The Queer Film Festival Starts on Friday
– Ryan Beltram, EDN
A federal appeals court recently declared California’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional ruling 2-1 that it violates the rights of gay Californians. Those opposed to the ruling however do have an opportunity to appeal the ruling before ordering the state to resume allowing gay couples to wed. It was another step in the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. Up here in Eugene, those who support that same community will be able to join others in celebrating the cause through the medium of film.
Beginning Friday, the University of Oregon and the Cultural Forum will present the Queer Film Festival which looks to give a voice to the LGBTQ community as well as educate, inform and entertain audiences by showcasing talented filmmakers both here in the US and from around the world.
Shehram Mokhtar, coordinator of the QFF, believes the power of film is a necessary and important tool to showcase a view or belief.
“The Queer Film Festival is here to give a voice to diversity and support the LGBTQ community. We have everything here at the cultural forum: art, music, drama and we wanted something for the LGBTQ and I think a film festival is a great way to address that.”
Founded in 1992, this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the festival. While she wasn’t around then, Cultural Forum Coordinator Laura Morris believes at the time of the festival’s inception, the university was looking to acknowledge and accept people through all walks of life.
“I think it was because the campus wanted to be seen as a welcoming campus for people of all sexual preferences and I think they were moving forward in all kinds of ways with you know, religion, philosophical, cultural and ethnic identity and they wanted to include sexuality and gender into that,” said Morris.
Asked if anything is planned to celebrate the past 20 years, Mokhtar says the celebration will be seen through the quality of the work.
“I think we have better films and a good variety of films for the 20th anniversary. We are celebrating by showing great films,” says Mokhtar.
The three-day festival will be Friday, Feb. 10-12. and will feature 17 short films, two feature-length films and four documentaries which were narrowed down from around 60 submissions. The selection process according to Mokhtar involved selecting films that appropriately represented the festival’s message while at the same time entertaining the audience.
“It was important that the films submitted are related to the LGBTQ but there are other factors we look at like cinematic values. Anyone can make a film using a digital camera now so we looked for production value, nice stories and strong acting when we were doing the selection process. The films range from really serious to humorous to popcorn films so it’s a nice mix of entries this year,” said Mokhtar.
The Friday and Saturday shows will be at the Jaqua Center on campus. The final day of the festival on Sunday will be held at the Bijou theater in Eugene. Admission to all of the films will be free of charge.
Friday will feature 9 short films from 5-7 pm followed by the documentary, Married in Spandex, a love story about a young lesbian couple who decide to move from Philadelphia to Ames, Iowa which is where their favorite musical act performs. The trip begins as a fun adventure for the couple and their friends, but eventually it turns into a family affair in an unfamiliar state. Following the film, the director will be available via Skype for a Q & A.
Saturday will begin at 2:30 pm with the screening of The Doctor’s Wife, a documentary about a gay couple trying to survive following a move from urban Brisbane to the conservative environment of Country Queensland, Australia. The film will be followed by 4 short films from 4:30-6 pm.
From 6-8 pm, the festival will screen the documentary The Right to Love: An American Family. The film follows a gay couple and their two children living in California. Following the news on Tuesday, this is an especially timely film about one family showing the world how normal and loving a gay family can be. Following the screening of the film, the director, two producers and the family of four will be in person to talk about their film.
The final film on Saturday will be The Green, a feature film about a gay teacher at a Connecticut private high school whose world is turned upside-down when he is accused of engaging in “inappropriate behavior” with a male student. Due to the allegations, Michael must confront not only the suspicions of his co-workers, neighbors and friends, but also his freedom, job and his relationship with his partner Daniel. The film will be from 8-10 pm.
The final day of the festival will feature 3 short films from 4-5 pm followed by the feature film Circumstance at 5 pm, which is set in contemporary Iran and follows two young girls discovering their sexuality amongst a world with certain boundaries and restrictions they must abide by.
The final film in the festival will feature the world premiere of Ballroom Rules, a documentary that follows Anny and her students through the ups and downs of their training in Melbourne, Australia as they prepare for the 2010 Gay Games in Germany. The group must face not only their own personal struggles, but also entrenched homophobia from the mainstream ballroom dancing community as well as the world in general. Ballroom Rules will be shown from 7-9 pm.
The festival is still going strong after 20 years and Mokhtar thinks the quality and quantity of content will continue to grow.
“This year is different because we used a completely different system to get submissions. We used a website called withoutabox.com which is a forum for all filmmakers all over the world to submit at film festivals so they did the marketing for us. It’s drastically different this year and the whole process has given us more exposure nationally as well as internationally so this year has been really great.”
Aspiring filmmakers interested in showcasing their talents in next year’s Queer Film Festival can begin submitting their work in September of this year. Mokhtar emphasized that while the message of the festival is serious and important, there’s more than enough room for fun.
“This community has a voice and we wanted to showcase that, but this can be about entertainment as much as anything else,” said Mokhtar.
The issue of gay rights remains a hot topic in this country and while it remains to be seen how long the debate will last, the Queer Film Festival will continue to give a voice to the LGBTQ community and create an educational setting for both exposure and discussion.