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Get to Know 2012 Dorothy Honoree Out Film CT!Published Jan 31, 2012
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Describe the Out Film CT organization for us.
Out Film CT is a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to presenting outstanding LGBT cinema throughout the year, including the EROS Film Festival in the fall and culminating in the nine-day Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in June. Out Film CT is made up of volunteers who dedicate time throughout the year selecting films and preparing for our major festival events. We will be celebrating 25 years of film and community this year.
What is the organization's mission?
The primary objective of Out Film CT is to plan, organize and present the annual Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival at Cinestudio on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The Film Festival screens U.S. and international films by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) filmmakers, about LGBT people or of interest to the LGBT community that might not otherwise be available for viewing in this region, programming that entertains, challenges and educates our audience. The members of Out Film CT value diversity, artistic and cultural richness, multiculturalism, variety, entertainment, acceptance, respect, tolerance, aesthetics, progressiveness and humor, and we express and celebrate these values through the selection and presentation of films shown at the Festival.
How many films does the organization screen in order to determine which films are included in the annual Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival?
The film festival committee receives between 200 - 250 shorts, documentaries and feature films to evaluate each year. People are usually surprised to hear that we only end up showing at the festival between 20 - 25% of the films that we receive.
The Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is celebrating its 25th year; what are the names of the films that were screened during that first year?
There were only 7 film programs in the first film festival in 1988. They were:
- Magick Lantern Cycle (United States) - The complete collection of Kenneth Angers' work to date, including his famous Scorpio Rising and Fireworks. Nine short films in all.
- Victim (1961, England) - Basil Dearden's sensitive depiction of homosexual blackmail in London. Noted as the first film to portray a homosexual male in a positive light.
- She Must Be Seeing Things (1988, United States) - Sheila McLaughlin's lesbian love story explored jealousy, taking her social ironies to the screen with outrageous symbolism and humor.
- Madchen in Uniform (1931, Germany) - Leontine Sagans' film that took place in a Potsdam boarding school for girls, where one of the girls admits her love for her teacher. One of the few films in 1931 to have an inherently gay sensibility, and also to have been produced and directed by women.
- Ein Virus kennt keine Moral (A Virus Knows No Morals, 1987, Germany) - Rosa Von Praunheim's black comedy centered on the AIDS crisis. Film Comment wrote, "As suppressor cells multiply, the screen fills up with gallow gags, songsters in drag, high camp hospitals, and the general air of a Lana Turner melodrama choreographed by John Waters."
- Sylvia Scarlett (1935, United States) - Classic film by famed gay director George Cukor, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.
- Damned If You Don't (1987, United States) – Directed by Su Friedrich, it's a beautifully filmed love story between a nun and her neighbor that addresses the issue of Catholicism and sexuality. Noted for its avant-garde imagery.
How has the state of LGBT film changed over the last 25 years?
LGBT film has changed significantly over the last 25 years. In the late 80s, LGBT films were much more rare in theaters and were very difficult to even find on VHS, so for many people, the film festival provided the only outlet for viewing queer film throughout the year. LGBT films were smaller in scale with no known actors and didn’t receive much media attention, so it was usually through word of mouth that we found out about them. In addition, the content of films has changed over the years, from basic coming out stories and AIDS documentaries to films where storylines have broadened to the point where being gay is less central to the overall plot. Transgender content films have also exploded in recent years. One of today's biggest challenges is finding new films that are available for the festival before distributors have released them on DVD or online.
To what do you attribute the longevity and success of Out Film CT and the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival?
Our dedicated volunteers and loyal audience have been the keys to our longevity. Most of our committee members have been involved for 5 - 10 years, meeting weekly to evaluate films 9 months out of the year. We've also had to be very adaptable over the years, including strengthening our business model to build alternate sources of revenue besides ticket sales. Today more than 50% of our income comes from corporate sponsorships, silent auction and the 'Friends of the Festival' who support the festival with their generous individual donations.
The LGBT community has a special relationship with film; why do you think that is so?
Film is a unique medium that allows people to be transported into the consciousness and experience of others. It's where they can see that they are not alone in their feelings of fear, acceptance, or even joy at finding a soul mate. Film can transport people into a completely different world, allowing them to be whoever they want to be. Watching LGBT films together as a community offers a truly unique movie-going experience.
Over the course of the Film Festival's history, what film has generated the biggest buzz and/or the highest attendance at the Festival and why?
There have been several films over the years that have sold out the nearly 500 seat Cinestudio theater, like when Maria Maggenti came to present her film The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love (1995), or when Kelli Herd presented her film It's in the Water (1997). But the film that broke all records was the 2004 screening of Latter Days. After a swirl of media coverage about the film created a healthy buzz, the theater was completely sold out - we had to turn away dozens of people - and the film went on to win the coveted Audience Award for the year.
How have the Film Festival's audiences changed over the course of its 25 year history?
On the one hand, I don't believe that our audience has really changed that much over the years. It's always been a community of people who wanted to enjoy a great night of film and community. On the other hand, I believe that our audience has grown over the years as a result of the rich diversity of films we have presented...films that have pushed boundaries and exposed people to works that have enriched their lives and broadened their understanding of others.
Where does the organization hope to be in five years?
We're hoping that the film festival will be even more popular and will continue to grow in popularity. We'd like to continue to grow the festival's appeal by bringing in more filmmakers and special guest to the majority of screenings so that it creates a truly unique movie experience for our audiences. Due to our long history, the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is a well respected festival on the festival circuit, but we would like to continue to build its reputation as one of the premier LGBT festivals in the U.S. so that we can attract even more filmmakers and movie premieres. We would also like to explore broadening the geographic scope of the festival by branching out to other parts of the state.