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Queer Film Festival enters second year at Notre Dame

Christie Bolsen | Wednesday, February 9, 2005

The successful debut of the Queer Film Festival last year and its new lineup of movies and directors this year proves gay and lesbian artists have made many important contributions to the world of cinema. The concept behind the film festival this weekend, however, is not just to promote the achievements of gay moviemakers. It also provides an opportunity to bring the community together around an event, offering gay students as well as straight students the chance to engage in dialogue or simply enjoy the films and panel discussions.Notre Dame graduate Liam Dacey, director of operations and co-founder of the festival as a senior film major last year, said the response to the first festival last year was encouraging. While there were a few angry letters from alumni, the overall student reaction was very positive.”We had a great response last year,” Dacey said. “We got a lot of good feedback from the campus itself, and we really got almost nothing but positive remarks from students.”The festival went off without any protests, and the demand was so high for the award-winning “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” that another screening had to be scheduled.”Along those lines it was a really great success … it’s not trying to push an agenda or anything, it’s about the films and filmmaking,” Dacey said. “It’s the only thing of its kind at Notre Dame.” Dacey points out although the term “queer cinema” is used in academia, the films sometimes deal with gay and lesbian issues and sometimes don’t. Though creators of the festival hoped it would raise awareness that gay members of the Notre Dame community are just like other members, they also hoped to challenge the perception of Notre Dame as intolerant.The festival will kick off Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with a screening of “Saved!” The movie, starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin, earned critical acclaim last year for its satirical depiction of a harshly judgmental Baptist high school. Director and writer Brian Dannelly will be on hand afterward for a question and answer session. Next will be a panel discussion on Friday at 1 p.m. entitled “The future of gay marriage.” The event will be moderated by David Pais, class of 1972, and features Sister Jeannine Gramick, professor Gail Bederman, Illinois Political Director of Equality Rick Garcia and Brendan Faye. Gramick is the star of “In Good Conscience,” the festival’s second film. Faye is the founder and co-chair of New York’s inclusive St. Patrick’s Parade and one of the first New Yorkers to marry in Canada in 2003.The screening of “In Good Conscience” will be at 3:30. The documentary follows Gramick, a Notre Dame alum who ministers to gay and lesbian Catholics, refused to stop her activities and attempted to take her case to the Vatican. She will be present for the question-and-answer session afterward with Barbara Rick, the director and producer of the film.The next film shown at 7 p.m. will be “Gay Pioneers.” The film tells the story of one of the first homosexual civil rights demonstrations in the United States in Philadelphia at a time when few publicly identified themselves as gay. “Gay Pioneers” follows the story of some of these first organized annual homosexual civil rights demonstrations from 1965-69. The film will be shown in conjunction with a brief presentation on gay history with Bederman. A question-and-answer session after will be held afterwards with activist Barbara Gittings and Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin.The first part of “Angels in America” will be shown at 9 p.m. Adapted from the play of the same name, the film starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep tells the story of a gay couple who begin to fall apart after one grows ill from AIDS. He begins to have religious visions of an angel, announcing he is a prophet.Saturday’s festivities begin with a panel at 11 a.m. entitled “From Script to Screen: The Screenwriting Process.” The panel will feature Terrence McNally, writer of the screenplay “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and Don Roos, director of “The Opposite of Sex,” “Bounce” and “Happy Endings,” which will debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The panel will be followed by a showing of the second part of “Angels in America” at 2 p.m.The final event will be a showing of “Love! Valour! Compassion!” at 7:30 p.m. The film is about eight gay male friends who leave behind the city for a summer in a secluded home in upstate New York. “Love! Valour! Compassion!” deals with many issues, including living with HIV-positive status, family problems and love triangles. McNally, who wrote the play as well as the screenplay, will host the question-and-answer session after the screening.University spokesman Matt Storin said there seemed to be a misunderstanding surrounding the event. While some were under the impression the films were pornographic in nature or films that wouldn’t be shown in downtown South Bend, that isn’t the case.”There are people who object to it and we respect those opinions,” Storin said. “But if we attempted to stop the culture of the United States of America in the year 2005 at the gate on Notre Dame Avenue and on Juniper Road, not only would that be a fruitless exercise, but we really wouldn’t be preparing our students for the world they’re going to enter into.”Even though people might protest the presence of events such as the Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival, Storin pointed out they should be taken in context with all the other events on campus that garner less attention but align more with what people might expect from a Catholic campus. He also pointed out the educational aspect of such events.”Better that [students] experience some of these things – not everything that’s out there, but some of these things – in the context of principles that are learned at this University in other classes than to have no grounding in these things and then graduate after four years and suddenly you’re thrust into that world,” Storin said.The fact many academic departments and groups are sponsoring the festival reflects the widespread support around campus for this event. The Queer Film Festival is sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College (GALA ND/SMC), the department of film, television and theatre, the department of English, the department of anthropology, the department of history, the Counseling Center and the Gender Studies Program. The events will all be held in the Performing Arts Center’s Browning Cinema.