FARGO — Lived experience.
That phrase means something different for pretty much everyone on the planet.
Yet for a few days in September, the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people from around the world will be represented during the 13th annual Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival, set for Sept. 15-18.
Initially scheduled in-person at the Fargo Theatre, festival organizers recently decided to move the event online due to the resurgence of COVID-19 and the delta variant.
"It was a difficult decision," says Sean Coffman, festival director and executive director of The Human Family. "While we would very much like to engage with everyone in person, we feel a strong obligation to ensure that our community remains healthy and that we heed requests from our public health organizations to help limit potential exposure and transmission of the virus."
More than 30 films are available for screening online and on-demand. Individual tickets and all-access passes are available now.
In addition, through a partnership with the North Dakota Film Society, three cinematically and culturally important films by pioneers of queer cinema will be screened. In addition, a cinematic retrospective featuring the back catalogs of filmmakers in the festival is also now available. Audiences can learn more about the films in the festival by visiting the virtual festival site or www.fmlgbtff.org.
We had a chance to connect virtually with Coffman, who was recovering from a breakthrough case of COVID in late August. Although vaccinated and experiencing what medical professionals called minor symptoms from the virus, Coffman was sick and quarantined for almost two weeks and had one trip to the emergency room due to breathing challenges.
“Even vaccinated, COVID-19 packs quite a punch,” he says.
With enough energy to answer a few questions for us, here’s what Coffman had to say about the upcoming virtual event.
Q: How did you and festival organizers choose the films for this year’s event?
A: Since 2008, the Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival has screened films that focus on the lived experience for the LGBTQ+ communities. The films chosen to screen in the festival are selected by a volunteer jury from the LGBTQ+ communities and represent the best films submitted by filmmakers who are also from the LGBTQ+ community. The festival caters to both of these communities (audience and filmmakers), and ensures that these important human stories are told, seen and heard by audiences in the northern communities of Fargo and Moorhead.
Q: Who is the festival for?
A: While our festival’s focus is the LGBTQ+ communities, it is certainly open to all who are interested in experiencing and watching great cinema, or are interested in learning more about the lived experience of the LGBTQ+ communities.
Q: What’s new at this year’s festival?
A: This year, two new components of the festival are being added: A filmmaker retrospective to allow audiences to screen older films created by the filmmakers participating in the festival.
Through a partnership with the North Dakota Film Society, three important historical cinematic works from the pioneers of queer cinema will be included in the festival: "Victor and Victoria," "Mädchen in Uniform" and "Michael."
Q: When can viewers watch the retrospectives?
A: The filmmaker retrospectives and historical cinema works are available to screen leading up to the festival beginning Sept. 1. They’ll remain available through the conclusion of the festival on Sept. 18.
Q: Tell us more about the history of the film festival and The Human Family’s role.
A: The festival was founded and managed by (Minnesota State University Moorhead) film professor and filmmaker Raymond Rea in 2008. Raymond retired from the festival in 2020 to return his attention to his own artistic career. Beginning with the 12th season, The Human Family proudly committed to continuing Raymond’s vision of bringing current and relevant queer film to Fargo-Moorhead.
“Kiss Me Kosher,” directed by Shirel Peleg
A subversive love story between cultures and families, “Kiss Me Kosher” is a romantic misadventure crossing all borders. When two generations of Israeli women fall for a German woman and a Palestinian man, chaos follows.
“Being Thunder,” directed by Stéphanie Lamorré
Sherente, a two-spirit genderqueer teenager from Rhode Island’s Narragansett tribe, performs traditional dance in competitions at annual regional powwows of New England tribes. Sherente’s enduring courage and self-respect are met with an outpouring of support from family, powwow attendees and fellow dancers.
“The Mirror Will Take Us Home,” directed by Joshua Harmon
Baltimore singer-songwriter Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon contemplates what it means to feel at home in a journey that chronicles his life growing up gay in a conservative Christian family to adulthood.
“Pieces of Us,” directed by Cheryl Allsion
“Pieces of Us” is an intimate look at the personal journeys of LGBTQ+ hate crime survivors who, by choosing to take their recovery public, inspire the survivor in all of us.
“Yes I Am — The Ric Weiland Story,” directed by Aaron Bear
Narrated by Zachary Quinto and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (“World Of Wonder”), the story of Ric Weiland, one of the first employees at Microsoft, is one of quiet giving. His efforts to establish representation and resources for the LGBT community still have a profound impact today.
“Eleven Weeks,” directed by Anna Kuperberg and Julie Caskey
Carla Jean Johnson accepts her fast and aggressive cancer diagnosis with clarity and grace while photographer Anna Kuperberg, her longtime wife, documents their final days and weeks together.
“Making Samantha,” directed by T. Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper
“Making Samantha,” by singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer, was inspired by his friend, Samantha Williams. Director T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper gathered 27 trans actors to make the music video, and to tell the story of the universal human journey to find identity, acceptance and love.
“The O Show,” directed by Sharad Khare
This documentary looks into the life of Orene Askew, an Afro Canadian, indigenous, two-spirited human that continues to speak out and represents her Black community in Vancouver during the BLM protests and marches in Vancouver, leads and DJs the Pride Parade as the official DJ and takes leadership roles in the greater community.
“Before the Eruption,” directed by Roberto Pérez Toledo
Although a volcanic eruption can occur without any prior signal, volcanoes will most likely issue different types of warnings before the eruption begins. We barely saw it coming.
“Blunt,” directed by Hisonni Mustafa Johnson
In this dialogue-driven short film, an interracial lesbian couple attempts to ease the racial tension between them and their parents using the power of straight talk and a little bit of cannabis.
“Dinner 4 3,” directed by Frederic Heringes
A successful businessman and his trophy wife give each other everything they need… well, maybe not everything. They soon discover the solution to the big problem with their marriage in this comic video opera.
“Identibye,” directed by Sajjad Shahhatami
The protagonist of the story faces a dilemma of choosing between sense and sensibility regarding one’s innermost feelings. He has been judged from the very beginning by the ones closest to him.
“Last Summer with Uncle Ira,” directed by Gary Jaffe and Katie Ennis
Before he leaves for his last year at summer camp, closeted teenager Daniel is nudged by his mother, Rachel, to share a moment and a glass of lemonade with his Uncle Ira, who is dying of complications from HIV/AIDS.
“A Love Letter to Black Male Femininity,” directed by Penuel “Blue” Nawa
An exploration of gender expression in Black men, and a love letter to the corners of the Black community that have made that exploration possible. A multimedia combination of poetry, film, fashion, music and visual art to illustrate the multifaceted beauty of the intersection at Blackness and queerness.
“Meta,” directed by Sydne Horton
Artie’s nominated for prom king, and is doing his best to hide his excitement. He doesn’t believe his school would vote a transguy for prom king despite Lucy’s demand that he’s already won. As they get closer to the court announcements, Lucy notices something on the back of Artie’s pants. Menstrual blood.
“Only Human,” directed by Lukas Vizner
A short movie about a relationship of talented pianist Christoph and experienced porn-star Philip opens a complex topic of prejudice in society, as well as within LGBTI community.
“Pappo E Bucco,” directed by Antonio Losito
Elia and Aldo are two ex-clowns. They have been living together for years, isolated from everyone and everything. Aldo has been asking Elia to help him end his suffering due to his illness for a long time. Elia tries to dissuade him in every way possible until he realizes that Aldo’s condition is more serious than what he had thought.
“Sheer Qorma,” directed by Faraz Arif Ansari
"Sheer Qorma" is a story of belonging and acceptance, identity and family, and how it comes together under one roof, as resilient, queer Muslim women and non-binary characters of color, choose to embrace the love that exists beyond their personal beliefs and social moralities.
“Put the Brights On,” directed by Raymond Rea
“Put the Brights On” pairs edited interviews with rural transgender subjects with original 16mm and s8 visuals, as well as found footage, to create a nonfiction experimental look at trans people who prefer not to live in the city.
“Release,” directed by Pierre Jean Gonzalez and Paul Anthony Notice II
An experimental short film looking into the mind of a gay Afro Latino questioning his self-worth. Inspired and based on a poem by Cedric Leiba Jr.
“Ulrichs 1867,” directed by Sven Niemeyer
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895) is known as the first openly gay man and LGBTQ+ activist in Germany. At the German Juristentag in Munich in 1867, he publicly called for the impunity of same-sex sexual acts for the first time in a speech.
“Hand in Hand,” directed by Richard O’Connor
Sissy Goodwin has always loved wearing skirts and dresses. When he first met his now-wife Vickie, Sissy kept up a macho appearance but eventually shared his whole self with her. Despite cruelty, Vickie stays by Sissie’s side.
If you go
What: 13th Annual Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival
When: Sept. 15-18
Where: Streaming and on-demand
Cost: All-access passes are available for $30. Individual curated blocks are $15. Individual features are $10 and individual short films are $5.
Info: The films will stream to homes using Eventive, with audiences able to stream films to their televisions via the Eventive app on AppleTV or Roku streaming devices, or from their tablet, phone or computer; https://watch.eventive.org/fmlgbtff13
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.