The 2012 ‘Reel Love’ Film Festival, focusing on LGBT-centered films and themes, ended its successful run Sunday after four days of non-stop programming.
Organized by the WUD Film Committee at the University of Wisconsin, the festival, now in its second year, drew film connoisseurs and LGBT activists alike with its selection of films that accurately portrayed many aspects of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual way of life.
“We were tasked with having to represent all aspects of the LGBT community,” said Alec Valadez, one of the lead programmers for ‘Reel Love.’ “Our goal was to encompass as much as we could. We wanted an even variety of fiction, independent dramas and comedies, documentaries and foreign films.”
In a reflection of Valadez’s philosophy, the screening list for the festival was varied, containing both works of dramatic fiction and documentaries based on real life. One highlight was “Kiss Me” (2011), a Swedish film Valadez describes as being “dramatic, but also sexy.”
Other featured works included “How to Survive a Plague” (2012), a documentary about LGBT activists who helped turn around the effects of AIDS, and “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” (2011) – a groundbreaking experimental film about the musical career of Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge.
The emphasis on newer, more recent films was one of the biggest changes since the festival’s debut last year, Valadez said. “Last year, we had a lot of great films, but we were new to the whole thing and we were showing a lot of older titles,” he explained. “Instead of going that route, [this year] we went with the newer titles, things people haven’t heard of – but are still playing in the film festival circuit.”
This move has allowed the festival to gain more recognition, Valadez noted. “We got Lori Berquam [the Dean of Students at UW] to close our festival this year,” he explained. Berquam delivered a short speech before the last film screening Sunday. “It’s cool the festival came to be recognized by the Dean of Students,” Valadez said.
The WUD Film Committee invested a lot of time in trying to get ‘Reel Love’ up to snuff with its peers, Valadez explained. “The thing with LGBT film festivals is, in general, there’s a lot more than just us,” he said, counting examples of similar festivals in Los Angeles, London, Milwaukee and elsewhere. “We’re hoping one day, our festival will be just as big as the Wisconsin Film Festival and other LGBT festivals.”
Although ‘Reel Love’ is still small in comparison to other film festivals, Valadez is hopeful it will eventually grow bigger. “The Wisconsin Film Festival was started more than ten years ago by a couple of students, just like us,” he noted.
Although ‘Reel Love’ is only a baby by film festival standards – having just wrapped up its second season, Valadez is excited for its future and ready to start planning next year’s event, which he promises will be yet another improvement over this year’s festival.
One of his priorities is incorporating ideas and content from local UW students. “To make next year even better, we’ll probably be adding the student aspect for sure,” Valadez confirmed. “Since this festival is only in its second year, I think the student film aspect will definitely be something that is included in the future.”
Other than expanding the festival’s repertoire, Valadez is also looking forward to hosting additional events outside the screenings themselves. “Because we will be more notable [by next year], I foresee bringing in directors to talk about their films as well.”
However, despite his plans for growth, Valadez expects one thing to stay the same: price. The festival has been free since its inception, and he plans to keep it that way. “One thing I would love to keep is that all the movies are free,” he said. “It’s a really good opportunity for the students here.”