In roughly two weeks’ time, Kingston’s Reelout Film Festival will premiere its opening feature — the start of a week-long festival that promises to be markedly darker and grittier than previous years.
The festival, which will be held at The Screening Room on Princess St., aims to raise the profile and visibility of the LGBTQ community in Kingston. The festival celebrates and exhibits queer media arts focusing on challenging issues such as sexuality, race, culture, gender and age.
The first screening on Jan. 29 kicks off Kingston’s 17th annual Reelout Queer Film Festival.
Reelout is typically home to many different genres, but the films in this year’s lineup deal with considerably darker subject matter than in past festivals. Even some of the purported comedies have taken on darker, more complex themes.
“Don’t expect multi-coloured, rainbow-tinted queer films this year. The force has awakened Reelout’s dark side,” Reelout Arts Project Inc. executive director Matt Salton wrote in a recent press release for the festival.
The film entries this year explore reservation life in Northern Ontario, class warfare in South Africa, emotional paralysis and lesbian romances between sex workers and their clients.
Salton said he and the rest of the Reelout team have embraced this increased focus on darker subject matter by designating this year’s festival as “Reelout in the Dark.”
“This year we found out that a lot of our submissions were very dark in tone, theme or about characters or situations that needed to be illuminated,” Salton said.
“We thought we would give the festival a theme, so we are marketing it as ‘Reelout in the Dark.’ ”
Reelout’s opening gala at the Isabel Bader Centre on the evening of Jan. 29 will feature a premiere of homegrown film talent with the critical darling Fire Song.
The film, which concerns the lives of youths living on reservations in Northern Ontario, has generated buzz from critics since its release earlier last year. The film’s director Adam Garnet Jones, and other cast and crewmembers will be in attendance on opening night.
“It had its opening premiere at TIFF this year and critics have warmly received it,” Salton said. “It’s such a great Canadian film that we wanted to give it a great spot for our opening.”
“It’s one of those stories about people who we don’t hear enough about, so I think it’s part of our job to shine our projector light on these stories.”
And it is — the Reelout Film Festival’s mission statement is to tell stories that have gone unheard. Reelout incorporated in 2004 as a non-profit organization a few years after its start as an OPIRG group conceived and cultivated at Queen’s in the late 1990s.
“We still have very strong ties to the Queen’s community,” Salton said. “Most of our volunteers are Queen’s students and many of the departments within Queen’s sponsor films in the festival throughout the year.”
In contrast with this year’s darker theme, Reelout has included a section of the festival’s itinerary entitled “Salsa Saturday” due to the larger number of Latin entries in the festival this year.
There will be an entire day on Saturday, Jan. 30, dedicated to Spanish language films, culminating in a party at downtown Mexican restaurant La Hacienda.
“We’re pretty excited about that. When you’re feeling down in the dumps and you have snow squalls around you can escape to The Screening Room for the day and bask in cinematic sunshine,” Salton said.
Salton went on to discuss some other highlights he is excited about, including Screening Room parties at the Grad Club and Mansion as well as an impressive lineup of surprise guests.
The directors of the closing gala film, Portrait of a Serial Monogamist, John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler will be coming to the festival.
Salton said former Queen’s student Lauren Hortie, ArtSci ’06, who directed a short film to be screened before the closing gala film, will also make an appearance.
Deciding on which of the 50 plus films to be screened at the festival this year will surely be a difficult task for prospective audiences. Luckily the executive director himself offered some recommendations. Salton says to check out the world premiere of what he considers the cream of this year’s crop, Beautiful Something, which features an actor from an episode of the television series, Fear of the Walking Dead. He also recommends the horror-comedy You’re Killing Me if you desire a “totally gross, but entertaining experience.”
If you’re curious about educating yourself about LGBTQ topics, or you simply enjoy a good flick, the Reelout Queer Film Festival is sure to be a valuable source of entertainment and learning for all.
The festival begins Jan. 29 and ends Feb. 6. Visit Reelout.ca or the Reelout Lending Library at 82 Sydenham St. for more information.
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