Out of the evening and into the cold light of day — these films bear that kind of scrutiny.
Divergence Movie Night, usually an evening affair, is pulling out all the stops for Pride Week, hosting its first Divergence Movie Day Aug 19 at Club SAW. They’re set to screen seven queer-focussed festival movies beginning at 11am and wrapping up at 9pm.
Divergence Movie Nights first started in early 2006, initiated by trans activist Caitlyn Pascal who decided that Ottawa queers needed to see the movie, Enough Man, which followed nine transsexual men and their partners, as they disclosed and discussed their sexualities.
“I discovered this amazing film and realized how important it was,” she says. “When I discovered the costs involved in festival movies, I realized it would take a community to bring this movie to Ottawa. The community supported the movie enthusiastically and it was then that I realized that Ottawa needed more films like this, and Divergence Movie Night was born. The idea was simple: Bring expensive festival films to Ottawa and taken donations at the door to help dissipate the expenses.”
Pascal’s first screening of Enough Man was a hit.
“It was held at the central library auditorium. It was really exciting because it was this sexy one-off event and many people came out to support,” she says.
Realising she was filling a need in the Ottawa community, Pascal continued to bring movies to Ottawa, typically once a month. To date Divergence Movie Night has brought 16 movies to Ottawa.
But festival movies are not cheap. Buying public performance rights usually costs up to $400, depending on the film. Audience members are invited to make a $5 donation at the door, but Pascal emphasizes that this is a free event. Some funding is found in sponsorship: Capital Xtra provides advertising and Club SAW provides the club at a reduced cost while Venus Envy, AIDS Committee Of Ottawa, LadyFest, Hump at Helsinki and Queer McGill all contribute towards the purchase price of the more expensive movies. However, a big part is simply covered out of pocket.
Clearly it’s a labour of love. Pascal feels that bringing these films to the Ottawa queer community is invaluable.
“The primary motivator was my desire for a more prominent and diverse queer discourse in this city. Even in cities with major queer film festivals, there is a basic need for the issues presented to be discussed.”
Among the issues that Divergence Movie Day intends to address are: the uncensored truth of BDSM (Vice And Consent), the relationship between race and homosexuality (Tongues Untied), the history of gay politics (Gay Sex In The 70s and Screaming Queens: The Riot At Compton’s Cafeteria), international queer issues (Harsh Beauty) and the life in drag (Third Antenna: The Radical Beauty Of Drag).
Divergence Movie Nights normally include a discussion period. In those cases, a single film is screened and audience members are invited to stay afterwards to respond to the movie or simply listen to the discussion. While the Divergence Movie Day will not have time to include the traditional discussion periods, Pascal hopes that the environment will be stimulating and safe enough for audience members to feel comfortable chatting outside between films.
“There is no city where these discussions are not important,” Pascal states emphatically. “For instance: What are the intersections of sexuality and race? Of sexuality and disability? What are the inflections of class upon the struggle for sexual rights? What are the power structures involved in the fight against AIDS? What is the evolution of gender and how does it play out amongst bureaucracy? How have trans-identities defined and evolved feminism? What are the roles of sex professionals in society and how do we view them? How have other parts of the world dealt with all of these issues, and what unique struggles are they facing?”
Feeling that the discourse is as important as the films, Pascal hopes to bring these issues to the forefront, if only for a day.
“These are important films that the [queer] community needs to see. These are issues that need to be addressed. We are often too happy to live our quiet lives with our gay marriage and basic tolerance and forget that a multitude of related issues are begging for our attention.”