Jordana Brewster Presents Angela Robinson With Outfest Achievement Award

The 'Fast and Furious' actress provided a lighter moment while honoring her 'D.E.B.S.' director last night at the otherwise politically charged opening of the LGBTQ film festival in downtown L.A.
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Angela Robinson

Angela Robinson may have received the Outfest Achievement Award last night at the opening-night gala of the Outfest film festival, but her acceptance speech was not a trip down memory lane about her two-decade career as a writer, director and producer. Instead, on stage at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, she delivered a rousing call to arms for the LGBTQ community to rise up against the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric.

“I make art about queer people,” said Robinson, the director of the groundbreaking lesbian spy comedy D.E.B.S., Herbie Fully Loaded and, most recently, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. “I make art for us. That has always been political, so I thought I’d take the opportunity tonight to speak to my family, which is you guys. And I think that everybody here like me is terrified. We’re terrified about what’s happening.”

She admitted that there are days when she buries her “head in the sand” because there are “only so many outrage cycles that you can go through.”

Robinson then recalled her sexual orientation awakening after seeing the pink triangle flag for LGBTQ rights for the first time when she was a 17-year-old student at a college summer program. “I come to find out that this term 'gay' is a word that describes how I love... and that the pink triangle was a badge of shame used to identify homosexuals who were then exterminated in the Holocaust,” she said. “So I learned simultaneously that — Hurray! — there are other people out there who feel that same way that I do [but] also that a lot of those people were rounded up by the government and executed because of who and how they love.”

She implored people to get out the vote by reaching out to disenfranchised populations and traveling to areas that may be more hostile to LGBTQ rights. “I want every person in  this room to think about what are you going to do to actually to move things forward,” Robinson said. “I’m not talking about reading your phone and freaking out, OK? What states are you going to fly to? What doors are you going to knock on? What money are you going to give? …I don’t care if you voted for Bernie or Hillary or who the damn else — right now we gotta flip some seats!”

Jordana Brewster, who starred as a gay spy in D.E.B.S., was on hand to present the award to Robinson. “Angela Robinson made me a lesbian,” The Fast and Furious actress cracked. 

Outfest executive director Christopher Racster started the evening’s festivities by asking attendees to embrace diversity and learn about organizations like The Immigrant Youth Coalition and the Trans Wellness Center. “The LGBT community is not a monolith,” he said. “We are a community of communities. This is visible in the room tonight.”

Racster added, “See a film that is out of your comfort zone. Come to understand the experience of another part of our community that you are unfamiliar with. These are small acts of solidarity and resistance that will open your mind and they will open your heart. Become an ally. Lock arms and stand together. Make sure your voice is heard — and his, and hers and theirs and ours! And what can you do after Outfest? Make this midterm election matter. Protect our culture and protect our rights. Vote and ensure that others do the same.”

Studio 54 director Matt Tyrnauer’s new documentary about the legendary — and infamous — nightclub served as Outfest’s opening-night film. The doc includes Studio 54 co-owner Ian Schrager talking extensively for the first time about the 1970s hotspot, which closed after just three years when he and his partner Steve Rubell were sent to prison for tax evasion.

“We have three hours of 16 millimeter film that was discovered that was shot inside the club that no one has ever seen before,” Tyrnauer told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was one of those dusty cardboard boxes. It was this myth that this 16 millimeter film existed, that NYU students were allowed in to shoot it and they were kind of sneaked in the backdoor. But it had never been processed. So it was undeveloped 16. We found it and we developed it and it was amazing. It forms the whole visual universe that we created. We’ve never seen [Studio 54] like this. It was like looking at Pompei in a way. It was looking back at a lost world because there weren’t a lot of cameras let in there.”

He continued, “I think Studio 54 was really the last explosive moment of the sexual revolution, which began with the pill in the early '60s and ended really the day Studio 54 closed because the HIV/AIDS crisis had its very first emergence right when Rubell and Schrager went to prison in 1980.”

Just hours before Outfest kicked off , FX announced that Pose was picked up for a second season. Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking series about New York’s ballroom culture in the 1980s features a cast led by trans actors.

Ryan Jamaal Swain, who stars on the show as young man who runs away to New York after being thrown out of his house for being gay, was on the carpet as a social media correspondent for Barefoot Wines.

“It’s been truly truly transformative to be a part of this,” Swain told THR about working on Pose. “We’re on the frontlines of social change every single day. We’re telling this administration that we’re alive and in living color so you better watch out. We have trans women falling in love. We have young queer people falling in love. We’re having a top-bottom sex talk on camera — that’s wild!” 

This year’s Outfest runs through July 22, and includes about 200 features and shorts. In order to reach a more diverse audience, screening venues now include to Plaza de la Raza and the California African American Museum.