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Monday, May 27, 2024
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DC LGBTQ+ center presents 30th annual Reel Affirmations Film Festival

The festival screened over 50 films with LGBTQ+ themes and storylines

From Oct. 20-27, the DC Center for the LGBT Community presented Reel Affirmations, an annual film festival celebrating LGBTQ+ identities and film and media., 

The event was in partnership with Capital Pride, Gilead Sciences, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning affairs and the D.C. Department of Aging and Community Living.

Founded in 1991, the festival aims to provide a space for LGBTQ+ filmmakers and aficionados to thrive among their art. The festival was originally created by co-founders of the organization “One in Ten,” an LGBTQ+ arts organization that facilitated the annual Capital Pride in 1995.

The first Reel Affirmations festival was held at the Biograph Theater in Georgetown and was hosted this year at the Eaton Hotel’s movie theater. 

“I love going down to the Eaton Hotel’s theater,” Andre Hereford, the festival’s program director, said. “It’s always sort of a buzzed atmosphere of activity and fun.” 

The festival showed 32 films in-person and 42 films online from 22 countries across five continents. The films are a carefully-curated mix of drama, comedy, documentary and romance. 

Reel Affirmations’ leaders were especially excited to host the D.C. premiere of “Kenyatta: Do Not Wait Your Turn,” a new documentary following Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who — when elected to the Senate in 2019 — was the first LGBTQ+ person of color in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. Fresh off a showing in the renowned Tribeca Film Festival, Bill Oliver’sOur Son,” which stars Billy Porter and Luke Evans details the story of a gay couple navigating a divorce, also appeared. 

The festival aims for these pieces to not only entertain audiences but promote greater understanding and empathy for the LGBTQ+ experience. 

The selection process is extensive. Hundreds of submissions are reviewed to determine what goes on the big screen.  

“When getting all of these movie submissions, we first and foremost want queer stories, LGBTQ+ stories, and of course, what works in terms of if a comedy is funny you laugh, and if a drama was really involving, you feel something,” Hereford said. He said that these aspects are, “universally recognized traits of any good form of entertainment.” 

In honor of its 30th anniversary, Reel Affirmations presented retrospective screenings of past hits, including the 1996 coming-of-age comedy-drama, “Beautiful Thing,” and John Cameron Mitchell’s 2016 film “Shortbus.” After the screenings, a panel of casts, directors, producers and filmmakers discussed audience perceptions. 

The Center also hosted what they dubbed the ‘Reel Gleeful Celebration’ in honor of their 30th anniversary on Saturday night,  in the Eaton Hotel and featuring the locally-loved DJ MIM.  

“Reel Affirmations is a place where we can discuss the [adversity] facing the LGBTQ+ and queer communities, and push against it with truth and joy,” Hereford said. “It serves to not necessarily be distinguished by our different labels, but to fight together in the struggle and have places where you can do that.”

Edited by Bailey Hobbs, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.

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