EL PASO — The city of El Paso hosted its first-ever major film festival featuring 26 films by, about, and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) June 18-June 21 at both the Downtown Main Library Branch and the Plaza Philanthropy Theatre.
“The Frontera Pride Film Festival is truly a community festival,” said Doctor Brenda Risch, director of the Women’s Studies department at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and of the film festival committee. “For it would not have come to fruition without the dedication and countless hours of hard work from our diverse planning board and much support from our community.” The film festival was also possible thanks the hard work and support of the Women’s Studies Program at UTEP. The program provided internship experiences to students by offering work in the film festival. A Queer Cinema course under the Women’s Studies program also participated.
“Pretty Ugly People,” one of the main films of the festival shown at the Plaza Philanthropy Theatre provided insight into the lives of a group of gay and straight friends and had previously been rejected by other festivals for not having the typical qualities of what a gay film should be about.
The film’s obese protagonist, Lucy, loses much of her excess weight after a surgical procedure. She wants her old friends to see the new her and invites them on an outdoor adventure. Lucy’s friends include a gay man who is still “in the closet” and a straight man working as a flight attendant. Two other heterosexual couples come along.
One couple includes the other obese female of the group who is having an affair due to the lack of attention from her husband. The second couple is African American and in conflict because the husband is a political figure who, according to his wife, has forgotten where he came from. The film shows how all the “pretty ugly people,” face their conflicts and realize that happiness means acceptance of who they are regardless of race, weight, or sexual orientation.
The second major film “Ask Not,” shown at the Plaza Philanthropy theatre explored the effects of the current and controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in effect in the U.S. armed forces. The film was told from the point of view of former and active gay military persons as well as activists. The film also showed how this policy destroys the military careers of many soldiers. The film is of importance to the city of El Paso due to the immense military presence in the region. The film’s ultimate intention is to get the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy changed.
The culture-focused festival committee hopes that the festival will become an annual community event. “This is an opportunity to become more familiar with people you may not be familiar with; to learn about a culture and a subculture that is different maybe in a way that you have experienced,” said Risch.
The Frontera Pride Film Festival is currently seeking films for next year’s festival that give insight into problems of gender and sexual identity. For more information about submissions and guidelines visit the Frontera Pride Film Festival website .