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Fairy Tales film festival tells LGBTQ stories

By Shelbi Bartlett, May 19 2016 —

The 18th Annual Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival will bring a spectrum of LGBTQ experiences to Calgary screens from May 20–28.

The festival aims to promote stories surrounding LGBTQ identity not typically represented in mainstream media and film. The festival will show 30 short and feature length films and host several other events.

Fairy Tales executive director James Demers says that while Fairy Tales and other queer festivals strive to provide stories for and about the LGBTQ community,  the festivals are ultimately about identity.

“Queer festivals arose as a response to Hollywood’s habit of having queers either be the villain or be killed off. It was such a consistent trend that it was hard to find queer films where the queer character didn’t die,” Demers says. “So we began making our own, and then queer film festivals started in the early ’90s as a response to supporting that content which wasn’t being picked up in other places.”

Queer representation in film has become more prominent in recent years. With over 400 submissions, Demers says the panel “struggle, but in a really delightful way” to narrow the list down to the 30 films that are screened.

“We look at it as who is represented in the scope of the festival, is there a mix of representation, and then is it queer enough?” Demers says. “We don’t want to promote a film in a queer film fest where the queer character in it is a sidekick-type character.”

The festival will bring in a handful of special guests to accompany some of the films including Crystal Labonte, star of In the Turn. The documentary tells the story of a 10-year-old transgender girl growing up in rural Canada as she navigates the difficult and complicated world that surrounds her.

Another highlight will be The Birdcage, a 1996 comedy featuring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. It will show on original 35 mm at the Plaza — one of the only venues in Calgary that still projects film — on Saturday, May 21 at 9:00 p.m.

Aside from film screenings, there are plenty of events taking place during the festival. The Drag Brunch on Saturday May 28 at noon and the Kink Party on Friday May 27 at 10:00 p.m. are both back by popular demand. The festival has also paired up with the Calgary Men’s Chorus to host a Grease Sing-a-Long on Monday May 23 at 7:00 p.m. Fairy Tales will also partner with The Coming Out Monologues to present Queer Folks Read Things They Wrote in the Closet on Tuesday May 24 at 7:00 p.m.

While the festival is only nine days, Demers works throughout the year with OUTReels, a diversity education program that travels to various communities in and around Calgary to promote discussions surrounding queer issues.

Demers also organizes a Youth Queer Media Program that sponsors up to six filmmakers from ages 16–24 and premieres their work at Fairy Tales each year.

Although Fairy Tales was created in the interests of the LGBTQ community, Demers hopes to see everyone at the festival.

“I wish Calgary knew that you don’t have to be queer to go. You really don’t. It’s a fun time and these are good stories,” Demers says.

For more information, visit fairytalesfilmfest.com

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