Five years ago, three friends sat down for a drink and came up with an idea. That booze-inspired idea has grown into a full-fledged toddler of a film festival, named OUTeast. This year is the festival’s third, and it’s hosting a slew of screenings and special events, including Ellen Page Appreciation Day on June 12, with a film screening of Whip It at the Emera Oval on the Commons.
Xtra spoke with Andria Wilson, the festival’s producer, and Jenna Dufton, the programming manager for OUTeast, for a Q&A.
Tell me about the selection process for the films.
Jenna: It is a combination of submissions and researching and inviting new queer films being made around the world. A lot of factors go into selecting the final program, but at the end of the day it’s about offering a wide variety of films that will speak to our community. We have comedy, romance, drama, political documentaries, cultural documentaries and a few local shorts to showcase what our community is actually creating itself.
Andria: When it comes to pulling together the full program of films and events, it’s definitely a collaborative process. We look at the weekend in its entirety and talk through everything: the diversity of the content, the balance between social events and screenings, any opportunities we have to offer free public programming, all-ages offerings. With a short festival, it’s all about balance. The program needs to be comprehensive and inclusive, but it also needs to have the right flow of activity to best serve our audience.
What films are you most excited about?
Jenna: I am excited for Halifax to see all of the films that we are screening and highly recommend going to everything. If I was forced at gunpoint to choose the film I am most excited for, it would have to be the Dutch film Boys. It is one of those titles that doesn’t necessarily have a ton of buzz when I view it and that I go into with really no expectations. And then while watching it I was alternating between crying and smiling from ear to ear, and it totally knocked me off of my feet. It is one of those hidden festival gems, and I am really excited that we were able to bring it to OUTeast.
Andria: I love documentaries, so I’m super pleased about the amount of docs we have this year. Saturday’s program is awesome; I love balancing the intensity of Children 404 with To Be Takei. I am so excited we got 52 Tuesdays; it just won the Best First Feature Award at Inside Out in Toronto, and I know it’s going to be a hit with our audiences.
Let’s talk about Ellen Page Appreciation Day. What is it, how did it come to be, and what can people expect?
Jenna: Well, at OUTeast we have a very deep appreciation for Ellen Page. We are all fans. I remember the first time I attended the Atlantic Film Festival, before I even lived in Halifax; I went to see a screening of The Tracey Fragments and she was in attendance. Her performance in it blew me away, her answers during the Q&A were so eloquent and charming, and when it was over she was standing outside of the Oxford alone playing with a yo-yo.
When I watched the video of her coming out and heard her amazing message and watched her become such an important leader for our community, I knew OUTeast needed to celebrate it. We had a meeting and discussed what would be the best film to screen, and when Whip It came up we immediately thought of the Oval. To be able to present an outdoor screening of one of our favourite Ellen Page films and also involve roller skating and food trucks is really exciting and will hopefully attract our OUTeast regulars but also people who may have never experienced what we do before.
Andria: We’ve talked about doing a free, large-scale public event for years, and once we came up with the idea of screening Whip It on the Halifax Oval, it all just came together.
Any possibilities of Ms Page showing up?
Jenna: Oh, we wish. It turns out she is pretty busy. Who knew?
Andria: It looks like she’ll just be there in our hearts. However, we will be screening her coming-out speech before the film, which I am so excited about. I have seriously sobbed watching that thing on my phone, so I can’t wait to have it playing on a giant screen in the centre of Halifax.
Tell me about the special program with The Youth Project. What was the impetus for this?
Andria: A huge part of Krista’s [Davis, the festival’s special projects manager] role is developing strategic partnerships, and she’s done incredible work so far bringing us together with organizations like the Centre for Art Tapes and The Khyber. We’ve run our emerging-artist-in-residence mentorship program for the last two years, and that’s focused on one filmmaker per year. In order to grow the program to allow us to work with a larger group of queer youth in the community, we needed a partner, and the Youth Project is the perfect fit.
Jenna: It has always been important to us to support youth in the community because they are often the ones most in need of it. And if there is any way we can help spark or foster a youngster’s interest in film, we are all about it.