Eau Queer Film Festival

Story by Haley Zblewski

The second annual Eau Queer Film Festival kicks off next Thursday and will present 10 feature films and two programs of short films over the course of the weekend.

The Eau Queer Film Fest was developed as part of UW-Eau Claire’s women’s studies program. Ellen Mahaffy, assistant professor of communication and journalism and Pam Forman, associate professor of sociology, created a unique course where students travel to San Francisco and attend the annual Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride celebration.

Included in the celebration is one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ film festivals, Frameline, which was the inspiration behind Eau Queer.

“We’re trying to create community for LGBTQ individuals, so this is an opportunity for us to be affirmed in our identities,” Mahaffy said. “A lot of times our straight community is ill-informed or doesn’t have a positive representation of what LGBT is. The stories, the movies in the film festival kind of really open up those eyes and say ‘Hey, we’re just like you guys.’”

During the 13-day course, the students also had to document their trip and create films about LGBTQ issues to be shown during the Eau Queer Film Fest.

“The San Francisco experience was absolutely life changing,” junior public relations and liberal studies major Megan Chilman said.

Chilman has been involved with Eau Queer in both its first and second years. This year, Chilman directed and produced the trailer for the festival, and also co-created the documentary “Hear Me Now” with fellow students seniors Liz Albert, Katie Chaplin and Brianna Mueller.

“I’ve always been interested in filmmaking and also LGBT studies so this was naturally a course that I wanted to take part in and luckily I was able to,” Chilman said.

Having taken American Sign Language since coming to Eau Claire, Chilman said the deaf community had been of interest to her and said that being able to combine deaf and LGBTQ issues in one film was exciting.

“I got to meet a bunch of deaf/queer individuals while we were over there and pretty much just talked about their lives and how they experience double oppression in their lives,” she said.

This year, the festival has doubled in size as far as the number of films being shown.

Of the films shown at this year’s Frameline Film Festival that Eau Queer was able to attain, several LGBTQ issues are explored.

“Three” is a German film that explores the relationships between three people: a married couple and another man whom they are both in an affair with. “Gun Hill Road” and “Leading Ladies” both deal with transgender issues and “Spork” is a quirky movie about an awkward teen trying to survive junior high. “Gen Silent” is a documentary about elderly people who have already come out of the closet and when they need healthcare, they have to go back in, in order to live within the system.

The festival’s closing night will feature “Wish Me Away” is a documentary about Chely Wright, the first mainstream country music artist to come out as gay.

Forman said she was uncertain that “Wish Me Away” would be a good choice for the festival, but changed her mind.

I didn’t want to see it,” Forman said. “I said ‘it can’t be good. There’s just so many documentaries about coming out and I didn’t really care about her.’”

But Forman changed her mind. Wright’s experience stood out as unique and moving to Forman because of the contrast of being part of the LGBTQ community while also being a part of the typically very conservative county music scene, Forman said.

Along with the feature films, the documentaries created by the students who went on the San Francisco immersion trip will be shown. In addition to “Hear Me Now,” there are two
other documentaries.

“Our Town,” directed and produced by seniors Kim Acheson, Katy Cobb, Brooke Verwiel and junior Lindsay Miklya, compares the LGBTQ culture of San Francisco to that of
Eau Claire.

There is also “With Open Arms,” a film which Forman said was a unique representation of the religious and conservative community’s view on LGBTQ issues.

Directed and produced by senior Kelly Brill and juniors Bryton Fredrick, Katie Johnson and Tatjana Trommershauser, “With Open Arms” explores three churches in San Francisco that are accepting of the LGBTQ community and looks at the filmmakers’ own experiences with religiosity and LGBTQ.

“It’s really a unique film about religion because so many films about religion are ones that attack the religious right about what they’ve said about LGBT communities and people,” Forman said. “And this is the opposite. This is a film about looking at scripture and looking at religion and looking for ways in which it can be very much compassionate and affirming of people’s identities.”

Forman and Mahaffy said the goal of Eau Queer is not just to educate, but to relate LGBTQ experiences to the community of Eau Claire, gay
and straight.

Forman said the students who attend are “predominantly straight … some who are allies and some who will become allies after an experience
like this.”

Mahaffy agreed.

“It’s not just about being LGBT,” Mahaffy said. “It’s about
being human.”