Queer Women of Color Film Festival 2020

It’s hard enough to discover good LGBTQ+ films nowadays, let alone good film festivals. It wasn’t too long ago that there were few and far between in the United States. Thankfully, they are popping up more and more recently, much to the relief and excitement of queer film buffs all over the country. One such festival that stands out above the rest is the Queer Women of Color Film Festival, created by QWOCMAP, also known as Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project. They’re not just a film festival–they’re also an entire film organization, a production company, a community non-profit, and an all around inclusive and helpful resource for beginning filmmakers. Founded in 2000, QWOCMAP uses film and media to shatter stereotypes and bias, reveal inequality, and build a community centering on art and activism.

I first was introduced to Queer Women of Color Film Festival in June 2019, when I had the pleasure of attending their free Opening Night screening. I remember feeling really welcomed and safe in that space. QWOC Festival provided ASL interpreters in the lobby and theater, subtitles on the films for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and they featured a chant from a local Native American tribe. They also had crisis counselors ready and available, and a service animal seating section.

My favorite films in that screening were: “Waking Hour”, a short drama about a transgender Latina woman facing excitement and worries going home with a handsome stranger; “After You Left”, a drama about a woman who forlornly looks back on life with her ex; “Hot and Bothered”, a fresh and unconventional comedy about a black lesbian stoner stumbling through love and creating a queer dating app; and “Ukulele Girl”, a short but sweet comedy about a soulful musician protecting her dog from haters in the park. What I loved about all the films was that they were different, but also they were us. Creative, lyrical, beautiful, vulnerable, sexy, and warm. That night, there in the theater, as I stood up furiously clapping after the final film, I pledged then and there that my queer short romcom LoverGirl (which was in post-production at the time) would play in the festival the following year. It would turn out to be one of the greatest manifestations I had ever dreamed up so far.

a truly inclusive festival

Fast forward to March 2020, when I got that precious, anxiously awaited email–my film was accepted! It was the best news I could have gotten in the midst of a rapidly expanding global crisis. I was also impressed at their efforts to adjust and create a safe, viable viewing experience for all this year. Going virtual as a film festival can’t be easy! But the entire team managed to pull it off. Their 16th anniversary three-day screening “SafeSpace/NoPlace: LGBTQ People of Color” would feature a live watch party (featuring 31 films in total) and Q&A with participating filmmakers. The theme focused on the meaning of safety for LGBTQ+ people of color, both outside on the streets and inside homes typically thought of as safe. My friend and fellow attending filmmaker StormMiguel Florez, whose documentary “The Whistle” played alongside my film “LoverGirl”, also had nothing but good things to say about the festival. He especially appreciated that he got to “share it with my community in a whole different way.” For the full lineup of films, just click here.

The response to the screening and audience count was amazing–almost 1,000 viewers from all over! To say I had stepped outside of my comfort zone to participate in this truly inclusive festival is an understatement–but I’m so glad I did. To my relief, StormMiguel echoed my feelings of nervousness and excitement in participating–but he also expressed his happiness in attending a festival “where you can see films that represent you and your friends and community, where people who look like you are up on screen, and you’re not relegated to a smaller theater…but that the entire festival is centering our QT BIPOC communities and experiences.” Overall rating of Queer Women of Color Film Festival? 11/10! If you’re queer, a woman of color, or a film lover, I highly recommend you check them out and tune in for their future events and screenings. You never know what films will touch you and resonate with you. 

Want to keep up with what QWOCMAP is doing next? Follow along with the post-production journey of founder Madeleine Lim’s new documentary, titled “Jewelle: Art, Activism, & Vampire Futures”. It focuses on a Native American/African American lesbian elder named Jewelle Gomez, who holds many talents and titles. She is known as an author, poet, journalist, playwright, arts administrator, philanthropist, and activist.