University of Western Ontario students are holding their campus’ first queer film fest this week.
Josh Ferguson, director of Standing Against Queer Discrimination, says the student group spent the summer brainstorming ways to ignite the campus’ queer community. They came up with the concept for Emergence, which he describes as “more than just a film festival.”
The event takes place from Oct 23 to 25, and features screenings of Tom Kalin’s Savage Grace and John Greyson’s Rex vs Singh. Three days of film will be complemented by keynote addresses by the filmmakers, a professor symposium and student research conference on queer issues.
The opening night featured a keynote address by Kalin, who was touted to speak about about his activist days with ACT UP and Gran Fury. It’s that kind of grassroots activism that Ferguson wants to ignite on campus.
“Emergence speaks to a body of individuals on university campuses, coming out of the background into the foreground,” he says.
Although only a year old, SAQD has built a strong reputation for queer student activism.
In Feb 2008, the group held a rally on Parliament Hill, in protest of Health Canada’s discriminatory policy that limits organ donations from gay men. And in Nov 2007, SAQD staged a “die-in” outside a Canadian Blood Services donor clinic on the UWO campus, in protest of the CBS policy that bans gay men from donating blood. SAQD also created a petition, calling on UWO admin to block CBS from holding blood drives on campus.
But despite past brush-ups with the university admin, Ferguson says “Emergence has turned another page.” He notes that Emergence was funded completely by on-campus groups, including the admin, faculty and unions.
“We need to be persistent and explicitly passionate,” he says. “It’s important to create a platform for these issues, to address existing forms of discrimination.”