The Reelout Festival of Kingston is a must-attend event for the queer community members to really kick-start 2007. Pam Thompson, festival director of Reelout, says the festival aims to provide professional screening venues for both queer artists and queer-themed films, but Reelout is more than a lolling night at the cinema.
It plays a vital role in the eastern Ontario community. The festival brings together the many different facets of the queer community while stimulating dialogue and debate around queer issues, giving priority to Canadian films and filmmakers. This year, Reelout has some luring incentives for the general population and regular rubber-neckers as well.
“This year we are doing a queer health panel — we are screening two films about cancer and the panel discussion will relate to lesbians with cancer, lesbians with breast cancer, as well as breast cancer in general,” says Thompson, “We have really balanced out these films to engage people who are not necessarily festival goers.”
Thompson notes that this year’s youth program deals with religion and sexuality by showcasing a film called Campout in partnership with the United Church. There will also be a panel discussion after this film about sexual identity problems faced by queer Christian youth. It explores their coming out issues, the resulting conflict with their faith, and how they merge their sexuality and spirituality.
The festival’s opening is at the major downtown cinema, Empire Theatres, and Thompson says that she hopes Reelout will draw major crowds to this mainstream venue.
“We’re going to be in the marquee and everything — the festival will be where we have never seen it before. The [opening] film is called The Gymnast, it is kind of ‘Cirque du Soleil-ish,’ so it should suit that type of larger venue,” says Thompson.
This year, Reelout has also concentrated on showcasing the experimental edge of Montreal’s budding queer alternative cinema scene. There will be a workshop accompanying these films on how to make and market alternative movies.
“It will be great to have an opportunity to engage the audience. It’s not always easy to know how to get your work shown,” says Thompson, “For artists, that’s pretty universal.”
Queen’s University is involved in many different partnerships with the Reelout Festival — their sociology department is helping with a film called Cruel And Unusual about the hardships of trans women in the prison system. There is a panel discussion following the film exploring trans prisoners’ rights in Canada.
“It is current practice to put trans women in male prisons. It works pretty much the same as the [US] system in that way,” says Thompson.
In further attempt to engage a broader audience in the festival, the film My Brother…Nikhil will also be part of the queer spectrum. The film is about family dynamics as well as AIDS in India, and Thompson feels that these are attractive themes.
“We wanted to bring in films with interesting history around them,” says Thompson.
Reelout operates as a collective with about 20 committee members deciding festival content. A large volunteer base also helps with the festival’s execution, and government grants and sponsorship have helped it grow. Funding comes from the Canadian Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Canadian Heritage, and corporate sponsorship, as well as ad sales in their brochures. Ticket sales also go directly into organizing the festival.
“We even get opt-outable student fees from Queen’s,” says Thompson.
She says that the festival works amazingly well, given the fact that it takes place in such a small town. Support from partnerships, as well as Kingston’s arts and culture scene, make the festival possible. And Kingston has a strong, if relatively small, queer community.
By the way, don’t forget to check out the festival’s incredible parties. Tompson says that regular festival-goers look forward to Reelout’s annual gatherings.
“They’re so much fun. We get a lot of local talent and queer artists and performers out to our events. We have our opening party on Jan 26. Last year, more than 200 people attended,” says Thompson.