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Queer Film Festival met with praise, protest

Steve Kerins | Monday, February 14, 2005

Notre Dame’s second annual Queer Film Festival concluded Saturday after attracting large crowds to the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts and fueling debate over how gay and lesbian issues are addressed on a Catholic campus.In addition to the festival’s films, which touched on various aspects of homosexuality, a panel discussing the future of gay marriage featured Sister Jeannine Gramick, the subject of festival film “In Good Conscience;” Gail Bederman, a Notre Dame history professor; and Brendan Fay, the founder of New York’s inclusive St. Patrick’s Parade.Fewer than 10 attendees gathered both inside and outside the performing arts center prior to Friday’s panel. They handed out a variety of texts, including copies of a section of the Catechism referring to homosexuality, background information about Gramick and statements concerning the Queer Film Festival from Bishop John D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese.D’Arcy criticized Notre Dame’s sponsorship of the festival Thursday, arguing that such an event was “an abuse of academic freedom.” He sent a letter to the South Bend Tribune that heavily criticized the event’s organizers for not considering the Catholic opinion, especially since Notre Dame is a Catholic university. Senior Lauren Galgano, co-president of Notre Dame Right to Life and writer for Advocata Nostra, expressed reservations about the Queer Film Festival because she felt the Catholic perspective on homosexuality was not a key part of the festival’s dialogue. “I did not feel that all viewpoints were addressed fairly,” she said.Galgano expressed specific concerns about the panel, which addressed the future of gay marriage. “A man from the audience who works at the Hesburgh Library was pulled down onto the panel by the moderator,” she said. “Without him, there would have been no balance as to the Catholic viewpoint and no counter-arguments … [the other panelists] only focused on why it is important that [gay marriage] is recognized.”Despite the controversy that arose at the panel, which was largely due to debate about Catholic representation among the speakers, many students responded positively to the event and viewed the festival as an educational opportunity for the Notre Dame community.”I think that it’s good for Notre Dame students to be exposed to different lifestyles,” sophomore Casey Stanton said. “And [the Queer Film Festival] is an opportunity to see artists express themselves in cinema and to discuss these issues in an open forum. Members of the gay community that I know on campus all reacted to it positively, and I hope it continues.”Many students believed the festival succeeded in increasing awareness on campus about gay and lesbian issues. “I think [the panel] went very well,” said senior Day Zimlich, a member of AllianceND, an unrecognized student organization. “[D’Arcy] kind of had to make that statement … it really didn’t bother me, though. I think a lot of people came out in support of the gay and lesbian community here at ND, and we had a really good time.”The three-day festival opened Thursday night with a sold-out showing of the film “Saved!,” which used humor to critique animosity between gay culture and conservative Christianity. A question-and-answer session followed with writer/director Brian Dannelly, who was recently honored by “Out” magazine as one of the top 100 men of 2004.Other films featured included “In Good Conscience,” a documentary about Gramick’s refusal to be silenced by the Vatican for ministering to the gay and lesbian community. “Gay Pioneers” documented the early gay rights movement. The first part of the HBO series “Angels in America” and an adaptation of Terrence McNally’s play “Love! Valour! Compassion!” were also shown.