Anne Friedman ’25
In 1992, Joan Jett Blakk, a Black drag queen, ran for President of the United States. Her story was the focus of the short film Beauty President shown at the Queer Film Festival hosted by Scripps Communities of Resources & Empowerment (SCORE) on April 18.
Following the success of SCORE’s Black History Month Film Festival in February, the SCORE Programming Interns wanted to extend this work through an additional film festival for Gaypril. Their first program screened films about Black experiences by Black filmmakers.
Gaypril is a celebration of LGBTQI+ pride that occurs throughout the month of April. While this celebration usually occurs in June, many educational institutions implement Gaypril as a way to ensure these identities are acknowledged and celebrated while students are on campus.
To celebrate Gaypril, different 5C organizations including the Queer Resource Center (QRC) planned events for the queer and trans community at the 5Cs. SCORE’s Queer Film Festival showcased four short films that centered the voices of queer people of color, with stories ranging from a high school prom to coming out to immigrant parents.
“We wanted to highlight stories of others, especially those you may not see as much here at Scripps or are under-represented here,” said SCORE Programming Intern Paloma Ayala-Abellar ’25. “We felt it was really important to have difficult topics but also mix in lighter hearted films in between so it doesn’t feel so heavy.”
The variety of films emphasized the challenges and triumphs that queer people face in life. In the hour-long event, participants watched the films and contributed to conversations about the content.
The first film, Perennial, focused on the theme of womanhood through the story of June, a trans-woman, helping pre-teen Lou with her first period. In one scene, June and Lou go to buy pads and tampons. At the store, the cashier misgenders June, calling her “sir.”
Lou is confused because in Lou’s eyes June is obviously a woman. June struggles with her identity as a woman because she had different experiences from cisgender women, like never having a period. The cashier tells Lou, “You’re a woman now,” a problematic statement because it is defining womanhood by something that not all women experience.
The film ends with Lou and June on the couch, leaning on each other. June, who has been closed off to Lou and her ex-boyfriend throughout the film, opens up in the smallest way, highlighting that she has begun to accept and validate her experiences and her identity as a woman.
The festival then moved to a film about coming out at prom in the South Bronx. In Crush, Michael debates whether or not to come out to his crush at the dance. It is a hilarious and heart-warming portrayal of a teen crush full of laughter and cringy moments.
In the middle of the film, Michael does come out to his crush, Brandon, only to wake up and realize it was a dream from getting briefly knocked out. However, the film ends with Michael asking Brandon to dance though the viewers do not get Brandon’s response. The open ending centers Michael and his experience rather than the outcome while leaving the audience hopeful for a happy ending.
Then, the festival turned to a film where six queer and trans Asian Americans read their coming out letters to their families. Unspoken: LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islander Stories tackles the intersectionality between queerness and race. All of the film’s participants are children of immigrant parents, struggling with their desire to live up to their parent’s expectations while also being true to themselves and their queerness.
It was hard to watch and listen as the participants read their letters and told their stories. Many of the participants cried and shared painful experiences and thoughts. But in sharing their experiences, viewers experiencing similar conflicts are able to connect and feel validated; they are not alone.
Finally, the Queer Film Festival ended with Beauty President, in which Terence Alan Smith talks about his life and experience running for president as his drag queen persona, Joan Jett Blakk, amidst the AIDS crisis. Beauty President switches between an interview of Smith and videos from Joan Jett Blakk’s 1992 presidential campaign.
Smith emphasizes the need for visibility and how he raised awareness through his bid for president. While everyone has a voice and is told to use it, marginalized groups are not always listened to and Smith made people listen to him.
Hosting the Queer Film Festival and similar events at SCORE has been a gratifying experience for Ayala-Abellar. She feels that spaces for joy and celebration are invaluable and these SCORE events, such as the Queer Film Festival, provide a wonderful space to celebrate marginalized voices.
In addition to the Queer Film Festival, Ayala-Abellar and the other SCORE interns have planned a Sapphic Soiree for April 27, a fun festivity to close out Gaypril and celebrate queerness at Scripps.
Image Source: YouTube