Student event planner helps bring Eau Queer Film Festival to life

| Judy Berthiaume

Knowing it’s impossible to have one-on-one conversations with all of her 10,000+ Blugold peers about the equity, diversity and inclusivity issues she’s so passionate about, Kallie Friede is doing the next best thing — she’s helping organize events that encourage conversation around EDI issues that are critical to UW-Eau Claire’s goal of being a safe and welcoming place for everyone.

This fall, as an intern in the Women’s & LGBTQ+ Resource Center, Kallie is helping to plan and bring to life two of those high-profile events: UW-Eau Claire’s National Coming Out Day celebration and the Eau Queer Film Festival.

The Oct. 11 National Coming Out Day events will coincide with the start of the five-day Eau Queer Film Festival, one of the few student-led film festivals of its kind in the country.

During the festival, six documentaries and several other feature and short films will screen, each touching on the event’s 2016 theme, “Power, Privilege, and Protest: It’s Personal. It’s Political.”

The 2016 Eau Queer Film Festival will open at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 in Davies Center with director Jonah Markowitz’s powerful documentary, “Political Animals” (2016). Featuring the first four out lesbian former California legislators, the film follows legislative battles in the 1990s that helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.

The full EQFF schedule is online.

A senior public relations and women’s studies major from River Falls, Kallie took some time to share her thoughts about the events, as well as the valuable experiences UW-Eau Claire provides her and other students by encouraging their involvement in planning and running high-profile campus events such as EQFF.  

Tell us about your role in bringing the seventh annual Eau Queer Film Festival to life.

This year for EQFF I was one of three student directors, along with Devin Dawson, a senior social work major from Flint, Michigan, and Cori Tosch, a junior English major from Ashland.

My focus specifically has been on programming. I emailed all of the directors to inquire about the cost of films, negotiated some of the prices and helped create the lineup for this year’s EQFF.

This is my first year being directly involved in the film festival. In the past years, I’ve attended the film festival but was never an active member of the staff or a volunteer.

What do you look for in films selected for EQFF?

We wanted films that were going to inspire students and engage them in discussions they may or may not have had prior to the film festival.

More than that, we wanted queer students and community members to see themselves reflected on screen. Hollywood films are inundated with straight, white, cisgender characters. If you’re a queer person, a gender non-conforming person, a queer person of color, etc., there might not be Hollywood characters who resonate with you. That shouldn’t be an issue.

We tried to bring films that would resonate with a variety of students.

It‘s inevitable that not every single person will love every single film. When picking films, we tried to be cognizant of what conversations we’ve had with students before and what sort of films might resonate really well with UW-Eau Claire faculty, students and staff as well as community members in the broader Chippewa Valley.

How do National Coming Out Day events tie into this year’s EQFF?

National Coming Out Day is always a fun event and having it in the middle of the campus mall always draws a lot of students. I’m excited for it to be the kickoff of our film festival.

Oftentimes students are really energized after NCOD so I think it will be important to funnel them to the film festival that night for a great documentary, energizing special guests, and a film festival designed for students who may not have felt represented in film yet in their lives.

I’m really excited for opening night!

How do you think EQFF benefits the campus community?

A big conversation that universities across the nation are having right now is about diversity. Diversity can be marked in a lot of different ways.

What we want to ensure is that students who are part of marginalized groups on our campus are having positive experiences.

Realistically, we know that we can’t prevent every single bias incident that might happen. What we can do is let students know that there is a community for them and that there are people at the university who will work tirelessly to create a university environment that they enjoy being a part of. To steal words from Chris Jorgenson, we want students to thrive at UW-Eau Claire and provide them with support and connections when the moments happen where they feel disconnected.

In reality, it’s the students who come from a place of privilege who need to create safe spaces. Queer students, students of color, etc., are very clear about what racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia sound like, look like and feel like. If people who make racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic comments aren’t critiqued and educated on why what they’re saying is so harmful, then we won’t see change in the important ways that we need to on campus.

EQFF can create space for marginalized students to find community while also challenging students with an immense amount of privileges to confront their own personal biases and prejudices head on.

How has being involved in planning this event enhanced your college experience?

Something that is incredibly unique about UW-Eau Claire is how much student involvement and leadership we have for large campus events. The EQFF was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

So often when we learn about marginalized groups and inequality in a variety of spaces, we want to be an active part of working against those stereotypes and oppressions. There’ve been many moments in the classroom when I’ve wanted to do some sort of activism but haven’t known exactly how to do that.

Because of the opportunities I’ve had and the university staff I’ve been connected with outside of the classroom, I’ve had an abundance of opportunities to step outside of the classroom and put what I’m learning to work. My work as an intern in the Women’s & LGBTQ Resource Center kick-started that for me.

My first semester as an intern, I planned the National Coming Out Day event. This year, which will be my last National Coming Out Day on this campus as an undergraduate student, I’m helping to plan the National Coming Out Day event in conjunction with the opening night of the Eau Queer Film Festival.

Not only does it feel like it’s really come full circle for me as I get ready to graduate, but it also feels like I’m doing work that matters.

We can’t sit down with every student individually and talk about queer issues. Ultimately, the choice to have that conversation and learn about those inequalities lies in the hands of each individual student. I want the Eau Queer Film Festival to start that conversation for students. College should be a time of immense personal growth and going to things that challenge the way we view the world is really, to me, the best way to do that.  

It’s also been meaningful to me to foster relationships with other students who are grappling with the same social issues and personal issues that I am. Coming into the film festival, we had a group of students and faculty who had largely never worked together. Now, it’s a group of people that I can discuss really complex issues with and people that I can really rely on which is a pretty powerful experience.

They challenge me to think intersectionally, and they’ve presented so many great learning opportunities throughout the course of this experience.

How might your work planning EQFF and other events influence your future?

After I graduate, I want to go to graduate school for student affairs.

Working as a student director has allowed me to be behind-the-scenes and in charge of large parts of events I could potentially try to replicate at a different university after I finish my graduate program. It has also given me firsthand experience of the work that student affairs really does at universities.

Anything you want to add?

I wrote a blog for our website about what it was like to be an ally at a queer film festival.

This answers more of why it was so important for me to be a part of the film festival.

Photo caption: Kallie Friede is among the students helping to plan and run the Eau Queer Film Festival this fall.