Pink popcorn is being prepared for the opening night of the first ever OUTeast Queer Film Festival. Running June 14 to 17, the Halifax screening bonanza promises some of the best in local and international queer films.
“It’s something that offers a new perspective, a queer perspective that’s outside of what we would generally see in the mainstream media,” says festival producer Andria Wilson. “In a lot of what’s out there, queer stories are underrepresented and part of what OUTeast is about is giving another platform for those stories to be shown.”
Wilson, along with fellow organizers Krista Davis and Jenna Dufton, work for the Atlantic Film Festival. This annual big ticket cinematic event includes some queer programming, which Wilson says attracts a strong audience. That interest propelled the trio to create another opportunity for fans of queer films to congregate before the silver screen.
Dufton acts as the programming manager and is the mastermind behind the four-day lineup, which consists of three feature films, four documentaries and seven shorts. A call for submissions rounded up many of the shorts, but Dufton sought out most of the other films through extensive researching of queer and non-queer festivals around the world.
Mosquita y Mari, following the relationship of two teenage girls in a Los Angeles Mexican neighbourhood, aired at Sundance this January. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival was the source of documentaries Vito and I Am A Woman Now.
The festival also features rough cuts from a work-in-progress documentary about Halifax’s drag community. OUTeast’s filmmaker-in-residence Morgan Strug is putting together the movie as part of the organization’s mentorship program.
Both the quality and content of the films excite Wilson. “We’ve got a couple coming-of-age dramas and they both focus on young people in communities where being gay or being queer isn’t necessarily OK and them struggling to find their identity within that,” she says, citing Mosquita y Mari and The Wise Kids, which is set in a South Carolina Baptist community. “In both of those there’s a strong voice of that story, of young people trying to balance who they are with where they come from and the morals and beliefs they’ve been raised with.”
Wilson also points out a growing trend in film where queer characters appear but their sexual orientation isn’t the focus of the story. “It’s that perfect world we all want to live in where some people just happen to be gay and that’s part of the story but it’s not the leading item necessarily,” she says.
Still, she hopes the content of the movies gets people talking. “For me, the idea of having a film festival — a queer film festival — what makes it really important is to create opportunities for discussion and discourse and debate around the films,” says Wilson.
Each evening, the screenings will be followed by a social event hosted at a different venue. Wilson sees these parties — and the festival as a whole — as a “safe cultural space” bringing together Halifax’s queer community for schmoozing and celebration.
“I want people to come to the festival because they’re looking to see their voice reflected in the film; they’re looking to see something that speaks to them and their personal experience and their identity,” she says. “I want that to bring them in, but then I want them to leave thinking not just ‘That was a great queer film that I saw,’ but ‘That was a great film’.”