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  issue 3.2 |  

Journal Issue 3.2
Fall 2011
Edited by Julie Ann Salthouse, Jillian Hernandez, Agatha Beins, Karen Alexander and Deanna Utroske
Editorial Assistants: A.J. Barks and Anna Zailik


Report from Queer Documentary Film Festival (QDoc, - Portland, Oregon

By Beth Hutchison


QDoc, the Queer Documentary Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, was founded in 2007 to support and showcase documentary filmmakers and films centered on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersexed (LGBTQQI) lives and experiences. The only such festival in the United States, QDoc screens documentaries that express the many diversities of LGBTQQI lives. Most screenings also feature conversations between the films' directors, participants, and QDoc audience members. QDoc films represent a broad range of experiences and identities relevant to LGBTQQI people and are chosen to visually represent the complexity of their lives and to stimulate discussions that enrich and strengthen their communities.
         The films screened at QDoc employ a variety of classic and experimental documentary techniques to illuminate the lived experiences of sexual and gender minority individuals and communities, creating bridges and grounds for understanding across differences.
     Since 2007, QDoc has screened numerous award-winning films--usually Portland or Northwest premieres--seen at top-tier festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Hot Docs, Tribeca, and Amsterdam. Emerging and established visiting artists--including three Academy Award-winning directors--have come from across the U.S. and from as far away as Italy, Australia, and New Zealand to participate in QDoc's lively post-film discussions. Audiences have seen more than 40 films, most of which would otherwise never have made it to Portland, and have been moved, informed, and entertained as they learned about the rich diversity of LGBTQQI lives, challenges, and triumphs.
       QDoc's founding co-directors are responsible for all aspects of festival administration, including film selection, liaising with film directors and distributors, securing sponsorships, making logistical arrangements, and coordinating the efforts of more than 50 volunteers. The festival coordinator for the Portland International Film Festival and event development manager for the Northwest Film Center, QDoc co-founding director Russ Gage has produced two feature-length documentaries to date and was formerly administrative and operations director for the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Co-founding director David Weissman is a filmmaker, activist, and teacher who has been prominent in the queer and indie filmmaking scenes for over 20 years. David produced and co-directed the 2002 feature-length documentary The Cockettes; his new documentary We Were Here, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance and Berlin International film festivals, is the first to take a deep look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. The festival relies on the skills and commitment of numerous friends of the festival. A professional theatre manager travels from New York City on her own time to supervise more than 40 volunteers who staff ticket sales and take on ushering duties. Additional volunteers shuttle out-of-town guests between airport, hotel, and screenings; create social media postings on Facebook and Twitter; and assist with publicity, fundraising, and sponsorships. Local foundations and sponsors provide funds and in-kind services to underwrite expenses including filmmakers' airfares and hotel rooms, theater rental, web design, and printing festival programs.
    For the past two years, QDoc has worked to create opportunities for youth under 24 to attend screenings at no cost. In 2011, a volunteer youth community outreach coordinator strengthened existing linkages with organizations like SMYRC, The Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center, and OutsideIn, an agency serving homeless youth , and created new ones with area gay-straight alliances, university student organizations, The Living Room (a safe haven for LGBTQQ Youth in nearby Clackamas County), and all-ages coffeehouses and music venues serving LGBTQQI youth. One of the programs in this year's festival featured films by and about queer youth, including 20 Straws: Growing Up Gay (Youth Video OUTreach Collective 2007); I'm Just Anneke (Jonathan Skurnik 2010); Always My Son (Vivian Kleiman 2009); and Put This on the {Map} (Megan Kennedy and Sid Peterson 2010).
     QDoc has a successful record of partnering with the Clinton Street Theatre and nearby businesses to create a welcoming environment for the four-day festival. The festival team prides itself on excellent hospitality and creating connections among festivalgoers and filmmakers.
       Filmmakers, sponsors, and festival goers enjoy a number of related events from a gala opening night party (in 2011 featuring Joey Arias, star of the 2010 film Arias with a Twist: The Docufantasy) to intimate dinners and brunches for out-of-town visitors. The audience community of QDoc is friendly, comprising a broad spectrum of LGBTQQI people and allies. Although a move to a new location in Portland is being explored, the intention is to choose a venue that offers neighborhood amenities with plenty of opportunities for pre- and post-screening interactions, as well as updated projection and screening capabilities.
    Through films expressing a broad range of documentary styles and viewpoints, QDoc makes visible the contradictions and commonalities of LGBTQQI communities, from a drag performer passing as female in Depression-era carnivals (Forever's Gonna Start Tonight, Michelle Lawler 2009) to a lesbian-feminist punk band in the 90s (Le Tigre on Tour, Kerthy Fix 2010), to contemporary struggles for human rights by gay men and lesbians in rural Pennsylvania (Out in the Silence, Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer 2009), to the lives of gender-queer urban youth (Put This on the {Map}, Megan Kennedy and Sid Peterson 2010) or sexual minorities in conservative religious settings (I Am, Sonali Gulati 2011).
    The eleven films featured in the 2011 QDoc lineup spanned documentary genres and subjects. Arias with a Twist: A Docufantasy combines a behind-the-scenes look at a show pairing the talents of chanteuse Joey Arias with puppeteer Basil Twists, along with scenes and reminiscenses dating back to Arias's early days in the 1980s Lower East Side punk-performance scene. Five additional films focused on individuals, whether the trajectory of a career (Passionate Politics: The Life and Work of Charlotte Bunch, Tami Gold 2010; The Advocate for Fagdom [Bruce LaBruce], Angelique Bosio 2011; Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel [drummer for Hole]; David Ebersole 2011) or the gender-confirming or confounding journeys depicted in the sold-out closing night film, Becoming Chaz (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2011) and The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Marie Losier, 2011), which chronicles the processes through which industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge and her partner Lady Jaye strove to become the same pandrogynous individual. On These Shoulders We Stand (Glenne McElhinney, 2009) and Inspired: Voices Against Prop 8 (Charlie Gage, 2011) contrast the political struggles of the Los Angeles gay community before and after the 1969 Stonewall uprising with the statewide protests against the 2008 passage of the California proposition defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Christopher Hines's 2010 film The Adonis Factor confronts the importance of physical appearance in gay male culture; Sonali Gulati's I Am captures the family relationships and experiences of a number of men and women who come out to their parents in contemporary India.
    Equally important, QDoc creates an intense, four-day community in which filmmakers and audience members create connections and discuss the public policy issues, histories, and common struggles as well as points of disjuncture and disagreement relevant to LGBTQQI people. By highlighting real lives, QDoc screenings help inform and stimulate debate over issues affecting diverse LGBTQQI communities. In addition, the films screened at QDoc take a broad view of LGBTQQI history and identity and can help viewers of all ages see that their struggles are not unique and that there is room for them within a community that can seem either invisible or (thanks to mainstream film and TV representations) all too monolithic in its white, upper-middle-class aspirations.


Beth Hutchison, member of the FFC Advisory Board, began volunteering with QDoc soon after moving to Portland in late 2009. A writer and editor who teaches online courses in women's and gender studies, she is documenting gay and lesbian blood drives, 1953-present.


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