Queer Winnipeggers have a reason to head indoors this fall as the city’s gay and lesbian film festival Reel Pride celebrates its 15th birthday. This year’s event, to be held from Oct 14 to 19, promises five nights of feature length and short films.
“Every single year you see lots of new faces,” says Len Loewen, president of the Winnipeg Gay and Lesbian Film Society. “We’re reaching out to a portion of the city that is attracted to more of an arts and entertainment style event.”
With a focus on Canadian content, the festival kicks off with a series of short films entitled Harper Valley GAY. Curated by Calgary based filmmaker Matt Salton, the series focusses on queer life in the Conservative-heartland of Alberta. This is followed by a screening of the critically-acclaimed Mulligans, which was written by Saskatchewan-born actor Charlie David and features an all-Canadian cast.
Also on the festival’s schedule is a short-film competition. Free to audience members, the competition features plenty of local content from filmmakers including Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Milan.
Loewen says this year the film society is planning to reach out to a younger audience. “We’re working in conjunction with local schools and university groups to plan a dinner and movie event.” He also says the organization is in talks with PFLAG to host a half-day workshop for queer youth on filmmaking. “Our goal is to carry out different programming and outreach with the community that doesn’t just have entertainment value, but is also educational.”
This year, the festival committee has also opted for a more inclusive approach to advertising its films. In the past, shows have been promoted speciically to male or female queer audiences. But this time around, Loewen says “the films at the festival [will] appeal to everybody, because they are human stories.” He points to the festival’s closing film My Left Breast as an example of this. Chronicling the struggle Newfoundland queer filmmaker Gerry Rogers faces with breast cancer, Lowen says the film should appeal to everyone regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
For over 20 years, the Winnipeg Gay and Lesbian Film Society has worked hard to ensure queer Winnipeggers stay connected with the films that are made by and for them. It is a valuable asset to the city’s queer community. It is also an excellent opportunity to escape the cold and warm up with good popcorn and even better entertainment.