QDOC IS A GEM of a film fest. Billing itself as "the only festival in the U.S. devoted exclusively to Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender documentaries," the tidily curated lineup covers a tremendous amount of ground, with 11 films screening over four days. The focus on documentaries spares the audience the well-intentioned-but-tedious feature films that invariably crop up at festivals of this size, without even slightly limiting the scope of stories represented.
Fest opener Game Face (screening Thursday, May 14) is a documentary set in the world of professional sports, pairing two very different coming-out stories: Terrence Clemens is a promising college basketball player with very good reason to believe his prospects will be jeopardized if his coaches and teammates find out he's gay. Fallon Fox is an MMA fighter concerned about how fans and fighters will respond when they learn that she's trans.
Though the particulars of their experiences are very different, both athletes made brave strides in worlds that are often unabashedly homophobic and transphobic. Interviews with Clemens and Fox, trainers and coaches, friends, and other athletes are combined here with graceful footage of these athletes at work—the emotional highs and lows of MMA fighting are captured with particular intensity. Both Fox and Clemens emerge as legitimately inspiring figures who risked personal and professional repercussions for being honest about who they are. I'd love to hear why filmmaker Michiel Thomas chose to weave their stories together, a decision that shifts the focus a bit from their personal experiences to the broader context of professional athletics—and there's a chance to ask him at the opening night screening, where Thomas will join Fox and Clemens for a Q&A. (Also in attendance: Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player.)
Not all of the fest's films deal with Capital Q Queer Issues, however: The Cult of JT Leroy (Saturday, May 16) is a fascinating look at the story of author/scam artist JT Leroy. Leroy was a mid-'90s alt-lit darling with a brutal backstory—prostitution, AIDS, sexual assault, etc.—who rapidly achieved cult-stardom thanks in part to the endorsements of dozens of street-cred hungry celebrities. If you know the story, you already want to see the movie; if you don't know the story, I'm jealous of how much this documentary is going to blow your mind. Filmmaker Marjorie Sturm began working as Leroy's documentarian in 2002; her film combines first-hand footage with a robust lineup of interviews with writers, journalists, and others for a supremely satisfying treatment of one of publishing's weirdest stories. At the festival, Sturm will be on hand with Portland journalist Nancy Rommelmann for a Q&A.
And then there's the pleasantly uplifting Tab Hunter Confidential (Saturday, May 16), in which former heartthrob Tab Hunter—now in his 80s—describes a career arc that took him from 1950s sex symbol to disgraced theater actor to a late-career resurgence that began with a starring role in Polyester. The doc hinges on in-depth interviews with Hunter, alongside archival footage and interviews with actors and filmmakers, and friends like John Waters, George Takei, and others. The results are poignant and frank. Bonus: Lots of dreamy old footage of the frequently-shirtless Hunter.
Also promising: We Came to Sweat: The Legend of the Starlight (Friday, May 15) is a documentary about the Starlight Lounge, a black-owned LGBT bar that was gentrified right out of Brooklyn in 2010.