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

The annual Long Beach QFilm Festival will return for its 28th season at the end of September, continuing its tradition of celebrating LGBTQ communities through film.

The festival pivoted to a virtual platform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a move that allowed the local festival to expand its viewership across the globe and diversify its roster. Films from 20+ countries were represented in last year’s lineup as international filmmakers were particularly keen on sharing their work during a year that hampered in-person screenings and festivals.

“We are very proud that we were one of the first film festivals in the world to go online,” QFilm Fest founder Robert Cano said. “We got messages from as far away as India, the U.K. and Brazil, telling us how much they enjoyed our film festival.”

This year the four-day festival (Sept. 30-Oct. 3) will return with in-person screenings at the Art Theatre of Long Beach and Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), in addition to some online programming for viewers who prefer to stay home.

Festival-goers will be required to show proof of full vaccination to attend the in-person events. Los Angeles County and Long Beach currently require people to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

From 254 submissions, the QFilm Fest’s 30-some committee members whittled down the submissions to include 73 new films this year, a hairsplitting exercise at times, Cano said.

“It’s a group of people who are passionate about filmmakers,” Cano said. “So yeah, it can get pretty dicey there.”

Representing 27 countries from six continents, the lineup features narrative and documentary films to shorts.

Long-time audiences may be pleasantly surprised to see a robust selection of animated shorts this year, 17 in total. Seven of those made it into a unique category for the festival, “Queermation: Animated Shorts.”

“We had an extraordinary amount of just brilliant animated shorts we received,” Cano said.

Online programming features a variety of shorts sectioned into two categories, “Eat My (Comedy) Shorts” and “Locally Sourced: California Shorts.” Cano said organizers are still working with filmmakers on the possibility of streaming the other feature and documentary films in this year’s lineup.

The festival will open at the Art Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 30 with the 7 p.m. screening of “This is Jessica,” a documentary about Jessica Blair, an LGBTQ activist who shares her struggles to maintain her Mormon faith despite coming out as transgender.

For QFilm Fest, the 81-minute film, directed by Andrea Meyerson—a former QFilm Fest board member—felt like the perfect opening feature for its powerful story and universal themes.

“I think it’s the kind of film that everybody can relate to whether you’re LGBTQ, or if you’re straight or an ally. We’re all transitioning to something and moving to something,” Cano said. “‘This is Jessica’ just won over our hearts.”

The film recently won an “Audience Award” for Best Feature Documentary at the 2021 Outfest LA film festival.

At 9:30 p.m., “Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story” will be screened at the theater, a film that looks back on the life of one of Microsoft’s earliest employees, prestigious programmer, queer pioneer and later philanthropist, Ric Weiland. The film largely features interviews with Bill Gates with narration by actor Zachary Quinto.

Meanwhile, at 7:30 p.m., MOLAA will be showing “Cortos: Latinx Queer Shorts,” and features three shorts pertaining to the queer Latinx experience.

Every year, QFilm Fest introduces new categories depending on the films it receives. With so many shorts submissions this year, the festival created nine shorts categories, “CORTOS: Latinx Queer Shorts,” “TRANSpirational Shorts,” “Rated PG-13: Youth Shorts,” “(Almost) Midnight: Experimental Shorts,” “Men in Briefs,” “Women In Shorts,” “Queermation: Animated Shorts,” and the other two aforementioned shorts for the online programming.

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

QFilm Fest donates a portion of its proceeds to The Center, which supports more than 25,000 people annually through programs including youth and senior services, counseling, domestic violence support, trans health programs, HIV and STI testing, and more than 20 weekly support groups; many of these are being offered online during the pandemic.

Click here to see the complete list of films and here to purchase tickets. All-access passes range from $50 for opening nights and $130 for VIP. Tickets for individual screenings cost $15 and $10 for students or seniors.

Raise a Glass: QFilms LGBT Film Festival Turns 21

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Cheantay Jensen is reporter and award-winning videographer who covers entertainment, art, food and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post. And sometimes breaking news, you know, just to keep things interesting.