Imagine a love story between two young 20-something characters performing in an off Broadway musical. Now, add outing yourself to conservative religious parents and you have Big Gay Musical, just one of many interesting and complex films being shown as part of this year’s Reel Pride film festival.
The festival is organized by the Winnipeg Gay and Lesbian Film Society and has been running for over 20 years, making it the longest running queer film festival in Canada. Its mandate is to bring films with levels of art, entertainment and information to the LGBT* community. According to Les Klassen, a filmmaker and Reel Pride spokesperson, the festival “makes sure our films touch on as many aspects of the community as possible, so that means male audiences, female audiences, transgender audiences and two spirited audiences and we work very hard at trying to represent as much of the community as possible. We make an effort when we are picking films.”
The average audience for the festival is often as diverse as the LGBT* community itself and, as Klassen mentioned, they are looking to include as many diverse members of the queer community as they can reach. This year audiences can look forward to director Ron Oliver making an appearance on Oct. 13 for a question and answer period. He is responsible for two films in the festival this year; On the Other Hand and Ice Blues. Ron Oliver’s previous directorial credits also include episodes of Queer as Folk and Degrassi: the Next Generation.
Another feature at the festival is Hannah Free, a film about two girls who grow up together in a small midwestern town. The two women react differently to the traditional gender expectation that two women in love should not be together. One of the women challenges the world she lives in, developing into an outspoken lesbian; the other becomes a silenced homemaker.
Reel Pride also provides a safe space and opportunity “for queer filmmakers to get their work shown because the mainstream cinemas are just starting to bring in works that have queer content and most queer content in mainstream cinema is poking fun, or making what I would call socially acceptable gay jokes. Not all of them, but some of them play in that range.” Klassen explained.
He believes that the festival is important because it allows the community to watch movies with content and characters they can relate to on screen “without having to dig through what is going on in mainstream cinema.”
This festival not only brings films to the LGBT* community, but also provides its filmmakers with opportunity. Part of the festival is a short film competition for Canadian filmmakers; two awards are presented, one selected by the jury and the other by the audience. Included in this year’s competition are entries by local filmmakers, including Guy Maddin, Shawna Dempsey and Maureen Millan. “Every year we do have a lot of film makers from Winnipeg who submit their short films, and this is an opportunity for filmmakers to have their short films presented on the big screen and having audiences see their work. So for working film makers it’s really important that they can actually start building on a film career,” said Klassen.
In sum, Klassen believes that Reel Pride provides “an important service to the community. I think that we do a really good job at balancing bringing levels or art, entertainment and information to our audiences. I think there is something for everyone.”
Reel Pride runs from October 13-16 at Imax and Saturday October 17 at Cinematheque. Tickets for the festival are $8 each. For more information, please visit Reelpride.org.