For three decades, Out On Screen has proudly showcased films that illuminate the everyday and transformative moments in the lives of queer, trans, and two-spirit people. What began as a small group of queer friends and family gathered together to create space for queer film in 1988, has grown to the second largest film festival in Vancouver, screening the best in independent queer media and performance from around the world. I am proud and excited to be working with a diverse community of artists and advocates who believe in the transformative power of queer art. During my tenure as Artistic Director, I endeavour to work towards an arts scene and film world that prioritizes those of us who continue to be underrepresented in the stories we see on screen and on stage: two-spirit people, queer and trans people of colour, queer and trans sex workers, immigrants, women, queer and trans people living in poverty and all those who live on the fringes of our already marginalized community. My programming always puts an emphasis on our intersectional identities, struggles, and joys.
Recent years have proven groundbreaking for queer cinema, moving away from the dominance of coming-out stories and into mainstream box office success. We are seeing queer filmmakers taking aesthetic and narrative risks, creating art that pushes boundaries, and takes audiences into new queer territories. I feel very fortunate to be witnessing the artistry, intelligence, and courage of queer film today.
As greatly as I am heartened by the increase of representation for us in the mainstream, I hope also for the longevity of dangerous and subversive queer art. I want our weirdness, our freakiness, our subversiveness to continue to flourish. As our stories become more palatable to the mainstream, independent queer film festivals face a unique challenge to remain relevant and representative to our communities. I truly believe in the power of gathering together, of sharing an emotional experience together as queer people. And that’s something you can’t get from the LGBT section on Netflix, or at a screening in a chain theatre. When we gather, we get the opportunity to collaborate in an ecstatic collective experience, of laughter or outrage or tears, and a view into fully realized worlds.
I hope for the queer art I program to keep troubling audiences, as much as it moves us. To make us uncomfortable, to question our safety and normalcy, and unite us across our differences so we can fight for each other to thrive in an increasingly tense and dangerous world. Because great art and storytelling, when it comes down to it, beautifully, brutally and honestly represents the humanity that we all share. Even and especially when it pushes us. Even and especially when we are uncomfortable. The work of art is not to protect us, but to push us into new intellectual and emotional discoveries, to deepen our understandings of ourselves and others.
I believe art is our most powerful weapon in the fight for liberation and justice. Art is our most compassionate and intelligent tool for resistance, if we are to survive and thrive in a world that is unceasingly hostile towards us. Art making can do the important work of building empathetic connections between us, between people on screen, on stage and in theatre seats, to create a story we live together.
Most importantly, my programming takes place on the unceded traditional and ancestral homelands of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are privileged to be guests on this land, both welcome and unwelcome. As a predominantly settler organization and arts platform, we have responsibility to be in right relations with the Indigenous peoples on whose lands we live, work, and play. Our work to be better guests is never-ending, imperfect and in process. As a curator on these lands I know that I must remain humble and dedicated to this work, and never take it for granted that I am here because of legacies of on-going violence and occupation.
I am grateful for this revolutionary moment in queer representation in film, and simultaneously hope and know there are many queer years ahead of us, to make the world all the more beautiful and dangerous with our stories. Queer art and artists are vital to keep the landscape of this city vibrant, to make sure Vancouver doesn’t just turn into a city of white, sterilized condos and coffee shops. We need to continue to be what makes this city interesting, confusing, exciting. Our work is not done, and I’m so excited to see what new queer worlds we can build together. Ultimately, programming is a collaboration, not only with my colleagues, but with you, our beloved audiences. Don’t just take my word for it– come see for yourself.