Artistic Director Chris Clark Reflects On 10 Years Of LGBTQ Film Festival In St. Louis
A champion of LGBTQ cinema in St. Louis, Cinema St. Louis’ Artistic Director Chris Clark is spearheading QFest, with screenings from March 29 to April 7 at the .ZACK in Grand Center.
Presented by Cinema St. Louis, QFest celebrates contemporary gay cinema and queer culture at a time when individual expression is more important than ever. Though LGBTQ-themed, the festival is designed to entertain and enlighten attendees of all identities.
Clark’s ongoing tenacity, which led him to book films like “Handsome Devil” and “Lovesong,” has kept QFest in existence, showing films which otherwise would not be screened publicly to audiences in St. Louis. Keep reading for our Q&A with Clark below to hear about this year’s film lineup and his continuing role in the festival.
How did you become involved with QFest?
It was not originally a Cinema St. Louis event. A group of community organizers approached me to help them put the event together 11 years ago, and I was part of the founding committee and consortium. Over the next few years QFest had modest success and little money. As so often happens with these types of things, one by one the founders became less active and ultimately I was the last person standing. Since my day job was producing film festivals, it was agreed that it should take up permanent residence under our cinematic umbrella.
What obstacles did you face in increasing its presence locally and nationally?
It is often very frustrating to me how audience numbers have been relatively low over the years. The event has a tiny budget with only 12-15 screenings annually. The quality is there, and people who do attend have a great time. There are many huge LGBTQ film festivals that do extremely well, but they have huge budgets and underwriting. This year is our 10th anniversary, and as long as we make at least a dollar we will probably keep doing it for the local community. Thankfully, I have some very loyal local sponsors who truly make it happen. For me it’s about the films and less about splashy parties. As in life, size doesn’t matter.
What kind of programming does the festival have for 2017?
Last year, we inaugurated the Q Classic with a screening of “The Watermelon Woman,“ directed by black lesbian indie filmmaker Cheryl Dunye. This year it is the boys’ turn, quite literally, with the outrageous and historically significant 1970 film, “The Boys in the Band,” directed by William Friedkin. This film was made a few years before “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.”
In what ways has QFest changed since its inception?
Trying to find the right venue with the right amount of magic has been a challenge. Once again, though, I have a partner in crime here at Cinema St. Louis with the addition of queer woman filmmaker Kat Touschner to our staff. She is very passionate about film and keeps me in check. I’m more of the game show host while she is super smart and very tech savvy.
Has QFest helped break down barriers and initiate dialogue?
I believe it promotes tolerance and pride. I shy away from films that are too gloomy or self-loathing. I champion stories with positive messages about people who are loud and proud and comfortable in whatever kind of shoes fit them best.
Where would you like to see festival go in the future?
To gay infinity and beyond! I’d love to break 1,000 attendees this year for our 10th birthday.
Advance tickets may be purchased beginning March 1 through Metrotix or the .ZACK box office. For more information on QFest programming, visit Cinema St. Louis’ official website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.