What's old is new again...
I am often asked if there is still a need (here in Regina and I presume beyond) for a film festival that is comprised predominantly of films and videos made by, for and about lesbians, gay men, transgendered, bi-sexuals and everyone else in between.
My usual response to this question is 'yes', as I go on to explain that the large number of queer festivals world-wide is evidence for the continued need for these kind of events, and that festivals provide a means by which artists/filmmakers are able to have their work shown on an international scale, and perhaps even make some sort of a living from it.
But I know what this question 'is there still a need?' is really asking.
'Still a need' - implying that WE (the aforementioned lesbians, gay men, transgendered, bi-sexuals and everyone else in between) have had satisfactory success in our political 'movement', have arrived at a place in the consciousness of the world and popular culture where our collective orientations are tolerated, accepted, and perhaps even embraced. So, in other words, for what other reason could there still be a need for a queer film festival?
Sure, politically/socially, things are better, different in a good way, but just when you were kind of feeling good about being gay in Saskatchewan for example, we are reminded that there are those who think otherwise, would prefer that things had not changed, and that we should still anticipate, from time to time, regressive action on the part of some. The recent uncovering of a video tape from 1991 documenting sexist, racist and homophobic (albeit drunken) slurs by members of the then Saskatchewan Progressive Conservative party (one of them now our Premier) serve to demonstrate my point and begs the question, how much have things really changed? Or at least here in Saskatchewan? Just watch the Oscar-winning Freeheld (in the program God Gone Wild - The Immorality of Morality), if you want further unsettling examples from not foreign territory.
Generally speaking, however, (with aforementioned examples an exception) we privileged North American queers (specifically Canada and the USA) have it pretty good, great in fact if you consider the enormously difficult, dangerous realities that exists for those wanting to be openly queer in places where religion, culture, racism, sexism, and law engender homophobia and dictate who you lust after and love, and more importantly, who you don't. This is many places in the world (as a small example see the program Out and About in Africa and India) where the existence of film festivals has and would become a huge political action. In these contexts - on a primarily political level - a visibly queer event like a film festival would encourage and activate awareness and perhaps social change in these societies impacted with hatred, fear, and misunderstanding towards sexual difference. After all, this is how it all began many years ago for the first lesbian and gay festivals in good ol' North America.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... yes, to re-iterate, I think that there always will be a need for a film festival like Queer City Cinema - not only for political reasons (with the notion of what is political an ever changing/evolving thing), but for creative and cultural reasons as well. This year, for example, the festival's purpose has expanded to include the long-awaited Performing Art Series, for the representation of artists whose activities explore new avenues and new ideas about not only what it means to be queer, but about artistic expression and the creative process itself.
Queer City Cinema exists, owes its beginnings to a time when queer visibility was what mattered most, ensuring that we were seen here, there, and everywhere. Film festivals were one of the best ways to do that, and in many ways, continue to do so. Ultimately, Queer City Cinema is an event for celebrating queer film and video, the people who make it, and the fans who attend. That should remain as the most important need of all.