HARTFORD, Conn. — For Pride Month 2021, FOX61 News is highlighting some of the local organizations working to promote, educate, advocate and inspire the LGBTQ+ community in Connecticut.
The first profile is on Out Film CT, which is celebrating its 34th annual LGBTQ+ film festival this month.
What is the mission of your organization?
Out Film CT’s mission is to entertain, educate and promote community through the exhibition of LGBTQ+ film.
Out Film CT is a volunteer, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to presenting outstanding LGBTQ cinema and other theatrical events throughout the year, culminating in the Connecticut LGBTQ Film Festival, typically the first week of June. This springtime event, Connecticut’s longest-running film festival, holds a special place in our state’s cultural landscape, bringing the community together to introduce, celebrate and rediscover the ideas and values that make the LGBTQ community unique. Out Film CT also presents the monthly Queer Thursdays film series in partnership with Cinestudio, usually shown on the second Thursday of each month.
When was it founded and by whom?
AlteRnaTiveS (as it was originally known) was founded in 1987 by a group of artistic activists, and led by Bill Mann, as a gay and lesbian cultural organization in Hartford. It was founded against a backdrop of LGBTQ social activism, inspired in part by the death of Richard Reihl and the trial of his killers.
With Terri Reid as co-chair, the organization explored a variety of different activities including theater, film, a gay history project and a literary journal, Invert, which produced four issues. The first gay & lesbian film festival took place at our current home, Cinestudio, over two weekends in June 1988, and it’s been the one event from the group that has persevered through the decades to today.
How did the pandemic impact the organization?
The pandemic forced our board and committee members to think creatively in how we can fulfill our mission in the midst of such unprecedented times. Although we are no longer able to have our weekly screening meetings and committee social activities we are still able to access and curate films from our homes.
Last year was a challenge, but we rose up to it and were able to bring the most queer content ever in the form of a virtual festival AND three in-person screenings at a drive-in, something we would never have thought of doing. In addition to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender shorts programs that we curate for the big screen, we added new short film programs to showcase virtually such as: International, POC, Youth Shorts, CT Connections shorts, Drag/Cross Dressing, and Short Documentary programs.
Although we would have loved having a traditional in-person movie theater festival, we were still able to engage our audience from the comfort of their homes, something that we are continuing into this year by having a truly hybrid in-person/virtual festival. Everything that we are showing at Cinestudio theater (with the exception of one program) will be available online through our Eventive platform, with additional exclusive online content. We are also bringing back our silent auction that will be available online! People will still see pandemic precautions in place at Cinestudio with mask-wearing and social distancing practices in place, and unfortunately, we aren’t able to host any parties this year, but we’re certain that some people are ready to come out to enjoy a moment of the community together at Cinestudio.
What is one misunderstanding that you want to clear up about what you do?
One misunderstanding is that we just show films. We not only show films; we build community. We strongly believe that through the exhibition of film, by seeing ourselves on screen, we are actively engaging others by telling our stories. We make film and art available and accessible to Connecticut. We are not just telling our stories, we are bringing the experiences of marginalized communities to the forefront. We are showing what queer life is like in other countries, giving perspective and empathy, challenging our audience to think critically about what it means to be LGBTQ on a global scale. We as a committee work hard to be inclusive and provide diverse content that is representative of all facets of our community.
If you had a magic wand, what would you do to change Connecticut for the better?
If we had a magic wand, we would make Connecticut gayer of course! Seriously though, we believe that visibility matters. Visibility saves lives; visibility means we exist.
If we had a magic wand, the LGBTQ+ community in Connecticut would not have to worry about legislation that seeks to undermine our community and regulate our bodies. The magic wand would focus on improving access to healthcare, housing, and a solution to hunger insecurity. These are not issues that are exclusive to the LGBTQ+ community, however, we are statistically more vulnerable to these issues.
What are some great things about the LGBTQ+ community?
We are not the gatekeepers of the queer community, but we can say that we are not a monolith. We are constantly evolving, changing our language, continuing the dialogue of who we are. Our history, our rights, our activism is rooted in fighting back against oppression. And we owe everything to our gay elders and trans women of color, who started the conversation and the fight for our rights. We are here because of them, and we honor that in everything that we do at Out Film CT.
To be openly queer is to be bold; being your authentic self is a form of activism. We are constantly faced with legislation that attempts to make laws against our livelihood, and yet, we fight back. We are diverse and do not always fit into the convenient labels of LGBTQ. We are also asexual, non-binary, intersex, questioning, two-spirited, and pansexual. We are great because we are diverse, and we know the fight is not over. Out Film CT will always strive for diversity, equity, inclusivity, and transparency.
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