A familiar and signature UW-Eau Claire event has a new name and an expanded mission. Now called freaQweek, the campus LGBTQ+ film festival continues as a flagship program of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, and has broadened in scope a bit and received a fancy new logo as well.
But have no fear — one of the biggest student-run campus film festivals of its type in the country remains just that, with some added bonuses.
Building on the Eau Queer Film Festival’s successful nine-year run, freaQweek reconceptualizes this cornerstone program. Christopher Jorgenson, director of the GSRC, pays homage to the film festival, while expanding freaQweek to include additional community connections, a heightened emphasis on the San Francisco student immersion experience, and an opportunity for prospective LGBTQIA+ students to enjoy firsthand UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
“Without Pam Forman and Ellen Mahaffy, there would’ve been no Eau Queer Film Festival, a groundbreaking campus program. With freaQweek, we hope to honor EQFF’s contributions to queer education, activism and advocacy at UW-Eau Claire, while expanding to include a handful of additional programmatic elements, not the least of which is increased community-campus collaboration," Jorgenson says.
The language used in rebranding the event was with done with thoughtful intention, Jorgenson says.
"Renaming the event freaQweek, by virtue of its very title, demands attention. It is an intentional invocation of 'freak discourse,' whereby identities and bodies failing to conform to rigid notions of normalcy have so often been cast out as 'other.' With freaQweek, we harness the near-universal experience of feeling judged, ostracized, less-than, and, through a queer lens, provide an opportunity to redefine those experiences toward empowerment and advocacy. 'Letting your freaQ flag fly,' then, is an invitation to reclaim oneself for oneself," he says.
Storytelling is the beating heart of freaQweek. Each summer, the freaQweek student cohort travels to San Francisco, collectively screening hundreds of films at the Frameline Film Festival, which takes place during San Francisco Pride. The students then experience the lengthy and intense process of curating a robust weeklong program, selecting the films and programming intended to celebrate queer resistance, advocacy, activism and education.
According to the event website, "freaQweek is meant to be entertaining, but it is not meant to be easy." Attendees will face the demands of examining racism, white supremacy and anti-LGBTQIA+ prejudice. It is a process that requires critical self-reflection, unpacking of implicit and explicit biases, ultimately laying bare the ways in which we all either "reify and perpetuate systemic oppression, or work to interrogate and dismantle it."
Kallie Friede, a 2017 UW-Eau Claire graduate and former GSRC intern, is associate director of freaQweek and associate student services coordinator in the GSRC. She has seen for years how this film festival becomes a catalyst for conversation that persists beyond the event and has helped to establish programming that made UW-Eau Claire the top school in the state for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff.
"What's unique about a program like freaQweek is that it allows us to have intentional, hard conversations via film, which becomes an avenue through which we can discuss gender, race, class, ability, sexual violence, etc. The films become this incredible conversation-starter for topics and issues we will continue to engage with throughout the rest of the academic year," Friede says.
According to Jorgenson, an event like freaQweek is essential in the face of many societal factors.
"The vitriol currently imbuing American politics, as well as numerous attacks against LGBTQIA+ communities, highlight the need for this programming," he says. "freaQweek offers LGBTQIA+ people and allies countless opportunities to operationalize their advocacy by exploring the sheer diversity of queer lived experiences around the globe. Education leads to advocacy. Advocacy leads to activism. Activism, intentional and intersectional, requires an acknowledgment that queer programming is worth everyone's time and consideration."
Creators and curators
The inaugural 2019 freaQweek cohort is composed of students who share a multitude of interests and talents, along with a collective passion for LGBTQIA+ advocacy. Their stated purpose is to create an event that connects campus and the surrounding community and engages participants in understanding identities. 2019 cohort members are:
Front row (from left): Annie Titus, Sarah Ferraro, Katrina Kawak, Amelia Montie, Joe Luginbill (community outreach liaison) and Sophia Spittlemeister
Back row (from left): Kallie Friede (associate student services coordinator, GSRC), Casper Crump, Aja St. Germaine, Matthew Breunig, Brandon Wegner, Christopher Jorgenson (director, GSRC).
freaQweek calendar highlights:
All events are free and open to students, faculty, staff and community members.
- Monday, Oct. 7: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The week kicks off with a queer concert, in conjunction with the University Activities Commission and UW-Eau Claire Homecoming.
- Opening night film, "The Infiltrators," Woodland Theater, Davies Center, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday, Oct. 8: films at noon, 3 p,m., 5 p.m. in Woodland Theater; film at 7 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.
- Wednesday, Oct. 9: LGBTQ Admissions Day for admitted students and families; films at noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Woodland Theater.
- Thursday, Oct. 10: Student presentations at noon. Cohort to discuss San Francisco immersion experience in Woodland Theater; films at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Woodland Theater.
- Friday, Oct. 11: National Coming Out Day, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Campus Mall. Films at noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m. in Woodland Theater; film at 7 p.m. at State Theatre Grand Reopening in downtown Eau Claire.
- Saturday, Oct. 12: Films at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., Woodland Theater.
Top image caption: While the focus of the immersion trip to San Francisco was attending the Frameline Film Festival, the freaQweek cohort was also encouraged to attend San Francisco Pride events, such as the Dyke March, the Pride Parade and the Trans March depicted here. (Photo by Aja St. Germaine)