Starts with a 'Q' 

Queer As Film Fest includes Fall of '55

The streets of Boise are slowly being carpeted by colorful leaves this fall while the Boise State Special Events Center and The Flicks prep to screen films to match the changing of the times. October 19 through 21 is slated for the fourth annual Queer as Film, a three-day cinematic extravaganza celebrating of the GLBTQ community locally and beyond.

For Laurie Blakeslee and Jennie Myers, two of QAF's many organizers, the film festivities are a labor of love come to fruition. "She juggles everything," Blakeslee slyly remarks about Myers' handling of the project. Both are prominent artists, with Blakeslee serving as an assistant professor of photography at Boise State and Myers working as head of promotions for the university. Both women have worked assiduously on the project for a year now with the overall goal of bringing films most Boiseans would never see.

"It's about bringing independent queer cinema to Boise and showing it on the big screen, rather than having to go to The Flicks and rent something or going [through] NetFlix," says Blakeslee.

Myers says the event is patterned after larger GLBTQ film festivals in more populous cities, such as Los Angeles' Outfest. Many of the films screened at these well-known film festivals are considered for inclusion in QAF each year. Queer as Film is co-sponsored by the Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Board of Boise State as part of the QueerID Conference, a dually academic and art conference featuring keynote speaker author/activist Leslie Feinberg on October 18 at 6 p.m. in the Boise State Special Events Center.

In comparing other media, Blakeslee has an adroit sense of why film is so popular and evocative. She says, "When you think about the art world and what is going to win [the audience], it sure isn't going to be my photography or any painting, it's film ... it's one of the biggest art forms in the United States."

But don't think you have to be gay to have a piece of queer cinematic cake--Myers says, depending on the film, there is something for everyone.

Opening for QAF on October 19 at 7 p.m. is Loggerheads, a film by Tim Kirkman who also penned the screenplay. In smalltown North Carolina, a minister's wife, played by Tess Harper, confronts her husband about their adopted son's estrangement. Then there's Grace, played by Bonnie Hunt, who is disappointed by her life as an airport car-rental agent and starts working to find the son she gave up for adoption. Kip Pardue plays Mark, a drifter fascinated by loggerhead turtles, who later finds companionship with George (played by Michael Kelly), a resident of a quiet North Carolina beach community. The lives of these people create a complex and highly emotional work based on a true story. With Kirkman available for a Q&A session following the film, Loggerheads is an illustrious debut for QAF with this year.

For those who missed the opening Boise screening of The Fall of '55 at the Egyptian Theatre two weeks ago, another screening is set for Saturday, October 21, at 4:30 p.m. also in the Special Events Center. A fascinating and disturbing documentary, The Fall of '55 details through vivid interviews and diligent research a witch hunt instigated by Boise authorities in search of a "sex ring" of men preying on teenage boys.

The film debuted in New York earlier this year, according to Fall of '55 director and writer Seth Randal. "I had a long Q&A with the audience, and they were very curious about Boise--the politics, the gay community," Randal says, also commenting on the reception of the film. "I was just floored by the local response to the film last week." As part of the Idaho International Film Festival, the Egyptian Theater screened Fall of '55 to a sold-out crowd and had to turn away about 100 people.

To the surprise of audience members, the documentary lucidly depicts frenzied homophobic attitudes expressed by community members and the local press from 1955 through 1956. Despite the austerity of such events, the documentary has its light-hearted moments. A cute, elderly woman interviewed describes the term many Boiseans used for homosexuals in 1955. With a shy smirk on her face, "I'm not comfortable with saying it ... it starts with a 'q'," which caused the crowd at the Egyptian screening, composed of many members of the gay community, to erupt in laughter.

The Fall of '55 features historic footage of Boise, creating both a nostalgic feeling for older crowds and a sense of wonder to younger Boise residents. The film's depiction of the insidious level of paranoia would make Henry Miller proud, not to mention the amount of hysterical, anti-gay propaganda disseminated at that time.

Randal says the entire process of creating the film took about six years, with preliminary research conducted in 2000 and final editing finished in early 2006. "This was a community project," he says, mentioning the colossal amounts of research and cooperation from many people in Boise to ensure the completion of the film. "I led the team, but we received help from dozens and dozens of people in the Boise area helping to do research, helping work on the crew, donating time in other ways, hosting house parties, making contributions to "The Friends of The Fall of '55," and giving moral support. There were so many Idahoans who wanted to help tell the story. I'm so grateful that they shared my vision and trusted me to tell the story in a fair way."

Despite its well-received acclaim, it wasn't always smooth sailing for the crew of Fall of '55. Many involved with the prosecuted cases did not want to comment for the documentary. "For some, it was a deeply painful time for their families. I have great empathy for those people. Still, this was a pivotal time in our community's history, so we worked hard to tell the story in a way that would minimize additional harm to people who had already been deeply scarred by the events of 1955," Randal says.

Through thick and thin, the telling of these stories through The Fall of '55 has garnered the respect of the national cinema community. Randal recently learned of an invitation to screen the film at Reeling, Chicago's Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, though the time and place of the screening is yet to be determined.

With a wide artistic gamut of full-length films and shorts being screened at Queer as Film 2006, now is the time to get out of the house (or closet) and seize the chance to embrace truly diverse cinematic perspectives in your community.

Tickets for QAF are $24 for an all-films pass, $8 opening night and $6 individual tickets for general audiences; $18 for an all-films pass, $6 opening night and $4 individual tickets for students. All tickets are available for purchase at Flying M Coffeehouse and at the door. See www.queerasfilmboise.org for a complete list of films.

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