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Outfest Film Festival opens in Los Angeles tonight

Festival marking its 30th year and is honoring John Waters

Los Angeles's gay and lesbian film festival, Outfest, kicks off its 30th year tonight by honoring filmmaker John Waters and screening a documentary about activist and film historian Vito Russo.

Walters will be on hand to receive the 16th annual achievement award which has previously gone to Jane Lynch, Sir Ian McKellen, Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes, and Bill Condon, among others.

Waters, 66, is director of the original Hairspray film which led to the Broadway musical and a second feature film many years later. His early works include what he labeled 'the trash trilogy' comprised of Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living. Those were followed by the 1981 flick Polyester which starred famous drag queen Divine and a not-yet-out Tab Hunter.

Since Hairspray, Waters films have become slightly more mainstream and include Serial Mom, Cry-Baby and Cecil B. Demented.

Following the presentation to Waters at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles will be a screening of the documentary Vito. It tells of Russo's journey through the early days of Gay Liberation Front marches with Bette Midler to the founding of ACT UP and GLAAD and finally, to his own battle with AIDS.

Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, the film has significant archival material and heartwarming interviews with Russo's family and friends who including Armistead Maupin, Lily Tomlin, Bruce Vilanch and Larry Kramer.

Vito is one of 147 films from 24 countries at the festival which runs through July 22.

Other films featuring well-known stars include: Glee star Chris Colfer in Struck By Lightning which he also wrote; Oscar winners Brenda Fricker and Olympia Dukakis in Cloudburst; Tony winner Alan Cumming and Raising Hope co-star Garret Dillahunt in Any Day Now; Lance Bass in Mississippi, I Am; Glee star Harry Shum Jr. in White Frog; Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osmont in Sassy Pants; Ugly Betty alum Michael Urie in Thank You for Judging; and Thora Birch, Christine Lahti and Brittany Snow in Petunia, among others.

But it is film by lesser-known filmmakers and actors who make up the heart and soul of the film festival.

'We're thrilled to do the LA premiere at Outfest, always a wonderful festival, and especially so this year, their 30th year, when the fest seems to be focused on queer history,' says Matthew Mishory, director of Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean which screens on Monday (16 July).

Friday (13 July) night is the screening of I Want Your Love, a drama described as having some laughs and lots of real sex.

'I've been in Frameline which is in my hometown but never in Outfest before,' says writer-director Travis Mathews. 'So it's all new to me. I'm really looking forward to meeting new people.'

Jonathan Lisecki, writer, director and one of the stars of the comedy Gayby has had his movie screened at many festivals already including South by Southwest and the recent Los Angeles Film Festival.

But Lisecki is especially excited about having the movie shown on Saturday (16 July) at Outfest where the short film that spawned the movie was shown a few years ago.

'They are playing us in DGA 1 which is the best theater ever,' he says.

For tickets and more information about Outfest 2012, click HERE.

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