Fusion, Outfest's program of films about LGBTQ people of color and the only festival of its kind, pulls in audiences like no other: Think queer theorists, questioning teenagers, the next generation's Vaginal Davis and, 5of course, your usual entertainment industry professionals.
The diverse crowd is a reflection of what's on the screen. Held at the Egyptian Theatre, Fusion 2007's opening night of short films on Friday -- which co-executive director Kirsten Schaffer calls the hub of the festival -- includes "Pariah," an Outfest award-winning film about a Bronx teenager's multiple identities, and "Kali Ma," a suburban Indian mother's revenge tale.
The closing gala Sunday showcases "Water Flowing Together," a documentary about Jock Soto, a gay Navajo Indian and Puerto Rican modern ballet dancer retired from the New York City Ballet.
In between, RuPaul wrestles with which of his fabulous identities -- supermodel, secret agent or vixen -- to use in "Starrbooty," rated Q for "explicit sex."
"These aren't the images of people of color you see everyday," says Schaffer. "There's nutty RuPaul and then, in so many ways, a film like 'Water Flowing Together' represents queer film . . . his queer identity is woven throughout the story. He's not any of those things without the other parts."
Fusion, in its fifth year, shares some films with Outfest, but they take on a different meaning in Fusion's tighter context. "This year's program is more celebratory," Schaffer says. "In years past, we've had more overtly political work, but these films are more about finding love and relationships."
But Fusion's politics are still front and center. The festival is holding its first conference, "Ignite the Fuse," bringing together filmmakers, academics and activists on Friday and Saturday to discuss images of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people of color in the media.
Fusion's more than 20 community partners, organizations such as GLAAD and the Black AIDS Institute, play an integral role in Fusion's direction, including participating as panelists at the conference.
The pool of films from which Fusion selects has gotten bigger and better each year, Schaffer says. "Which makes Fusion all the more necessary. We're important to the distribution cycle of a movie, the theater launch, the DVD launch, etc. We have a lot of pull with our audiences."
WHERE: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
WHEN: Friday to Sunday
PRICE: $10, screenings; $25, galas
INFO: www.outfest.org/ fusion.html