Film Festivals, regardless of the thematic nature of their movies or their background, remain a universally cherished event for the cinephile.  They provide a gathering place for film lovers whose taste for originality and electrifying filmmaking is met with general scorn at the sequel/remake-schlepping multiplex.  They afford little-known directors a platform to make that big splash critical to launch their career into a national – or international – consciousness.  And they bring much-needed attention to movies – good or bad – whose marketing budget likely would not cover the cost to cater lunches for the cast of the next Batman flick.

The ultimate goal of a film festival of any ilk should be to offer a venue and to open up dialog in the community on the issues that the artists most greatly value.  At least, that is how Chris Durant feels, and that is why he and his friends got together this year to kick off the inaugural Out Twin Cities Film Festival.  Festival Director Durant, backed by his volunteer staff and their ambitious event schedule, are set to hold the Festival at the historic Heights Theater in Columbia Heights the evenings of June 1 and June 2.

Durant, who feels local queer filmmakers are currently lacking the visibility necessary to share their work and express their unique and personal visions, feels the objective of this Festival is to help showcase the tremendous number of LGBT filmmakers working in the community.  “We need more visibility as filmmakers,” he proclaims.

Planning for the Out Twin Cities Film Festival began early this year with the overarching vision that the event and its films might successfully reflect the stories and experiences to which its queer and allied attendees can relate.  Says Durant, “[we want to show] A mixture of where we’ve come from, where we are today and what we can hope for the future.”  OTCFF’s lineup is scheduled to include work from well over a dozen different filmmakers collectively celebrating a hodgepodge of entertainment between numerous media.

In addition to the screening of numerous feature films, festival attendees will also be treated to locally made short films, music videos, and appearances by speakers, dancers, performers, and entertainers from the community whose work the cinematic medium may not necessarily encompass.  When asked about this unique blend of decidedly non-filmic entertainment, Durant highlights the importance of valuing the community, particularly at a queer-themed local film festival.  “Live entertainment is all we had before movies began, so it was appropriate…to find them and ask them to be a part of the Film Festival.”

In addition to realizing a big-screen platform for local directors and entertainers, volunteers worked hard to acquire films to expand the scope of the Festival.  Organizers worked closely with LGBT film distributor Strand Releasing to bring Drool, a recent lesbian-themed festival sweetheart, to the festival for its Twin Cities premiere.  Organizers also managed to acquire screening rights to several international titles, including the Canadian documentary Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride and New Zealand’s Assume Nothing.  It is the hope of Festival organizers to allow their labor of love to flourish into a more internationally attuned event, thus encouraging queer and allied filmmakers from all over the world to bring their work to the Twin Cities.

For Durant and his volunteers the ability to bring such a unique service to the local community is invaluable, and they hope they have started a tradition that future Twin Cities film lovers will carry on in the many years to come.  “Cinema is a great opportunity to celebrate our diversity!  We hope [the community] comes out and celebrates with us.”  Indeed, the ability to express one’s vision through a setting as venerable as the film festival take long strides in composing the very essence of what a community can be, which makes the Out Twin Cities Film Festival’s theme – “indivisibility through cinema” – all the more appropriate and poignant.

The Out Twin Cities Film Festival  will be playing at the Heights Theater the evenings of June 1 and June 2.  The Official Event Schedule is available here.

For more information on the Out Twin Cities Film Festival and to purchase tickets, visit the Festival’s official web site.

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