The Long Beach QFilm Festival kicked off its 28th season with special screenings of “Cortos: Latinx Queer Shorts” at the Museum of Latin American Art on Thursday night.

QFilm Festival, which runs through Sunday, Oct. 3, is Long Beach’s oldest film festival, and the only festival dedicated to the LGBTQ community.

“It’s really amazing that filmmakers from all over the world submitted pieces of art for our consideration,” said Carlos Torres, executive director of the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach. “It’s super exciting that right here in Long Beach on our 28th year, we continue to attract such diverse talent to our sort of small film festival.”

For Torres, being able to present Latinx queer films at the Museum of Latin American Art, is “icing on the cake.”

“This space celebrate arts, to bring queer Latin art into the same space is just a fantastic opportunity,” he said.

Three dozen audience members enjoyed appetizers and cocktails during the outdoor event, which featured three short films: the Mexican film “Mora and Chenchi” by director Diego Toussaint, the Honduran documentary “We Are Not Who They Say We Are” directed by Manu Valcarce, and “Ocupa,” a Brazilian film by Juliana Pfeifer.

These three scratch the surface of the variety of films featured in this year’s event; other segments in the four-day festival include youth-focused films, animation (“queermation”) and experimental films.

In total, 73 films are in this year’s impressive line up, including work from places such as Iran, Korea and Brazil, while other films, such as “This is Jessica,” are local to Long Beach. The documentary, which audience members were able to watch at the Art Theatre on Thursday, detailed the life of LGBTQ activist Jessica Bair, and her struggle with her Mormon faith after coming out as transgender. Both the subject and the filmmaker, Andrea Meyerson, are from Long Beach.

“Our own neighbors are creating this art that is so unique and brings such an amazing perspective,” said Torres.

The MOLAA’s Latinx Queer Shorts allowed audience members to delve into different topics relevant to the Latino Queer community—“Mora and Chenchi” explored the resurfacing of old feelings, while “We Are Not Who They Say We Are” educated the audience about the violence facing the LGBTQ Honduran community.

“I feel like we don’t know how bad people have it in other countries,” said Liz Southern, who attended the film screening with her wife, Alohi. The two moved to Long Beach from Texas a  few years ago. “We’re so lucky, especially living in Long Beach, it’s so progressive and everyone’s so open.”

For Liz and Alohi Southern, people had always assumed the two were sisters, until moving to Long Beach, where they finally were recognized as partners.

“I cried the first time that happened,” said Alohi Southern. “We were at a Sublime concert, when a couple asked us how long we had been together.”

“No one had ever asked us that,” said Liz Southern. “I feel very safe in Long Beach, and things like this, the community here is great.”

For audience member Gaudencio Marquez, who attended the screening with his husband, the event provided visibility and representation.

“It’s so critical to be able to have on the main screen, images of people that look like us, that act like us, that do like us,” he said.

As a school social worker, Marquez said he sees the value of children being able to see themselves in different aspects of society such as film, and that this is particularly important for Black, Latino and Indigenous members of the LGBTQ community.

“I find myself, as a gay, Chicano, brown man, I think of me as a young kid, really able to see myself on TV in this way. It’s powerful, like now I see it, and I’m like, I wish I had that when I was younger,” said Marquez.

As for the remaining days of the festival, LGBTQ Center board chair Stella Ursua said there are great stories to be shared.

“There’s really neat films, and tear jerkers, and happy films  . . . what I look for [are] those types of movies that we can relate to, and especially because of the time right now, we just need to get together and feel connected again,” she said.

“It really helps make people feel more comfortable, especially the youth, the older adults, folks that didn’t realize that there were so many folks just like them out there, whether it’s here in Long Beach or across the state, across the country,” said Ursua.

“So it’s really important to have events like these so that we see folks just like us, and we hear the stories, we learn the stories, and it helps so that you don’t feel alone.”

Funds raised by QFilms directly support The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, which has served the community for over 40 years through HIV and STI testing, youth and senior services, counseling, legal services, domestic violence support, trans health programs and more than 20 weekly support groups.

QFilm Fest will also include other community events such as an ice cream social on Saturday and a Sunday brunch catered by Lola’s Mexican Cuisine at the LGBTQ Center Long Beach.

Click here to see the complete list of films and here to purchase tickets. Tickets for individual screenings cost $15 and $10 for students or seniors.

Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination and masks will be required for all in-person events.

LB QFilm Festival returns to Long Beach with 73 LGBTQ films and ‘brilliant’ shorts programming