Boston’s LGBTQ+ Documentary Festival Shows History Not Taught in Schools – GBH News | Episode Movies

This weekend, Wicked Queer: Boston’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival is hosting its first annual event dedicated to documentary programming since 1984. Through November 21, moviegoers can look forward to screenings at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Brattle Theater such as NELLY & NADINE, a WWII lesbian love story, and Casa Susanna, a story of a house in the Catskills, in which transgender women found refuge in the 1950s and 1960s. Shawn Cotter, managing director of Wicked Queer, joined GBH Everything considered Moderator Arun Rath talks about the mini film festival. This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity and brevity.

Arun Rath: Of course, as a journalist, I’m pretty excited that you’re shooting a weekend of documentaries alone. Tell us, where did the idea to focus on documentaries come from? Why did you feel the need to do this?

Shawn Cotter: Well, I’m personally a fan of documentaries. I’m a big history buff and I feel like sharing stories from the past and stories – because often stories are rewritten, retold, erased. And I think it’s important for all of us, especially the queer community, the LGBTQ+ community, and also our straight allies, to know a little bit more about her story because it’s not being taught in schools. It’s not really taught in the culture. So I think having an opportunity to somehow present these stories and stories is really important.

advice: Would you say that documentaries, like other things, have so much storytelling that it wasn’t queer voices that were telling the stories?

cotter pin: Yes, I would agree with that too. And I think what we’ve seen in the last ten years is more queer filmmakers telling their stories and having a sense of authenticity, which I think is really important. There is nothing more powerful than seeing someone like you portrayed on screen and told in a way that celebrates your life, their life, our collective life.

advice: Tell us about the films you’re most looking forward to seeing for your audience this weekend – or for yourself?

cotter pin: Well I mean I love them all. I can’t decide what my favorite is. I love our opening film Esther Newton Made Me Gay. I’m a big fan of Queer Studies and also Queer History. And she was kind of a loner. She was a cultural anthropologist at a time when, I think, the field is still male-dominated. So, as a woman, she sort of made a place for herself, and she was also the first person to write an anthropological article, so to speak, about the queer community called Mother Camp. She documented the drag scene in New York City in the late ’50s and early ’60s. That was her doctoral thesis for college, and it wasn’t published until 1972. So, I mean, in the ’60s she was groundbreaking, and in the ’70s she created what we can now consider the forerunners of queer studies.

I guess another movie I’d like to mention would be Casa Susanna. You know, trans people are constantly fighting for their lives: the law is against them, society is against trans people in many ways. I want to celebrate and uplift them because, like all of us, they deserve a proper place at the table, in the conversation. One thing I love about Casa Susanna are the documents themselves, like all photos. We’re getting a glimpse of what the site looks like now. No spoilers, but I find that kind of fascinating, you know, looking back and then kind of putting it in a modern context, especially as the language changes, identities become a bit more concrete in conversation.

advice: Can you talk about how you think the LGBTQ+ film community has grown? I mean, I have to imagine that now that you can fill an entire film festival with just documentaries, there has been a growth.

cotter pin: We could have done that earlier. I’ve been at the festival for 11 years now, keeping an eye on the program and seeing different trends in storytelling. I feel like 2022 is the year of documentary, queer documentary and also queer female coming of age story, which is an interesting kind of trend. So we get a lot of women filmmakers doing weird coming-of-age stories. And we also get a lot of people making documentaries and telling these stories.

And I have a feeling the documentary trend isn’t going away anytime soon. And I’m kind of looking forward to branching off from our main festival, which is in April, and doing a kind of satellite mini-fest that’s just documentary.

advice: Brilliant. And I spoke at the outset about fostering community at film festivals like this. How then do the connections grow between the community, the filmmakers and the audience?

cotter pin: Honestly, queer spaces are being taken away all the time—bars closing, coffee houses closing—there aren’t many places we can meet. And from my point of view, one of the most important things that a film festival can offer is that space to gather and to have community, to talk about things. And unlike at film festivals, which go to the multiplex, to the cinema or to the art house theatre, there are often filmmakers, creative people who are part of the audience and part of the programme. And I think that direct access to queer creators and queer filmmakers and queer storytellers is very important for the community. It’s important for them, and it’s important for us as an audience, to have the opportunity to ask a question, to get a little bit more knowledge about a topic, stuff like that.

advice: Shawn, it was great talking to you. I’m looking forward to this film festival. I hope it’s going great.

cotter pin: Thanks. I’m hoping for the stars, because that’s what we want to do next year.

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