The Little Queer Film Festival
In Reeling’s absence, a replacement fest emerges.
The women who belong to the Internet meet-up group Sapphic Adventures, an organization for professional lesbians, like to keep busy. Since launching in 2007, the more than 1,500-member-strong organization (not all of whom are active) has socialized via food drives, guerilla bar nights, bike rides and other activities. Another thing the members love is the movies, and in 2012 they were disappointed that Reeling: The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Film Festival went on a one-year hiatus after celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011. “For Chicago, this is really very sad for us because we are such a huge LGBT market,” says Sapphic Adventures cofounder Kelly Zeng. “For us not to have our own film festival is a little bit embarrassing.” To right that perceived wrong, Zeng and co-organizers have created the Little Queer Film Festival, a weekend of screenings happening Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 at the Center on Halsted.
The idea for the Little Queer Film Festival came to Zeng while planning fall events for Sapphic Adventures (Reeling happens annually in November), but she hasn’t been alone in its execution. Assisting her are several other organizations and meet-up groups including Baby Girls and Company, a for-profit event promoter; the Human Rights Campaign (which will sponsor a Q&A for the British documentary Call Me Kuchu); and the Center on Halsted, among others.
Organizers reached out to local filmmakers, movie theaters and other festivals for information regarding the budgeting process, acquisition procedures and venue costs and arrived at an estimated cost of $8,000–$10,000 to screen six films. The Center on Halsted offered a heavily discounted rate to hold the screenings in its Hoover-Leppen Theatre, and the group proceeded to generate revenue exclusively through event fund-raising including a bachelorette auction and a masquerade ball.
One organization that was left out of the planning process was Reeling itself. Founder Brenda Webb says she was not contacted by the LQFF but was made aware of the fest through professional colleagues in the film community whom the LQFF had contacted, and through Reeling members and regular attendees of the Dyke Delicious showcase. For their part, Zeng says she and fellow organizers were seeking a clean slate. “We want to have fresh perspectives and not be told what needs to be done,” she says. “Reeling is very iconic in our community and history, and we don’t want people to feel like we are trying to replace them. We just want to be seen as a complementary film festival in the community, and our focus in the future will be on film events that promote social gathering and mingling.” Webb will not attend the festival (she’ll be at the Pride Film Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, taking part in a panel discussion on the future of queer film) but wishes it well. “As the producers of the second-longest-running LGBTQ film festival in the world, we appreciate how much hard work goes into producing a successful event,” she says. Reeling will announce dates for its 2013 festival a few weeks from now at reelingfilmfestival.org.
As for the LQFF, Zeng says she’s confident her members will come to the fest and that the HRC partnership will nudge men out of their homes as well. If the event is a success, proceeds will benefit a future fest, perhaps held at a gallery or lounge to emphasize the social aspect. But one step at a time. “I’m exhausted,” Zeng says, “but at least something came through.”
The Little Queer Film Festival happens Saturday 2 and Sunday 3.