Photo depicting performers from the What the Funk?! documentary and burlesque show gathered together on a stage.

Experience Queer Magic at the 27th Annual Seattle Queer Film Festival

by Victor Simoes

Three Dollar Bill Cinema kicks off its 27th annual Seattle Queer Film Festival (SQFF) with screenings all over Seattle from Oct. 13 to Oct. 24. The hybrid in-person and online film festival will feature 150 films, auxiliary events, workshops, community meetups, a collaborative multimedia installation, and more.

“This is kind of the first real, fully fledged festival outside of the pandemic, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking,” said Billy Ray Brewton, managing director of Three Dollar Bill Cinema. “Last year, we were still in the throes of the pandemic, and you could argue that we still are, but people seem more willing now to get out and about and go to festivals and watch films.”

SQFF is the largest LGBTQIA+ film festival in the Pacific Northwest. This year’s theme is Queer Magic, pointing to the power that queer film has to inspire, bring communities together, and share and preserve queer stories. This year’s festival features films from 27 countries, screenings at seven venues across Seattle (including Ark Lodge and The Beacon Cinema), and virtual screenings available in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. 

“The festival is always in the backdrop of everything we’re doing,” said Brewton. “We do a lot of events throughout the year: TRANSlations, which is our trans-film festival, we do a film camp in the summer called Real Queer Youth Outdoor Cinema, but SQFF is always kind of humming underneath.” 

SQFF will open with the World premiere of What the Funk?!, a documentary about the Seattle-based BIPOC burlesque festival of the same name. The movie, described by the SQFF organizers as a love letter to the POC community, will open on Thursday, Oct. 13, at Capitol Hill’s Egyptian Theatre. 

“The whole cast and crew of What the Funk?! is from Seattle, and it focuses on Pucks A’Plenty and their journey as a burlesque performer and all these other incredible BIPOC performers,” festival director Kathleen Mullen told the Emerald. “It’s going to be an amazing opening night.” 

Other highlights from the festival include the queer comedy Youtopia, which tells the story of Scout Durwood as she tries to become a cult leader to cope with the end of her engagement; Jessica Cabin, a dark comedy involving supernatural creatures and queer romance; and BAZZOOKA, a unapologetic convergence of music, film, and queerness directed by punk maestro Danny Denial. BAZZOOKA also inspired the South End-based BAZZOOKAFEST. Also screening is Reckless Spirits, a POC buddy comedy that traverses metaphysical realms, by Emerald managing editor Vee Hua.

Still depicting a group of Black anarchists from the film BAZZOOKA posing for a photo.
“BAZZOOKA” is a film about a group of Black anarchists taking back a war-torn Seattle. It features local musicians and performers like Eva Walker of The Black Tones, drag artist Kylie Mooncakes, Lüchi, and more. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Queer Film Festival.)

Several special programs are a part of this year’s film festival, including filmmaker Q&As, panel discussions, and the multimedia installation Motorbike/Superbike in partnership with the Museum of Museums. 

“I think a lot of what’s happening as the festival evolves is that we are a film festival, but we partner with a lot of organizations and individuals who are not necessarily film people,” said Brewton, “people that are just artistic minded in the community, and certainly supportive of the queer community or members of the queer community. This year we’re embracing a lot of new endeavors that we haven’t worked on before, which is always exciting.” 

One of these new endeavors is Motorbike/Superbike. Created by Cheryl Hamilton, Motorbike/Superbike will run from Oct. 19 to Oct. 23 at Museum of Museums and include illustrations, collages, and an interactive zine workshop open to the public. 

Following the success of last year’s community-centric meetups, SQFF will once again host meetups before the film screenings. These will happen in partnership with local queer-owned businesses such as Wild Rose, Footprint Wine Tap, and Pony.

“We invite people to meet us at the bar and then go from there to the screening,” said Mullen. “They are such a good way to build community in a way that we can’t necessarily always do at film screenings, so we see it as an extra way to do that.”

Still from Golden Delicious depicting two male-presenting youth fighting over a basketball.
A still from “Golden Delicious,” a film by award-winning Canadian director Jason Karman. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Queer Film Festival.)

The festival’s closing night gala will take place on Oct. 22 at the Egyptian Theatre, with the international premiere of the queer coming-of-age story Golden Delicious, the first feature from award-winning Canadian director Jason Karman.

“We’re just really happy that casting crews are going to come down from Vancouver. So we’re really happy to have these Pacific Northwest films on display,” said Mullen.

The Seattle Queer Film Festival runs Oct. 13–24 in person at theatres in Seattle and online in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. For more information on the films, ticket sales, screening times, days, and locations, please visit the SQFF webpage

“We really don’t want cost to be a barrier for anybody. So if someone wants to attend, but they’re not financially able to do it, we got a way to make it work for them,” said Brewton. “All folks have to do is either take advantage of what’s already there, or reach out to us and we’ll find something that works for everybody. We just want to get more eyes on these awesome films.”

Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured Image: This year’s Seattle Queer Film Fest kicks off with the premiere of “What the Funk?!” a documentary about a Seattle all-BIPOC burlesque festival. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Queer Film Festival.)

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