Best of the Fests: What to Look Out for on Summer's LGBT Film Festival Circuit

With summer now fully in swing, many of the country's LGBT film festivals are gearing up for their yearly runs.  With catalogs full of dozens upon dozens of films though, figuring out what to watch can be a bit of a challenge.

We've compiled a few of the award winning and buzz-building highlights to look out for, as well as a list of some of the summer's remaining fests. You can also check out our breakdown of film highlights featuring Latino storylines (like the highly anticipated Gun Hill Road) by clicking here.

Modern day Tehran provides the backdrop for this dramatic feature about the intimate relationship between two young Iranian women, and the repressive forces in society and their own families that threaten to tear them apart.  This first dramatic feature from director Maryam Keshavarz also won the Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
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This film about an intimate encounter between two British men than turns into a weekend of increasing entanglement and emotional complexity garnered raves when it premiered at SXSW in Austin, as well as the audience award for Emerging Visions.  It was acquired by Sundance Selects for theatrical and VOD distribution, but you can catch it on the festival circuit first.
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Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
This quirky take on the pulp science fiction films of the 50s and 60s comes from writer/director Madeline Olnek, who created the hilarious, award-winning short film Countertransference (which you can watch in its entirety here.)  The film got some solid reviews from its Sundance premiere, and it's probably safe to say it's one of the most unique films you'll come across this summer.
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We Were Here
Another Sundance premiere, this documentary looks at the early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco through the recalled stories of a small handful of people who lived through it. The film benefits greatly from the pared down approach, allowing for an intimate look at the tragedy that leaves a lasting impression.
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Hit So Hard
An altogether different sort of doc, Hit So Hard recalls the life and near death of Hole's drummer Patty Schemel.  The interweaving of home videos and TV clips featuring interviews with Patty's nearest and dearest (including Hole front woman Courtney Love), gives a behind-the-scenes look at a fascinating point in American music history, not to mention a remarkable out musician.
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Director Tom Tykwer found international acclaim with his hyper-kinetic, 1998 feature film Run Lola Run, and he brings his signature polished style to this new feature about a straight couple in Berlin who find themselves individually attracted to the same unwitting man.  Coming from the Venice and Toronto film festivals, not to mention the 2011 Berlinale, 3 carries a fair amount of buzz with it.
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The Perfect Family
Kathleen Turner and Bones' Emily Deschanel star in this comedic drama about a religious housewife contending for a Catholic of the Year award while her lesbian daughter makes plans to marry her partner.

Leave it on the Floor
Los Angeles' ballroom scene sets the stage for a same-sex romance between two teenage runaways looking for a place to call home.  The film features exuberant original songs and choreography.
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Wish Me Away
Country music star Chely Wright made headlines when she came out the closet, and now her fans can get an intimate look at her personal journey both before and after her public statement through archived footage, interviews, and self-recorded testimonials from the singer herself.  Wish Me Away won the Grand Jury award for Outstanding Documentary from San Francisco's Frameline Film Festival just last week.
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Of course these are just a few of the films worth checking out this summer, but what exactly will be available to see depends on where you live.  Los Angeles natives are in luck, since all of the above films will play during Outfest, running July 7 -17.

New Yorkers will be able to catch most of the same films at NewFest, running July 21-28.

Other fests to look out for include:

Philadelphia, PA - QFest - July 7 to 18

Austin, TX - Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival - July 18 to 29

Houston, TX - QFest - July 28 to August 1

Durham, NC - North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival - August 12 to 15

San Diego, CA - FilmOut - August 19 to 21

Memphis, TN - Outflix - September 9 to 15

Fresno, CA - Reel Pride Film Festival - September 14 to 18

Colorado Springs, CO - Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival - September 23 to 25

Atlanta, GA - Out on Film - September 29 to October 6

Palm Springs, CA - The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival - September TBA

Long Beach, CA - Q Film Festival - September TBA

Washington, DC - Reel Affirmations Film Festival - October 13 to 22

Santa Barbara, CA - Outrageous Film Fest - October 20 to 23

Chicago, IL - Reeling Film Festival - November 3 to 12

Most major cities have their own LGBT film festivals.  Be sure to support yours this year, so they can continue showcasing and magnifying the newest LGBT stories and voices.