With Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival on hiatus, a new group, the Little Queer Film Festival, hopes to fill some of the void Reeling left in the representation of local queer cinema with a showcase of six films at the Center on Halsted Feb. 2 – 3.
While not as large as Reeling, Little Queer Film Festival’s goal is to bring together like-minded film enthusiasts who can gather for a film experience conducive to social mingling and film discussion.
The film festival was born out of the work of volunteers from various Chicago-area groups, including Sapphic Adventures, Baby Girls and Co. and Lipstick Lesbians and Femme Divas. The festival’s objective is to provide a contemporary approach with films that touch on a wide range of issues, as noted on its website.
Gathering film aficionado’s together and creating a film festival from scratch was no easy feat, especially since this was the first time for almost all involved, according to founding member Kelly Zeng.
Zeng started by putting out an email to various people and groups that might express interest in a queer orientated film festival.
“I think the people in this email, were all people like me, kind of sad that there wasn’t going to be a film festival,” said Jeanette Diaz, another member of Little Queer Film Festival, who has been attending Reeling Film Festival since she was a teenager.
After the group was organized, funds were raised and research was done on other film festivals, the group began connecting with filmmakers and obtaining the rights to show films.
When asked about the importance of queer cinema, Diaz said it’s about exposing queer stories and queer lives.
“It’s telling our stories, and each story is so unique and also providing insight into our community and our issues,” Diaz said. “For example, one of our movies has a main character that is transgender and it lets you into her world and lets you see her character. I couldn’t imagine not being able to gain knowledge through other people stories.”
The festival will kick off with the award-winning documentary, Call me Kuchu, which follows veteran activist David Kato and his efforts to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws, liberating his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or “kuchus” and his ultimate murder.
The festival will also include, Lesbian Factory, a documentary centering on the love stories of seven lesbian couples and the unfair treatment of foreign migrant workers in Taiwan.
Other dramatic titles include stories of romantic love triangles, including the tale of a surprising relationship forming between two women at their parent’s engagement party, a friendship that forms between two opposite women on the run — one, a traditional woman forced to support her family, and the other, a rich post-op transsexual.
There’s also the story of a man marrying his lesbian best friend in order to obtain his green card. And finally, a film about an unusual trio of men: a German photojournalist, a male belly dancer, and an Eastern-born man whose quest for liberty and honesty leads to a tragic end.
And although all the members of Little Queer Film Festival are women, the goal remained to showcase all members of the community.
“I didn’t just want to play any movie,” Diaz said of the film screening process. “I wanted movies that were thought-provoking and reflected our lives. Our groups are lesbian groups but we wanted films for everyone.”
The Little Queer Film Festival differs from other film festivals by providing year-long opportunities for film experiences, including unique venues such as bars, lounges, restaurants. Members hope to soon bring the experience to galleries and outdoor venues creating — a continued social-based environment for film viewing.
So far, the festival has earned money through various fundraising events including a masquerade ball and a charity bachelorette date auction along with sponsors and individual contributions, which raised about $10,000, according to Diaz.
Despite the rapid growth, though, the goal is to keep the festival small.
“I think we all collectively like that it is a small festival,” Diaz said. “I prefer to keep it that way. This isn’t about trying to compete or become Reeling at all.”
As for future plans with the Little Queer Film Festival, members remain optimistic that they can keep it an intimate affair.
“Reeling is an icon in our community and one of the second largest film festivals,” Diaz said. “We just want to be one more addition to film festivals here in Chicago.”