Reel Affirmations celebrates its 25th anniversary as a powerful visual platform for the District’s LGBTQ+ community

Reel Affirmations celebrates its 25th anniversary as a powerful visual platform for the District’s LGBTQ+ community


In a world of Netflix and Amazon Prime, it has become all too easy to be dismissive of film festivals. Is there still room for cinema? For Reel Affirmations, DC’s only international LGBTQ+ film festival, the answer has always been, and always will be, yes. Reels Affirmations’ annual festival has carved an important space in our cultural timeline to create a platform for filmmakers and film lovers alike. Now, on its 25th anniversary, Reel Affirmations prides itself on being a non-profit and all-volunteer festival, and one of the largest attended film-festivals in the nation.

Kimberley Bush, the DC Center’s Director of Arts and Cultural Programs, has headed the festival for the past five years, and has worn many hats since the beginning of her involvement in DC culture scene as her career has evolved. “I wanted to do more and be more,” she said in interview with the Voice.

Her rapid elevations peaks to her passion to support LGBTQ+ creatives; to give them spaces to express their arts, especially regarding people of color and trans members of the community. Reel Affirmations today is a result of Bush’s determination to provide a visual platform to tell the stories of the LGBTQ+ community and play a role in that endeavor.

The three-day festival explores the themes of gender identity, gender expression and the stories of individuals of color. Bush emphasises how queer storytelling paves the way for the community to see images of themselves, allowing them to feel uplifted and empowered. Reel Affirmations aims for constant awareness, emphasising the situation in countries where the LGBTQ+ is deemed unlawful, giving the festival a critical role within the movement to achieve equality for all.

There is heavy emphasis on the international perspective, giving the festival a global dimension that allows it to open the eyes of, as well as be accessible for, multiple audiences.  This year, the feature-length films happen to be global, with the entire opening weekend (Thursday Nov.1-Friday, Nov. 2) centered on international films. The festival opens with a screening of Anchor and Hope, which follows the lives of three independent spirits facing the realities of being a parent in London. Other international films include Just Friends, a Dutch romantic comedy, and Tale of the Lost Boys, which tells the story of the friendship between two men: Alex, a Filipino mechanic, and Jerry, a Taiwanese aborigine student.

The festival will also showcase two local works: No Chocolate and No Rice and the new television special DC Black Pride: Answering the Call. The latter features a discussion with director Brenda Mallory immediately after the screening. This will provide audience members the opportunity to meet directors and cast members, encouraging a dialogue that, in turn, will create change.

Other highlights include Trans Youth, a documentary filmed over three years in Austin, Texas. The film follows seven trans young adults as they fall in love, combat family judgement, discover punk music, and navigate their way through the unknowns of hormone therapy and top surgery. Additionally, a number of short films will also be featured, featuring various directors from various countries. Bush referred to them as the “cream of the crop.”

Reel Affirmations is a festival full of humor, self-awareness, and courage. It speaks honestly, honing in on film as an important visual that, in Bush’s eyes, has the power to make a difference in people’s lives. It is visual space for stories to be told, as well as for the community to come together and have their voices heard. Reel Affirmations runs from Nov. 1st to Nov. 4th. More information and tickets can be found here.

Image Credits: Reel Affirmations

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Nicole Lai

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