Alberta’s fourth largest city, with a population just under 100,000, is launching its first queer film festival this week: The Rhino in the Room Film Festival. The three-day festival begins today with a lecture at the University of Lethbridge, titled “Why the World Needs Queer Artists” and is followed up by two days of screenings of short films with community receptions to follow.
Brittany Elder, of the Rhino organizing committee, says she is incredibly excited about the festival coming together and noted its humble beginnings.
“The idea of the festival started as a queer movie night, we thought it would be nice to give people in this community a chance to express themselves,” says Elder. “But the idea grew as more people became involved. The community has been really receptive with a number of businesses coming on board as sponsors — people are very excited that the festival is happening in a place in this size.”
The organizing committee used the internet to publicize their call for submissions targeting art schools, post secondary institutions and arts organizations. In addition, the committee was given neighbourly encouragement and advice from Calgary’s Queer Film Festival, Fairytales.
“Our biggest surprise was that people actually submitted their films,” Elder adds sheepishly. “We were not sure how people would respond to a queer film fest in Lethbridge, but checking the mail and seeing the piles of films arriving was really encouraging — we said ‘the festival is actually happening!'”
A volunteer jury went through the submissions to program the festival, with an eye on keeping the program as diverse as possible. In addition, they were invited to select a film for entry into the Amnesty International Film Festival in Vancouver. This year’s film of distinction is The Love That Won’t Shut Up directed by Ivan E Coyote.
The organizing committee is hoping to see the Rhino grow and intend on making an annual event of the curiously named film festival.
“When we were planning the festival we were really trying to come up with a name that was distinctive,” says Elder. “We wanted to avoid queer film fest clichés such as ‘rainbow,’ ‘out,’ and ‘reel.”
Organizers researched gay symbols and learned that Boston activists used the purple rhinocerous as a gay emblem in the ’70s.
“It seems that it was a symbol that never really caught on, so we thought we would breath some life into it, and give it another go,” says Elder. ‘The elephant in the room has had enough attention, now it’s time for the rhino.”
Rhino in the Room Film Festival.
Sep 17-18, 2009, 7pm.
Sterndale Bennet Theatre.