‘This festival is about bringing people together’

This year marks a record high of 300 submissions and 83 narratives, short films, features and documentaries screening at the twelfth annual Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival

A solid lineup of films are selected for the Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival each year
Image supplied by: Supplied
A solid lineup of films are selected for the Reelout Queer Film and Video Festival each year

On the first Saturday of February each year, Reelout Queer Video and Film Festival volunteers and organizers celebrate another year under their belts with an epic wrap party. Two days later, Festival Director Matt Salton and his colleagues rub their eyes and return to the drawing table to commence planning for the following year’s edition of events.

“Submissions are always coming into the office from around the globe,” he told the Journal in an email. “Pre-screening the films and year-round educational initiatives and administrative duties keep us busy all throughout the year.”

Reelout honours the work and dedication of those who have championed queer film and video and its artists over the past decade and works towards showcasing the best and brightest LGBTQ cinematic offerings from around the world. Founded in 1999 by Marney McDiarmid and Kingston’s OPIRG project, the festival exists to celebrate queer media arts and to contribute to community vitality by programming materials focusing on issues of sexuality, race, culture, religion, class, gender, ability, health and age.

“The best thing about Reelout’s contribution to the community is the idea of raising the profile and visibility of our queer community,” Salton said. “We want queer-identified Kingstonians to ‘get ready for their close-up’.  There is still a lot of homophobia in this world… to create an ecology over ten days where the queer community shares the spotlight in 25 diverse programs and 83 films—that’s a fucking incredibly empowering experience.”  Using real members of the community as models in the marketing campaigns, Reelout has weaved into and found strong footing here.

“These models are just a small fraction of the beautiful people that reflect the sexual and gender diversity that comprises Kingston’s queer community,” Salton said. “In addition to the positive empowering effects, we don’t shy away from screening films that initiate challenging dialogue post-screening … we’re lucky to have Queen’s professors like Samantha King, Dorit Naaman, Mary Louise Adams and Scott Morgensen participating in some of our post-screening discussions [this year].”

As well as the initiation of challenging dialogue among members of Kingston’s queer community, the festival reaches beyond to the larger Kingston community.

“We’re pleased to be screening films both on campus and downtown Kingston,” Salton said. “We’ve also incorporated other artistic disciplines throughout the festival, including musical performances.”

The incorporation of new genres in the festival is demonstrative of the group’s drive to provide access to artistic work that may not otherwise be screened in Kingston, celebrate the city’s diversity and create an opportunity for members of the community to come together through a common artistic appreciation.

With a record 300 submissions, films were pre-screened this year by a community panel interested in film appreciation.

“Comments and ratings are compiled and reviewed in October and the panel meets over the weekend to piece together a solid line-up that represents characters reflective of our diverse queer community,” Salton said.

Striving to represent 45 to 50 per cent Canadian content, this year’s selections feature 39 Canadian picks including two exploratory works from local filmmakers like Caleb Seguin and Auden Cody Neuman. Salton said he sees Reelout’s 12th edition as having a couple thematic undercurrents.

“We’ve noticed that there are a lot of great works coming out that introduce us to emerging points of view that we’re traditionally not accustomed to watching,” he said. “These views can be painful and heart-breaking (Dreams Deferred: The Sakia Gunn Project or Gen Silent), but they can also be quite sexy and refreshing (male synchro swim doc Boys in the Pool or Cheryl Dunye’s post-modern film noire The Owls).  In a sea of submissions, Salton said the not-so-standard presentations tend to stand out.

“Originality in story-telling is a welcome change,” he said. “Audiences are going to be quite grateful to see so many fresh approaches to telling celluloid stories.”  Ultimately, attendees will reap rewards just by showing up.

“This festival is about bringing the community together and not splitting us off into gender-specific programs, as a programmer I encourage audiences to see films they wouldn’t normally go see,” Salton said. “The warm fuzzies last at least until St. Patrick’s Day. The feelings I get from watching volunteers dedicate their time to making this community a little bit more tolerant and respectful truly is the ultimate reward.”

Reelout kicks off this Thursday at Etherington Auditorium at 7 p.m.

For a detailed festival guide including party and film details please see bit.ly/reeloutschedule.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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