Donna Deitch Wins Highest Honor from Outfest


On July 9, at the opening night gala for Outfest, the Los

Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, out director Donna Deitch received

the 12th Annual Outfest Achievement Award, given in recognition of a body of

work that significantly contributes to LGBT film. An annual award since 1997,

Deitch is only the third woman to receive this honor. Christine Vachon and

Jane Anderson were recognized in 2001 and 2003 respectively.

In 2007, Outfest named Deitch’s groundbreaking 1985 film Desert Hearts as one

of 25 Films That Changed Our Lives. In addition to that lesbian classic, Deitch

directed The Women of

Brewster Place
, a miniseries featuring a black lesbian couple that was

produced by Oprah Winfrey, and Common

, a Showtime movie that explores the lives of lesbian and gay

citizens in a small Connecticut

town over several decades. Deitch also has a prolific career as a television

director, and has directed shows ranging from NYPD Blue and Crossing Jordan

to Heroes.

These days, Deitch is turning her attention back to her own

work and her independent filmmaker roots. She is working on the screenplay for

the first of several Desert Hearts

sequels; looking for financing for a screenplay she wrote set in World War

II-era Berlin;

and preparing to direct the film version of true crime memoir Strange Piece of

, written by her partner, Terri Jentz.

Deitch recently spoke with about her Outfest

award, juggling multiple projects, and her trip last month to Africa

with feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

Donna Deitch at Outfest

Congratulations on your Outfest Achievement Award. How does this recognition


Donna Deitch:
I feel very honored to be

getting this award, and that’s because I have such
high regard for Outfest and what they do. It

really means a lot to me to receive an award from an organization that is doing

things like the Legacy Project

[in which LGBT films are restored] — that no one else has ever thought to do or

seems to be taking care of. It’s so important that these films are saved and

archived and restored. That’s in addition to the film festival and all the

other programs they run throughout the year.

I feel like I’m in some pretty good company with regards to

those who have preceded me. Not enough women, just Christine Vachon and Jane

Anderson. We’re always looking for women to be recognized for what we do. But

the award — it’s awfully good company, and it’s fantastic.

AE: Desert Hearts is much adored, of course,

but I’m also glad to see you receiving recognition for Common Ground. It was very well done, and it didn’t get the attention

it deserved.

DD: Showtime is subscription television, so

unless you subscribe you wouldn’t get a chance to see it. And then those shows

go on to the video store, but their profile is lower than a theatrical release.

Joanne Vannicola (left) and Brittany Murphy in Common Ground

AE: It’s so

rare to find significant men’s and women’s queer content in the same film,

which is one of the things I appreciated about Common Ground.

The writers were spectacular — Paula Vogel, Terrence

McNally, and Harvey Fierstein. So that was quite a group to begin with.
I saw it as a gay

and lesbian Our Town. It was so much

more evenly divided than typical fare.

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