- - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The timeliness of LGBTQ issues, opioid use and race were showcased at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, held earlier this month in Hollywood.

The annual film fest ended just days prior to America’s worst mass shooting, unleashed during Pride Week at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, a gay venue, on “Latino night.” Jacqueline Gares’ film “Free CeCe” focuses on what the documentary calls “an epidemic of violence against transgender people of color.” The film follows CeCe McDonald, who was subjected to an unprovoked assault outside of a Minneapolis bar, solely for being trans and African-American.

Ms. McDonald had a weapon in her purse and killed her attacker with scissors, claiming defense against a hate crime. During her trial, her lawyers asserted that testimony regarding the assailant’s tattooed swastika and other evidence were not deemed admissible, and Ms. McDonald — who’d made contradictory statements — accepted a plea bargain.

During Ms. McDonald’s 19-month imprisonment for second-degree manslaughter, transgender actress Laverne Cox, co-star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” visited her, and thereafter served as executive producer of “Free CeCe”

“It feels so revolutionary,” Ms. Cox said during a Q&A following the LAFF screening. “Trans people are under attack in new ways with new legislation. The states are criminalizing us.”

“It brought back memories. Of course I was crying,” Ms. McDonald told the crowd. “The prison industrial complex isn’t broken, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do: targeting people of color. It’s a big issue that needs to be fixed by all of us. “

However, in addition to activism, Ms. McDonald said, “I’ll get back into fashion. I’ll be Beyonce’s assistant.”

Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares’ “Political Animals” examines how the California Assembly’s first four openly gay state representatives attempted to right the wrongs surrounding how LGBTQ persons were treated in the Golden State. Legislator Sheila Kuehl, a former actress, and colleagues Jackie Goldberg, Christine Kehoe and Carole Migden — all Democrats — lament onscreen how some more conventionally minded assemblymen likened homosexuality to criminal perversions, such as bestiality and pedophilia, on the Assembly floor. While publicly condemning the “gay lifestyle,” their male counterparts privately told the lesbian legislators their harmful words weren’t aimed at them specifically. But the normally tough Ms. Goldberg tearfully proclaimed to the Assembly that she does, indeed, take the insults “personally.”

“Political Animals” won both LAFF’s Documentary Award and Audience Award for Documentary Feature Film.

Orlando mass murderer Omar Mateen was reportedly inspired by Islamic State’s homophobic ideology, and Eva Orner and Chris McKim’s “Out of Iraq” presciently dealt with the topic of Islam and same-sex relationships. The film follows Iraqi soldier Btoo Allamiand Iraqi and translator for the U.S. Military Nayyef Hrebid, who met in Ramadi and experienced what the doc calls a “forbidden love” that is taboo because “to be gay in my culture and religion is bad. What happens if they find out about my relationship?” asks the beleaguered interpreter.

With Prince’s April death, “Dr. Feelgood” is an especially pertinent look at America’s opioid epidemic. Eve Marson’s evenhanded documentary examines whether Dr. William Hurwitz, a pioneer of prescription painkillers, is a demon or a saint. Did a DEA and FBI target operate a “pill mill,” or was he sincerely seeking to alleviate suffering by prescribing individual patients as much OxyContin, etc., as was needed to end their chronic pain?

“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” is, with the death of Muhammad Ali, likewise of the moment. This documentary, executive produced and narrated by Blair Underwood (“L.A. Law”), chronicles the 18-member contingent of African-American athletes, including Jesse Owens, who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Deborah Riley Draper’s nonfiction film reveals how these black Olympiads had to contend with both Nazi notions of Aryan superiority and Jim Crow laws back home in America.

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