Best of QFest 2020
QFest, the annual Houston International LGBTQ Film Festival, began in 1996 with a mission of promoting communication and cooperation through art made by, about and for the LGBTQ+ community. Every year, local nonprofit media arts center Aurora Picture Show presents artist-made noncommercial films and videos that embrace and celebrate the diversity of experiences within the queer community. QFest screens short films, documentaries and feature films from around the world, and whether they’re narratives or abstract and experimental, they all share empowering messages of self-discovery, acceptance and expression.
Here are some of our top picks from the 24th annual festival, which virtually streamed 26 films last Thursday, Sept. 24 through Monday, Sept. 28.
“Blue is Not My Favorite Color”
Directed by Vahn Leinard C. Pascual
5 out of 5 stars
The short film “Blue is Not My Favorite Color” combines animation with a documentary format to contrast the appearance of family photos with a young person's inner dialogues. As the title may suggest, color plays a huge role in this movie. Initially, blue dominates, symbolizing societal norms and the sadness from pressures to express yourself a certain way. Exciting swipe animations reveal outlines of pink as the artist discovers themselves and a new lens for expressing themselves and perceiving the world. Nursery background music serves as the only audio for the short film, adding to the innocent but serene reflection of childhood that the artist explores in this piece.
Directed by Elizabeth Kostina
4 out of 5 stars
The short film “Hairlines: Exploring Image Curation Through Hair” explores college students' self-expression through hair and haircuts. In the film, queer college students are interviewed about their hair and what it means to them. The students talk about how their hair has contributed to the curation of their image and identity, and how it can take on the burden of being a spectacle when viewed by the public. Hair is so strongly associated with identity that being able to style or cut your hair in the way you want brings with it the feelings of freedom, confidence and lightness that come from honest expression. The students talk about how hair is an interesting platform for expression because it is something that is uniquely your own but will also grow back.
“House in the Head”
Directed by Snowapple (Laurien Schreuder, Nora Tinholt)
4.5 out of 5 stars
In “House in the Head,” the Dutch pop-folk band Snowapple explores how being isolated and quarantined at home has impacted people through a tragicomic short film using a miniature set, stop motion and masked overlays. The miniature set mimics how we are seeing the world differently and allows for shockingly large events to take place that mirror the chaotic events of the world today. The resounding message of the song is that crisis offers society a path towards growth and that confinement has given us an opportunity to rediscover ourselves, reevaluate our world and rebuild a better one. The film playfully encourages viewers to look at the environment around them and the world at large, and see how it responds to their presence.
“Each and Every Night”
Directed by Julie Robert
5 out of 5 stars
The animated short “Each and Every Night” by French artist Julie Robert explores the growing relationship between two characters, Lea and Maud, as Lea experiences recurring visions of a ghostly pack of deer with red eyes. The ghostly deer appear to Lea in times of uncertainty and self-doubt, and at first Maud is skeptical about her visions. Their relationship is tested but proven to be able to withstand insecurity, vulnerability and doubt. This short film explores the challenges of knowing yourself and then communicating that to those you love. The movie has a welcoming, bright and expressive animation style. It not only touches on the journey to know yourself but also the importance of supporting others and being willing to listen even though you may not understand.
QFest is a celebration of global queerness and diversity. The films are full of artists portraying their purest selves and creating moving and lasting narratives. Other interesting movies from the festival include:
“Gracefully,” a documentary about an Iranian man who made a life for himself as a dancer performing traditionally female roles before the Iranian Revolution forbade public dancing. “Khartoum Offside,” a documentary about women soccer players who are determined to play soccer professionally despite a ban by Sudan’s Islamic Military government.
“5 Minutes Too Late,” a Romanian movie about police corruption and controlling the public narrative after a young man is physically attacked.
More from The Rice Thresher
Inspired by the diversity and creativity of on- and off-campus life during a pandemic, ON/OFF is an upcoming student art show meant to be a window into that new mode of living. Organized by eight visual and dramatic arts students, the dual-delivery show will be presented in partnership with Sleepy Cyborg Gallery in nine locations around campus from Oct. 23-31. The show encourages Rice students to contribute their own art over its course.
A spooky movie list? In this economy? Though I doubt that anything on this list will scare you more than the horror movie we are currently living through (an exquisite mélange of “Contagion,” “Get Out” and select episodes of “Black Mirror”), these films might get your heart racing just enough to temporarily subdue your existential dread.