Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lander Pride

Let's be clear. Lander's pride and joy is 4th of July. That said, our small town of 7,000 in Wyoming also rocks PRIDE. As in, we come out in (relative) droves to celebrate and love on our courageous, queer community in June.

We've been lucky enough to pull off a Pride Picnic in City Park for three years running now. Each year we reach out to the sheriff's office, local churches, and community leaders to make sure they've got our back and then we commence to rally --large and in charge-- with croquet matches, fashion shows, bike gangs, AIDS testing, grillables and the like. 

Truth is I have missed it each and every year until now. So when I say "we", I mean so many people I love. I am glad to have finally become a contributing member of the "we" this year. 

We decided to launch a film festival to build momentum towards June 26th...

Our local movie theater tends to show shabby films for long stretches of time, so it's the internet or bust in these parts when it comes to movies-- which effectively rules out most new releases. In other words, coming together to share a cinematic experience is something special in Lander. 

We determined pretty quickly that we wanted the following line-up:

First off, a visual feast of a film about a real life transgender pioneer in Scandinavia. Sumptuous. High profile. Focus Films wouldn't give us the time of day as we tried to secure screening rights. Then we reached out to my wonderful cousin who is a casting director in Hollywood and she called her wonderful friend who helped produce the film and in five minutes flat we had the wonderful film, The Danish Girl, inbound with no strings attached. SAY WHAT?! That is some powerful Pride juju in action. 

Second, a festive and fun movie about how the LGBTQ community in London supported striking Welsh miners in the 1990s. Wild to see a historical example of how a culture clash was transformed through love and courage into a potent force for positive change. Relevant for our landscape of gas fields and gays here in Wyoming. 

And last but not least, a sweet and tender love story about teenagers in São Paulo, one of whom is blind. Who can resist a well told coming of age story? Not I. We couldn't afford the screening rights to this film, even with the discount the studio gave us, and the library couldn't cover them either given recent budget cuts. It looked like it was going to fall through and then someone stepped up, not asking for any recognition, and gifted our community access to this film. Out of the blue. Just like that. SAY WHAT?! Magic abounds. 

The process of mounting the Gay Ray Film Festival was a series of moments like these where it appeared we were tanking and then rescue appeared in the form of generous, like-minded individuals. The obstacle of designing posters appeared insurmountable. Then a brother of a friend in some far off city burned the midnight oil to create our lure. At the eleventh hour, I found out I couldn't attend two out of the three screenings. Friends stepped in with grace and humor to welcome folks to the theater in my absence.

We said we wouldn't do the film festival if it wasn't fun and easy. We promised to aim off perfection and strive for good enough. We said that if we could bring one person through the door who was touched by these films, it was all worthwhile. 

A gentleman from a reservation to the north was passing through town and dropped in for The Danish Girl. His family includes a transgender sibling and other assorted queer folk. He stayed and talked after the film, over popcorn and through tears. 

More magic added to the heaping pile of magic that the Gay Ray Film Festival seemed to attract. Perhaps the most important magic.  

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