A “Fusion” of art and community for LGBT people of color


Right around this time each year, LGBT people of color in Los Angeles start look forward to seeing their stories on the big screen at Fusion – Los Angeles People of Color Film Festival Presented by Outfest, Fusion is a unique, three-day celebration of LGBT communities of color that welcomes everyone.

From the opening night festivities, to the audience participation screening of the classic ’70s film, Car Wash, (where people come in costume and sing and dance along) to a full line-up of short and feature films, to the glamorous closing gala – you have to see it to believe it.

The woman in charge of Fusion’s programming is film historian, Jennifer DeClue. Prior to joining Fusion, DeClue conducted research on representations of black women’s sexuality in the arts, including black female masculinity in the original short film, Pariah (now a critically acclaimed feature film,) The Aggressives, and HBO’s series, The Wire.

I happen to sit on the board of Outfest, so I was especially excited to have the chance to sit down with Jennifer and hear her thoughts on this year’s Fusion film lineup.

AfterEllen.com: How did Fusion start?

Jennifer DeClue: Fusion started in 2004 as a way to bring together queer communities of color in a celebration of diversity through film. It was launched with the support of an advisory council comprised of over a dozen non-profits that serve a variety of communities of color in Los Angeles. Many of those organizations are still involved with Fusion.

AE: What’s your role at Fusion?

JD: My role as programmer is curatorial. I select the best short films and feature length films that have a person or people of color as a creative force behind the film, and/or represent people, issues, and narratives that are specific to LGBT people of color.

AE: How are films selected for Fusion?

JD: Filmmakers submit their films and I choose the very best of the bunch.

AE: Which films are you most excited about this year?

JD: I’m excited about both the feature films and shorts programs we have this year. Both of the feature films, Stud Life and The Skinny are world premieres, which is amazing for Fusion and for our community.

Stud Life

For the short films program, we’ve chosen the animated documentary, The Performance of Drowning by directors Jeanette Castillo and Terry Galloway, a performance art documentary from director Tina Takemoto called, Looking for Jiro, and Rites of Passage, a captivating journey of transformation.

We had such excellent work submitted this year, we expanded our shorts section of the festival from one program to two programs. So, we also have a gorgeous Bollywood-influenced [lesbian] short, Queen of My Dreams, the intense and beautiful film, Slow, and two films by returning directors: Mike Rose‘s hilarious comedy, Couples Therapy, and Dol by Andrew Ahn, which played at Sundance.

[The program] is an exciting indication of our growth, compassion, and sophistication as an LGBT community of color, and the caliber of our filmmakers. They’re making great movies right now. [They] stretch the narrative form, tell stories that are rarely showcased in mainstream media settings, and represent a wide range of experiences.

AE: Can you give me an idea of how the three festival days will unfold?

JD: We kick off the festival with a live performance by [Xicana lesbian multi-genre artist] Adelina Anthony and D’Lo [a “queer Tamil Sri L.A.nkan-American political theater artist-writer, director, comedian and music producer”] on Thursday night. Stud Life will premiere on Friday night, followed by the Car Wash Sing-and Dance-Along.

On Saturday, we’re featuring our shorts programs, including Outset Shorts, which is special because all of the filmmakers are LGBT youths of color [who] tell their stories with the help of some excellent filmmakers from the Outfest community. [That] evening, we’ll show our second world premiere feature, The Skinny, and its writer-director, Patrik-Ian Polk, will receive our Fusion Achievement Award, presented by Lee Daniels, who created the Oscar-winning film, Precious.

The entire festival is packed full of amazing films, inspiring people, and a lot of fun. I definitely suggest making a weekend of it!

Clips from some of the films screening this week at Fusion:

AE: Does Fusion do anything else during the year other than the film festival?

JD: There’s a Fusion showcase each year at Outfest in July. We also have Fusion Access LA that is part of our larger filmmaker mentoring and education program.

My favorite Fusion story comes from Fusion Access LA. Each year as a part of Fusion our sponsor, NBCUniversal collaborates with us. A selection of filmmakers is given the opportunity to spend a day with creative executives, writers, directors, and producers who are currently working in Hollywood for major networks.

Last year, Fusion filmmaker Mike Rose attended this event and his film Couples Therapy won Best Film and Best Actor in the NBC ShortCuts Film Festival. He landed a one-year talent holding deal and a blind script deal with NBCUniversal. This kind of story is testament to the importance of Fusion and of bringing LGBT people of color together as a community to support each other’s work and to give people access to incredible opportunities.

AE: What’s your advice to aspiring LGBT POC filmmakers?

JD: Study the films of directors whom you admire. Learn your craft and be willing to learn as you create. Expect the best from yourself and your community. Find a mentor that you trust and work with him or her or them. Tell your stories and build and support your community. Keep making your movies and make them tight!

The ninth annual Fusion – Los Angeles People of Color Film Festival begins on Thursday March 22 and runs through Sunday March 25 in Hollywood, CA. Some other lesbian films in the program include:

Stud Life: “JJ, a hot black British stud and her best friend Seb, a cute white twink run in, around, and through the urban London LGBT scene.”

Chutney Popcorn: Starring Jill Hennessy. The 1999 classic that examines what “family values look like at the intersection of American culture, Indian culture, queerness and interracial love.”

Two Bodies: “A broken hearted young black woman moves back home with her mother who tries to mend her heart by setting her up with a  man from her past but all this lady wants is the love of a woman.”

For Fusion 2012 tickets and more program information, go here.

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