Arts & Culture

Recapping the Queer Film Festival’s 20th anniversary

For an in-depth analysis of the story and production behind “Right to Love: An American Family,” click here.

Supporting the LGBTQA community through a variety of cinematic motifs, the University Cultural Forum’s Queer Film Festival provided a weekend of education and entertainment for students, while reaching new heights of effort in its 20-year tenure.

“This year, we really enlarged the scope of the festival,” event coordinator and forum volunteer Shehram Mokhtar@@[email protected]@ said. “Previously, we would just purchase films; now, for the first time, we had submissions for entry.”

Some prominent pieces included “Married in Spandex” (Friday) the story of two young women moving to a state that will allow them to marry, “Right to Love: An American Family” (Saturday), which profiles a gay couple with two adopted children, and “Circumstance” (Sunday), a daring tale of youth sexuality set in Iran.@@But everyone knows there aren’t any gays in Iran…

Friday and Saturday’s films were screened at the University’s Jaqua Center@@, with the culmination of the event occurring Sunday at Eugene’s Bijou Art Cinemas.@@

“Right to Love,” a feature documentary, addressed the issue of marriage equality by chronicling a same-sex couple through the landscape of their ordinary daily affairs in parenting. In 2008, the production team caught on to a YouTube channel, “Gay Family Values,” which was maintained by the stars of the film. The channel was formed in response to California’s Proposition 8.

The film premiered at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre@@ on Feb. 6, the night before a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned the ban on gay marriage in a landmark decision.

Director Cassie Jaye, who is straight and from an evangelical upbringing, considers herself to have as much stake in this issue as anyone.

“Equal rights are everyone’s business. The majority has to stand with the minority if we ever want to see our citizens have true equality.” Jaye said, who stuck around after the screening to engage the audience.

Maryam Keshavarz’s “Circumstance,” @@[email protected]@a feature film, presented viewers with a portrait of a love affair between two teen lesbians of starkly differing social class as they enter a realm of underground parties, sex, drugs and defiance. A 2011 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner, “Circumstance” is largely an expression of disgust with a theocratic, patriarchal regime’s command over women.

“It was depressing,” graduate student Lisa Lombardo @@[email protected]@said, though she continued to remark that “the characters had a real sense of agency. A lot of films might have portrayed them as being more stuck in their situation. Instead, these girls understood their predicament and were ready to do something about it.”

Keshavarz faces an enormous task in her advocacy, considering that in a 2007 speech at Columbia University in New York, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boldly told Americans that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country.”@@Called it!

Cultural Forum staff spent the entire fall term narrowing selections originating from the US, Spain, Argentina, Australia, Iran and elsewhere. Their criteria included production value, uniqueness and relevance of story to queer issues. An emphasis was also applied to variety, which presented a lesser challenge, as the submissions included a plethora of both comedic and dramatic elements to choose from.

Mokhtar posted an advertisement on, a networking and promotion service of IMDB, resulting in over 60 submissions, from which event staff chose 23 final presentation pieces — 17 short films, 4 feature documentaries and 2 feature films. Submissions for 2013 will begin in September.

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