By Rachel Woodward, May 21 2015 —
Entering its 17th year, Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival hopes to use film to create discussions in Calgary’s LGBTQ community about representation in media. The festival, which runs from May 22–30, shows 17 films and hosts a number of events.
Fairy Tales began as a short festival created by the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers in 1998, but quickly grew into an independent event. Today, the Fairy Tales Presentation Society runs the annual festival to provide a venue for members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate positive media representation.
Executive Director James Demers stresses the importance of bringing an LGBTQ presence to film, a medium in which the community is widely underrepresented.
“I think the idea behind the Queer Film Festival is the community curating stories to address the lack of three-dimensional queer characters in its own media,” Demers says. “I think it’s irresponsible to ask the community to be resilient without presenting role models or heroes of any kind, and we are relatively limited in that area.”
Demers claims representation of transgender individuals in media is shifting. He says that while popular TV shows like Orange is the New Black have become a platform for LGBTQ discussion, the characters included often fail to develop beyond one-dimensional caricatures.
“We are included, but that doesn’t mean that the queer characters are included as well-rounded individuals. Usually they’re there because they’re gay,” Demers says.
One of highlights of the festival is the documentary Do I Sound Gay, which deals with stereotypes surrounding gay men’s voices and internalized homophobia. The screening of the film will be accompanied by a performance from the Calgary Men’s Chorus.
The festival also features Boys, a Dutch film that tells the story of two teenage boys attempting to reconcile their strong feelings for one another with the disapproving attitudes of their fathers.
A number of events are also part of the festival. Demers says these workshops are intended to start debates and spread information. The Kink Party, for example, is an event meant to introduce curious members of the LGBTQ community to BDSM. The event features walking tours, demonstrations of bondage equipment and encourages attendees to meet other members of the BDSM community.
Outside of the festival, Fairy Tales runs a free year-round educational program named OUTReels that uses film as a platform to discuss social issues. Demers says OUTReels is important to help the LGBTQ community build acceptance.
“We are now living in a world where queer characters are presented as part of the cocktail, so we are often presenting in a stereotypical way,” Demers says. “There are so many difficult questions to ask about the community, and we try to [create] a discussion space where we can address those.”