QFest celebrates its 19th anniversary this year, making it Houston's second longest running film festival. Along with the star-studded opening night film, I Am Michael, 2015's key films include the Texas premiere of Robin Williams' final film, Boulevard, a documentary centerpiece about Tab Hunter and an international crime drama, Death in Buenos Aires.
Kristian Salinas, Artistic Director of QFest, hopes the films' reach extends far beyond the LGBT community. "We're trying to build bridges through film," she said. "We are working to create a safe space and give artists the opportunity to share work in a curated setting."
Originally created by four organizations under another name, the festival has grown stronger every year while occasionally facing tough circumstances. Salinas shared that when Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, the festival organizers were afraid they would have to cancel the event. Thankfully, the location of the festival that year, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, shares an electric grid with the medical center. While most other venues were without power, MFAH was open and able to offer festival attendees a respite from the chaos of the storm.
QFest was initially called the Houston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The name was updated to reflect developments in how the LGBT community identified itself. The festival changed its name in its eleventh year to reflect the changes within the community, and to ensure all orientations were represented.
Salinas believes it's up to the community to support the work it wants to see made. "If there's an art form that you believe in, you have to support it. It's not an entitlement, you have to support it." The festival receives more than 200 film submissions a year for consideration, an impressive number for the eight curated slots. That level of competition keeps the talent bar high, resulting in top notch films and filmmakers. The festival chooses a wide range of films, with everything from fetish pieces to family dramas. "You have to confront yourself with things that you're not comfortable with; that breaks the wall," Salinas commented.
The 2015 festival begins Wednesday July 22, with a free preview and party at Diverse Works. Qfest events run from July 23-27.
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