Skip to main content
COVID-19 updates from UW-Eau Claire   READ MORE »

Eau Queer Festival to feature student films

| Rose Mish

This summer I took the most challenging class of my college career. But like most things in life, the more challenging, the more rewarding it is.  

Back in May, I signed up for the LGBTQ Studies: San Francisco Travel Seminar. Jointly taught by Pam Forman and Ellen Mahaffy, the class was a crash course in queer theory and documentary filmmaking. In our first meeting we were given a list of topics — a starting point for deciding what to make our documentaries about.

We were divided into groups of three and then had to choose a topic to research. My group chose homelessness in the LGBTQ community, another chose transgender representation and the last chose to research the group called Gay Shame. Each of these ideas for our films evolved as we researched them and tried to figure out who to interview about them in San Francisco.

For my documentary, "Seeking Shelter," in collaboration with Cori Tosch and Mike Rea, we focused our film on queer youth that end up homeless in San Francisco. While "Housing First," a documentary made in the course two years ago, discussed the housing crisis and rising prices of rent in San Francisco due to the tech boom, our film took a slightly different approach.

In America, many LGBTQ youth end up homeless because they are running away from home often because of socioeconomic status, not feeling safe in their communities and/or feeling that they are not accepted by their families. Because San Francisco has been heralded as a sort of “queer mecca,” many youth will come to the city looking for acceptance. Instead they find a city with sky-high rents and a severe lack of affordable housing.

This narrative has been seen in New York as well, as queer youth from all over the country flee to larger cities to escape racist and homophobic environments. There is no clear singular solution to San Francisco’s disproportionate rate of LGBTQ homelessness, but we found through our research and interviews that there are many activists working to get more affordable housing and to make sure there are at least LGBTQ-friendly emergency shelters in place.

During the process of filming our own documentaries in San Francisco, we also attended the Frameline LGBTQ International Film Festival. It was incredible to see so many amazing, high production value LGBTQ films in such a short amount of time. During our fortnight stay in San Francisco, each of us attended more than 15 film screenings! We even met a few directors and talked to them about bringing their films to our little film festival in Eau Claire.

Here in the Midwest, we have very little exposure to LGBTQ culture and history and unless you’re a women’s studies major, you’ll never learn about New Queer Cinema. There has historically been minimal or negative representation of LGBTQ+ identities in movies, so in the 1990s, independent filmmakers started making films featuring protagonists with diverse sexual identities and rejecting the heteronormativity of mainstream media.

These positive representations of queer identities in movies are vitally important to the world because film is one of the biggest storytelling media in the modern world. Young people especially want to be able to relate to the characters they see in movies, and New Queer Cinema does that. Queer film also strives to tell stories about the endless different experiences that LGBTQ folks face across the world. The Eau Queer Film Festival always makes a point to bring international films (in addition to U.S.-made films) to our festival, so that our campus community can learn about cultures of different countries and how they relate to LGBTQ+ identities.

After months of work, we are finally ready to present a lineup of 11 screenings of feature and short films in the Woodland Theater of Davies Center. Come grab a bag of popcorn and join us for some amazing films this week at our Sixth Annual Eau Queer Film Festival! The festival begins Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. and runs though Sunday, Oct. 4. The complete film schedule can be found on our website: eauqueer.com.

Photo by Ellen Mahaffy