Festival not dead
Letter to the Editor | Monday, March 2, 2009
In 2004, I was among a small group of faculty, students and alumni who founded the first Notre Dame Queer Film Festival. Personally, I pitched the Festival to five academic departments and had one-on-one meetings with then-University President Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy, then-provost Dr. Nathan Hatch and Fr. Mark Poorman. By the end of the Festival, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh gave us his blessing. For the following two years, I continued to be one of the Festival organizers and helped program the films and guests. Currently, I am the secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College (GALA ND/SMC).
Tom O’Neil’s Feb. 16th letter titled “How Notre Dame sneakily killed off the Queer Film Festival” gave an apt description of University President Fr. John Jenkin’s efforts to “contain” and limit the Queer Film Festival. Mainly, the Jenkins team sought to improve the University’s public relations by not shutting down the Film Festival, just putting a lot of red tape around it. In turn, this would satisfy disgruntled alumni (and bishops) while at the same time not making the front page of The New York Times for being discriminatory. Ironically, his first move – to make us remove the word “queer” from the title – stripped the Festival of its academic merit. This is because “queer” is what Academia calls gay and lesbian studies. Colleges that provide degrees in this discipline include Yale University, the University of Maryland, University of California, Berkeley, UCLA, California State University Northridge and DePaul University, to name a few.
Throughout all this, however, it is important to note that several key people continued to try to make the Film Festival continue. The department of Film, Television, and Theater, for instance, remained supportive and helpful despite intense pressure from the administration to do otherwise. And, while there is red tape around the Queer Film Festival, its coffin is far from being nailed shut. The Festival was not shut down. That is worth repeating: the Festival was not shut down.
Because of this, the real power remains in all of you – the student body. And you can do it, because Father Jenkins gave you permission to in his 2006 ruling, saying that he was “very determined that we not suppress speech on this campus.” How can such an endeavor be accomplished again? We put together the first Queer Film Festival by working within the parameters of the University. The first step is to work with the departments to construct a mission statement that is both pragmatic and inspirational. Use that as your springboard to move forward. GALA ND/SMC is here to help along the way. Just remember: the festival can happen again, but only by your initiatives. Back in 1978, Harvey Milk said: “I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help.” If the Notre Dame community took Milk’s advice to heart, just imagine how many signs there would be inside and surrounding the Golden Dome.
class of ’04