  • “Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades, Paris 13E)

A response to a roommate ad and a case of mistaken identity blossoms into a complex web of love and friendship in this modern, panoramic tale by director Jacques Audiard.

  • “They Won’t Call it Murder”

Mothers, sisters and grandmothers of those killed by Columbus police, seeking justice in a community bound together by grief and a system that refuses to call these killings murder.

  • “tick, tick…Boom!”

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by composer and playwright Jonathan Larson, who revolutionized theater as the creator of “Rent.”

The cast includes Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, Bradley Whitford, Tariq Trotter, and Judith Light.

  • “Wildhood”

Link, an indigenous Mi’kmaw teen, and his younger half-brother go on a journey to find Link’s long-lost mother. Joining their trek, Pasmay, a two-spirit teen, awakens something inside of Link.

 Short films

  • “Babybangz”

Anastasia Ebel owns a natural hair salon in Mid-city, and her mission is to foster opportunities for intentional reflection, for herself, and her community.

  • “Enviar Y Recibir”

A warehouse worker at a fast fashion company forms an attachment to a piece of damaged inventory.

  • “Her Dance”

After not being invited to her sister’s wedding, Aya, a trans woman, shows up by surprise on a Shabbat night at the Orthodox Jewish community where her family lives.

  • “Mano Santa”

A grandfather harbors his runaway grandson after fleeing the constraints of home.

  • “Misery Loves Company”

One night, Seolgi is lying on a grass field with friends. A shooting star falls, and dark and intrusive thoughts hit her, and her melancholy blooms into “flower people.”

  • “Pride”

An aspiring writer finalizes stories for “Pride,” a student-run newspaper. Over a hectic two days in the early 1990s, she puts the finishing touches on the upcoming issue. 

  • “A Summer Place” 

On Tina’s birthday, she is ready to give up on everything until an extraordinary encounter changes her life.

  • “Strawberry Cheesecake”

In Singapore, where even vapes are illegal, three rebellious schoolgirls are caught smoking by the principal. Their revenge prank takes a sinister turn.

For tickets and festival information, visit the AFI Fest 2021 website.

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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