In recent years we have seen LGBT characters and storylines take center stage in mainstream entertainment. From “Will & Grace” and “Brothers and Sisters,” to the new smash hit “Glee,” more and more gays and lesbians are starting to see their lives reflected on screen. On Thursday, mainstream melded with independent for the 2010 Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, or Outfest.The star-studded kick-off began with Jane Lynch being honored with a lifetime achievement award. Lynch’s body of work includes comedic character roles in films like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Best in Show.” The actress is now a household name thanks to her portrayal of Sue Sylvester, the hard-ass cheerleading coach in FOX’s hit show “Glee.”Director Paris Barclay and “Glee” costar Chris Colfer presented the award to Lynch who said during her acceptance speech that Outfest was “vital…for all the homos, especially the folks outside of New York and Los Angeles.” Before the award presentation, Lynch walked the red carpet outside of the Orpheum Theatre with her wife Lara Embry. Of course most of the mainstream newspapers, magazines and blogs will focus their coverage on Lynch but the essence of Outfest is still about giving attention and shining a light on the lives, real of fictional, of gay and lesbian people around the world. “Howl,” the first film showcased at the festival, is a bio-pic of beat poet Allen Ginsberg, starring James Franco.Over the next 10 days, more than 140 films from 23 countries will be shown in venues in downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and West Hollywood. Through documentaries, comedies and dramas, Outfest shines a light on the most pressing social issue in the United States today, LGBT civil rights. From “don’t ask, don’t tell” to the gay marriage debate, Outfest serves not only to entertain, but also to educate.This year, the Outfest Legacy Project celebrates its fifth year helping to preserve classic gay and lesbian themed films. This year “Clueless,” “Hustler White,” “Mädchen in Uniform,” “Out of the Shadows/Sign of Protest” and “Macho Dancer” are the featured selections.Ever evolving, this year Outfest is offering more films featuring lesbian storylines and characters. A “Marine Story,” “Spork” and “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister” are just a few of the Sappho-centric titles.Outfest is also more interactive than many other film festivals and geared toward fostering the creativity and talent of the next generation of filmmakers. From screenwriting labs to question and answer forums with the best and brightest in gay and lesbian filmmaking, the pomp and circumstance is just about showcasing what has been done, but inspiring what can and will be created in the future.

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