Firstness: Brielle Brilliant’s Film Wins Top Award at Outfest 2021 Fest

Outfest: Brielle Brilliant’s ‘Firstness,’ and Vivian Kleiman’s ‘No Straight Lines’ Win Jury Prizes

Also winning awards at the 2021 edition of the LGBTQ fest are ‘See You Then’ star Pooya Mohseni, screenwriter Wes Hurley, Andrea Meyerson’s ‘This is Jessica,’ Lyle Kash’s ‘Death and Bowling’ and Zeberiah Newman’s ‘Right to Try.’


Brielle Brilliant’s feature directorial debut Firstness starring Tim Kinsella, Spencer Jording and Caleb Cabrera snagged the U.S. narrative feature grand jury prize at Outfest, which  wrapped up a 10-day run in Los Angeles.

The Premise:

The film, also written by Brilliant, is both contemporary and relevant in dealing with new types of screen characters.

The tale revolves around a maladjusted dad (Tim Kinsella) who’s trying to heal in an experimental therapy group called Infinite Beginnings. Meanwhile, his nonbinary kid (Spencer Jording) is getting close with an older strange man (Caleb Carbera).

Understandably, their complex relationship has both positive and negative elements, and is therefore perceived differently by those around them.

Characters: Outsiders

Set in New Mexico, the movie follows three lost individuals—all outsiders–who are looking for their own ways of functioning and understanding the ever-changing world around them.

Keith is trying to deal with the pressures of single fatherhood by putting himself through drama therapy. Julian is a recently released prisoner searching for home and job against great odds. Tavi, the tale’s most interesting character, is Keith’s child, a nonbinary kid looking for his place in the world.

The director sees her film as a probe into issues of connection: “A lot happens when people try to communicate. It’s a layered signifier process that simultaneously means everything and nothing.”

It’s also a personal film: “All my life I’ve experienced and studied how (mis)communications lead to violence, poetry, imprisonment, laughter, and therapy. How some of us spend our entire lives locked in an inaccurate identity because of a miscommunication. And yet, it is also communication that can free us.”

Semiotics and Humor

FIRSTNESS is a meditation on three characters navigating this seeming contradiction. I hope it offers a beginning route —through semiotics and humor—to a liberated connection.”

Vivian Kleiman’s No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics, a chronicle of LGBTQ comedy talent, won the jury top prize in the nonfiction category.

The grand jury also honored See You Then star Pooya Mohseni for best performance for “excellent portrayal of a character who simultaneously takes responsibility for their past while also honoring their true self”

Wes Hurley won best screenplay for Potato Dreams of America for its “unique non-traditional portrayal of a gay immigrant’s transition to America and his relationship to his mother”;

Vet  actor Charles Busch and Carl Andress’ The Sixth Reel earned a special mention for ensemble performance for “the wackiest and most entertaining ensemble of characters.”

The international narrative feature grand jury prize went to Park Kun-young’s A Distant Place; narrative feature special mention to the late Cloris Leachman for her work in Jump, Darling; best screenplay to Ümit Ünal’s Love, Spells, and All That; and best performance to Nell Barlow for her work in Sweetheart.

In the Audience Awards, top prize on the documentary feature side went to Andrea Meyerson’s This is Jessica, a profile of a transgender woman’s journey through a conservative Mormon childhood and serving in the Army before accepting her true identity.

On the narrative side, Lyle Kash’s “fictional meta-critique” on trans representation, Death and Bowling, picked up top prize. The film stars Will Krisanda, Tracy Kowalksi, Faith Bryan, Leontine White Foster, Denise Turkan, D’Lo, Jessica Hogan, Kymi Kawaii and Luka Fisher.

Zeberiah Newman’s Right to Try picked up the documentary short prize for its look at casting director Jeffrey Drew’s battle with HIV and participation in a clinical trial to find a cure. The short, Newman’s directorial debut, got boosted with a bit of star power as Oscar winner Octavia Spencer signed on to executive produce prior to its Outfest debut. Other Audience Award winners include Milo Ferguson’s Jupiter & Europa for experimental short, and Jenn Ravenna Tran’s And Then for narrative short.

Outfest, presented by WarnerMedia and automotive sponsor Hyundai, ran from August 13-22.

For the first time, the fest collaborated with IMDb on a fan ratings system that tallied votes for the audience award categories.

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‘Right to Try’ filmmaker Zeberiah Newman poses with subject and star Jeffrey Drew. FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY