This week marks the sixth annual Eau Queer Film Festival at UW-Eau Claire, a celebration of cinema created to showcase student work and LGBTQ films from around the world. The 2015 festival theme, “Beyond Binaries,” brings films that challenge the typically dichotomous norms of gender, sexual orientation and relationships depicted in mainstream cinema.
“The theme illustrates the plurality of sexual and gender identities, which are evoked in many of this year’s films,” EQFF student director Ryan Spaight said.
Founded by associate professor of communication and journalism Ellen Mahaffy and associate professor of sociology Pam Forman, the Eau Queer Film Festival stands out as one of just a few university queer film festivals remaining in the United States. According to Mahaffy and Forman, film festivals offer a unique viewing experience, which is key to the overall campus and community purpose of this project.
“Film festivals bring a community together and create awareness of minority thoughts, voices and ideas to the larger public,” Mahaffy explained. “With YouTube, Netflix and video-on-demand, watching film has become increasingly an isolating experience. Film festivals are a way to create shared experience and make connections.”
Producer, animator and journalist Sharon Shattuck, director of EQFF’s opening night film, "From This Day Forward," will be in attendance for a question-and-answer session after the screening of her film at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30. The 75-minute documentary is a window into the lives of a Michigan family and an intimate story about transgender identity.
Eau Queer is the culmination of the San Francisco women’s studies seminar course, in which Mahaffy and Forman take students to San Francisco to screen films at the Frameline LGBTQ International Film Festival and to make documentary shorts on LGBTQ issues, which are featured in the UW-Eau Claire festival. Beyond having their work showcased, students learn valuable skills in event planning and public relations.
“Over the years, we have figured out how to teach this course better and make our students be more intentional with the films they are making. The films have become more nuanced, inquisitive and sociological,” Forman said about the student documentaries.
This year’s student-produced shorts delve into the meaning of LGBTQ pride, homelessness in San Francisco and transgender activists’ struggle for recognition within the queer community:
- “Pride! Pride?,” directed by Lisa Krawczyk, Hunter Mattison and Nancy Vang, is a a critical look at the meaning of LGBTQ pride and the direction of the queer movement in the post-marriage era.
- “Seeking Shelter,” directed by Rose Mish, Mike Rea and Cori Tosch, discusses the predicament of homelessness facing San Francisco’s queer community.
- “TLGB,” directed by James Ebben, Emily Monka and Helen White, brings awareness to the invisibility of the transgender community within the queer community.
During their time in San Francisco, students spend a week in the Castro district — the first “gay neighborhood” and one of most prominent symbols of LGBTQ activism in the U.S. The Castro is a travel destination, known for its shops, restaurants, historical sites and frequent lively events, but is not immune to the sorts of poverty and homelessness found in major cities, issues that became a focal point of some of the student documentary work.
“While working on the filming for our documentary, I saw kindness in strangers and evil in money-hungry mega corporations,” said Eau Queer publicity director Cori Tosch. “I saw people sleeping in their urine on the sidewalks, and I met people who were devoting their lives to homelessness relief. This course tore me from my comfort zone and tested every ability that I hold.”
The Eau Queer Film Festival and the San Francisco travel seminar course have been funded by UW-Eau Claire’s Domestic Intercultural Immersion Experiences Program, Blugold Commitment differential tuition grants, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and UW-Eau Claire Foundation since 2010.
Speaking for Student Senate and their ongoing financial support of this project through the allocation of Blugold Commitment funds, student body president Jake Wrasse pointed out the need for strong LGBTQ programming on campus.
“The Eau Queer Film Festival is a perfect fit for Blugold Commitment funding, as it not only affects those who work on it but engages the UW-Eau Claire community in a conversation about the fight for equality that persists in our country,” Wrasse said. “The importance of that endeavor cannot be overstated.”
All Eau Queer films and discussions are free of charge and open to the public.
To see the Eau Queer Film Festival schedule and learn more about the films, visit eauqueer.com, read the EQFF blog at eqff.tumblr.com, find EQFF on Facebook and Twitter, or contact Ryan Spaight, EQFF student director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top photo: The 2015 Eau Queer staff includes, from the left, photographer and trailer director Helen White, festival director Ryan Spaight, graphic designer Sierra Lomo, website designer Hunter Mattison, publicity director Cori Tosch, social media coordinator Emily Monka (seated), festival assistant director Rose Mish, and co-executive directors Pam Forman and Ellen Mahaffy.
Photo within story: Seminar students attended the Framline LGBTQ International Film Festival at the famed Castro theater, where they screened films for selections to include in the Eau Queer line-up.