As recognition for same-sex partnerships spreads across the US and parts of the world, so too do “religious freedom” laws that are simply discrimination by another name. While trans voices and figures gain unprecedented visibility in a variety of mediums, the insultingly ignorant barrage of invasive questions are never far away. And with so many nations passing draconian anti-LGBT legislation, matters of sexual identity and orientation have begun to factor into foreign policy and international treaties on human rights.
In this climate, even the most basic demand for recognition and equal treatment under the law cannot help but have a political edge that is no less sharp than when the Boston LGBT Film Festival first began 31 years ago. Over those three decades, queer cinema has moved from art houses and the radical underground to multiplexes and award recognition, yet these advances have not spelled total equality in the mainstream.
“Every year is different,” says Executive Director James Nadeau. “There was a period of time where there were a lot of films about gay marriage. There were a lot of films about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It’s almost like you ride a wave a year behind pop culture. People are making and recording films about stuff as it’s occurring around them, and then a year later they start to emerge as a feature film. This year’s hot topic ends up being next year’s theme.”
The two diverging yet related themes in the current slate deal with crucial questions of LGBT life on both the micro and macro level. The festival has always featured films from all over the world, but some of this year’s selections may raise some eyebrows, from Romania and Indonesia, all over Latin America and even dangerous environments as Russia and China. “I tend to like to remind people,” says Nadeau, “especially in Boston and Massachusetts, where we’ve had gay marriage for 10 years … that the struggle goes on in other countries. And it is very much a life or death situation for many people. You can get married in Massachusetts, move to the suburbs, adopt kids … Not everybody has that right.”
On a more personal yet equally topical note are investigations into the broadening definition of queerness itself. Among the many romantic comedies (Day of Youth), stand-up documentaries (Nerdgasm), family dramas (Winning Dad) and genres as diverse as the community itself, are intriguing examinations into areas that as yet have been cinematically unexplored.
“Films that are about the bi experience are very rare. I think that this year is one of the first years where we’ve had a bunch of films about bisexual communities,” explains Nadeau. “Hide and Seek is probably the first polyamorous film that we’ve played. … We’re expanding the notion of what queer can be. Does the poly community feel part of the queer community? … And do we embrace everything that can be queer? I think we should.”
No matter your level of political engagement, your own identity or orientation, or familiarity with the history of queer cinema, the Boston LGBT Film Festival has something to offer for anyone who believes in social, political, artistic and legal equality.
Boston LGBT Film Festival
Thu 4/2 – Thu 4/12
40 Brattle St.
Also catch the festival at:
Institute of Contemporary Art
100 Northern Ave., Boston
Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Ave., Boston
Bright Family Screening Room
559 Washington St., Boston