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As Outfest sets to launch, here’s what to watch out for 11 must-see standouts in a massive lineup By DAN ALLEN

The 36th edition of Outfest is now just a few weeks away, and while its fearless programmers have done another fantastic job of pulling together the best and brightest in queer filmmaking from around the world, navigating the resulting massive lineup — 221 films spread over 11 days this year — choosing what to see can be decidedly daunting. So here’s our rundown of the top must-see standouts at Outfest 2018, which runs July 12-22. (And don’t wait — tickets went on sale this week, and will surely sell out for all of these gems.) “Studio 54” Thursday, July 12, 8 p.m. Orpheum Theatre 842 S Broadway, Los Angeles

What better way to kick off Outfest and its fabulous Opening Night Gala than with the eagerly anticipated documentary about the most dazzling disco of all time, Studio 54? Director Matt Tyrnauer explores the legacy of this nocturnal fortress of ‘70s hedonism, where Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson were just a few of the regulars who rubbed body parts with New York’s most happening gays. As usual, the Outfest opener and its famed afterparty go down at the Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, and will include the presentation of this year’s Outfest Achievement Award, to director Angela Robinson. “Wild Nights with Emily” Saturday, July 21, 8:30 p.m. The Ford Theaters 2580 Cahuenga Blvd E, Los Angeles

Director Madeleine Olnek (“The Foxy Merkins”) presents one of the funniest lesbian comedies in years, pulverizing patriarchal preconceptions about poet Emily Dickinson, and transforming her into a vivacious lesbian romantic — played warmly and beautifully by Molly Shannon — who’s forced to hide her lifelong romance with her best friend Susan for the sake of her literary career. “We the Animals” Saturday, July 14, 6:45 p.m. Directors Guild of America, Theater 1 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Hailed as “this year’s ‘Moonlight’” when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year (where it received the NEXT Innovator Award), “We the Animals” is the tough but tender story of three young brothers — half white, half Puerto Rican — who tightly bond as they navigate the fallout from their parents’ explosive relationship. Their close sibling unit is tested as the two older brothers begin to follow in the macho path of their father (“Looking’s Raúl Castillo), while the youngest, sensitive Jonah, is more drawn toward their mother — and boys. “Mapplethorpe” Friday, July 13, 7 p.m. Directors Guild of America, Theater 1

Award-winning director Ondi Timoner presents this appropriately full-frontal biopic about rebel photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose arrestingly

gorgeous black and white photographs became iconic ‘70s and ‘80s symbols of unflinching homosexuality — and then tragically, of the AIDS crisis and its fallout. English actor Matt Smith (“The Crown,” “Doctor Who”) plays Mapplethorpe, against the backdrop of New York’s highbrow art and down-and-dirty leather scenes. “Bad Reputation” Wednesday, July 18, 8:30 p.m. The Ford Theatres

Another ‘70s and ‘80s queer icon — rock bad girl Joan Jett — is profiled in this loud and loving documentary that explores the many stages of her career, from young founder of The Runaways to 60-year-old rock powerhouse. Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Miley Cyrus and Michael J. Fox are just a few of the celebs who share their thoughts on their friend and idol. “Postcards from London” Friday, July 20, 8:30 p.m. The Ford Theatres

Rising mainstream star Harris Dickinson (last year’s “Beach Rats”) headlines the sexy and arty tale of young Joe, who flees small-town Britain for the bright lights of London — where he promptly falls in with a posse of hip and highbrow sex workers, cherished by their patrons for their ability to carry on lofty postcoital conversations. Shades of Caravaggio, Derek Jarman and Pierre et Gilles permeate this heady homoerotic fantasy. “Game Girls” Sunday, July 15, 9:30 p.m., Directors Guild of America Theater 2 Sunday, July 22, 1:45 p.m., Regal LA Live 1000 W Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

This gritty and moving documentary shines a spotlight on a side of LA queer life that’s rarely seen, following girlfriends Tiahana (who’s just out of prison on a drug-dealing offense) and Teri (who’s coping with mental health issues) as they face the grim realities of living on Skid Row, while navigating a relationship that’s alternately tender and physically volatile. “Mr. Gay Syria” Saturday, July 14, 9 p.m. Directors Guild of America, Theater 2

A big crowd favorite when it was shown at Outfest Fusion earlier this year, this riveting documentary follows a group of gay Syrian refugees as they struggle to both rebuild their lives as foreigners after the devastation of war, and to live authentically within a culture that condemns their sexuality. The film focuses particularly on two young men, Husein (who works as a barber and lives with his toddler and unsuspecting wife in Istanbul) and Mahmoud (who lives in Berlin, and is the organizer of the necessarily semi-secretive Mr. Gay Syria contest).

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