Celebrating Diversity: The Reelout Queer Film Festival

By Sara Smith

Hollywood does its best, but sometimes you have to look outside of the mainstream for the most interesting and important movies. A great place to start is this month’s Reelout Queer Film Festival. Now in its 18th year, the fest brings together the talents of filmmakers from across the globe to tell honest, heartwarming, funny, and fearless stories.

 

Still from Play the Devil, photo via Reelout Queer Film Festival
Still from Play the Devil, photo via Reelout Queer Film Festival

Opening on January 25th, Reelout promises to provide a rainbow of options for every type of movie-goer: from die-hard film aficionados, to folks looking for a lighthearted weekend activity, to those who are simply curious about lives and perspectives different than their own. “This is a queer film fest, but it’s not just a film festival for the queer community,” says Matt Salton, Reelout’s executive director. “Everyone is more than welcome. It’s about much more than just gender and sexuality – it’s about celebrating diversity through the powerful medium of film.”  

King Cobra, starring acting heavyweights James Franco, Christian Slater, and Molly Ringwald is one of this year’s headlining films. Another highly-anticipated feature, Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things (a documentary helmed by Queen’s grad Michael Yerxa), puts Kingston’s local talent on display. The rest of the diverse 47-film lineup includes comedy, romance, drama, and horror, presented as shorts and feature-length films, in both narrative and documentary form. Reelout’s programming committee, made up of Kingstonians from all walks of life, helped to select this year’s films from over 350 submissions from countries all over the world.

Still from King Cobra, Photo via Reelout Queer Film Festival
Still from King Cobra, Photo via Reelout Queer Film Festival

In addition to 12 days of fascinating films, Reelout invites the community to celebrate with them at the festival events: the opening gala screening of Clambake and reception on Thursday, January 26th, the Soul Shakedown dance party at the Grad Club on Saturday the 28th, and the closing gala (with free appetizers from Tir Nan Og Irish Pub!) on February 5th.

The driving force behind the entire festival is its focus on diversity and representation. Salton believes that the stories and perspectives shared through the festival’s films and events can have an illuminating, even uniting effect on the community. “This festival bridges some of the gaps that exist within the diversity of our city,” he says. “It brings together the town and the university, and the heterosexual community and the queer community – but it also highlights the voices of Kingston’s people of colour, people from different countries, and people who are differently-abled.”

Still from The Revival: Women and the Word, Photo via Reelout Queer Film Festival
Still from The Revival: Women and the Word, Photo via Reelout Queer Film Festival

Reelout has also done a lot to lift spirits – both of viewers, and those whose stories are being told. “My favourite moment, by far, was two years ago when our opening gala documentary was about a young transgender girl who lived in Timmins, Ontario,” says Salton. “This girl was horribly bullied – she was once thrown in a dumpster – and seemed to be destined for a really sad life. Her mother heard about an international roller derby league that accepted trans-identified people, and they also had a children’s league. Through the sport of roller derby, this little girl became empowered. It was a really moving documentary.”

“Working with our sponsor, RBC, we brought this girl and her mother to Kingston for the opening gala at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, and the guy who does our carpet service even offered a red carpet. A lot of our volunteers wanted to help out, acting as paparazzi. So when our guests showed up in a limousine at the Isabel, they were treated like stars.”

Through the exciting experiences offered by the fest, and the different perspectives provided to Kingston’s moviegoers through the medium of film, Salton hopes that Reelout will continue to make a positive impact on the community. “Film has a powerful, mobilizing influence for change,” he says. “Festivals like Reelout give unseen members of the community a chance to be seen and heard.”

“I think the more different stories we see and hear as a community, the more respect we will have for one another.”
Reelout Queer Film Festival runs from January 25th to February 5th, 2017. Screening times, tickets, event information, and more are available at reelout.com.