Screening Our Community At The Cinema in Hartford
Where do we gather to find community?
How about a movie theatre?
This is not unusual for a regular LGBTQ+ movie night to be held somewhere in any given location across the country. In Hartford, every second Thursday is where you got see the latest and greatest in LGBTQ+ cinema.
At the Cinestudio on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Out Film CT hosts Queer Thursdays, a movie night for the LGBTQ+ community.
Prior to the August Queer Thursdays showing of the Focus Pictures/NBC documentary “Every Body,” I had the opportunity to interview Out Film CT’s Co-Directors Marina Yurieva and Shane Engstrom to find out more about what they do – including the 36th Connecticut LGBTQ Film Festival running October 6-15.
Engstrom explained that Out Film CT began as an offshoot of an arts organization back in 1987. It was one of several programs the art organization offered. “They also had the very first film festival as a way to show Hartford that the LGBTQ community existed and they did more things than just go to the bars,” Engstrom further explained.
The film festival is the main focus of Out Film CT with ten days of programs that range from short films, feature-length films and documentary covering the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum. The festival’s programming will showcase productions and films made in Connecticut and across New England. However, there will be films from 25 countries around the world to add to the 10-day long program at the festival.
The Out Film CT committee receives a lot of submissions for the film festival. In fact, as Yurieva explained, “We got 751 films this year. And we watched all of them. I think we ended up watching all of them. At least one committee member watched a movie. Yeah. We do take it very seriously and we select the best.”
Film selection is by a group of screeners connected to Out Film CT to whittle down the number of submissions into a final program. Engstrom equates this process to giving out “homework assignments.” Engstrom further explained, “we discuss the homework assignment from the previous week. And, everyone who’s watched the films from that week has an opportunity to engage together and talk about what they liked and what they didn’t. They also submit ratings, and we look at the ratings and tabulate the ratings as well. But it’s a great way to actually have discussions about the individual films and have an active selection process.”
Yurieva added that at the end of the year, “We have a very long discussion.”
From that long discussion, Engstrom concluded that the film festival’s program will come up with the most diverse program possible “that we can so that everyone feels represented in the festival so that they can see themselves on the big screen. We do our best to assemble a collection that is reflective of everyone in the community.”
The film that we saw at this particular Queer Thursdays showing, “Every Body,” was described as a “revelatory investigation of the lives of intersex people.” The film was directed by Julie Cohen, who also produced “RBG.” It is one of several films shown throughout the year.
Engstrom explained that Queer Thursdays “started up as a way to show films throughout the year so it’s not just one event. And so, we look to show films that are coming out in the theaters that might not wait around for us to be ready for a film festival. And, it allows us to keep a connection with the community every month. They know it’s usually the second Thursday of every month and that we’re going to be showing usually a brand new film. Or every once in a while, we’ll bring back a classic film. And so, it’s a way to keep connected with the community and keep them engaged with what we have going on.”
The challenge of putting on a monthly film series for live audiences is competition from other sources to view these films. Mostly when you cannot go to a theater to see them even as a limited engagement. Yurieva explained that with some of these films “people can only watch it online. But when here, you’ll see the atmosphere at this event. It’s all mostly queer. And when you watch a film with a queer audience, that’s a different effect. It’s a different atmosphere and it makes it special.”
“It’s also important to provide a safe space for the community to come together,” Engstrom also explained, “to watch these films together and to have those conversations, thought-provoking conversations after watching the film. That’s one of our goals.”
If you happen to be in Hartford, log on to www.outfilmct.org for more information on the upcoming Connecticut LGBTQ Film Festival and to find out when the next Queer Thursday screening is happening.
For those of us back in Minnesota, you can experience a regular LGBTQ+ film screening with the people behind the Flip The Script festival. Their monthly Queer Gaze screenings happen every second Sunday of each month at the Emagine Willow Creek cinema in Plymouth. To find out what they have cooking for the next screening, log on to www.flipthescriptfest.org/queer-gaze