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All of Us Strangers, 1946 headline all-Queer cinema lineup

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All of Us Strangers — Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
All of Us Strangers — Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The 28th annual Seattle Queer Film Festival (SQFF) kicks off Oct. 12 at the SIFF Egyptian with a gala screening of Andrew Haigh's universally acclaimed drama All of Us Strangers and closes Oct. 22 at the Broadway Performance Hall with a raucous party of comedy shorts overflowing in Queer joy.

"I'm feeling very excited," stated Three Dollar Bill Cinema Artistic Director Kathleen Mullen emphatically. "I am super happy with the lineup this year. It's a stellar lineup. Shorts, docs, features, events: there's so much great stuff. I'm excited for audiences to get a look at it all."

Along with the SIFF Egyptian and the Broadway Performance Hall, this year's SQFF will include screenings and events at the Northwest Film Forum, the Ark Lodge Cinemas, Century Ballroom, the W Seattle, Pony, Lottie's, Mose Auto, Poco, and the Wildrose. "

We have really good relationships with our venues," said Mullen. "With Translations [the Transgender Film Festival held in May], we were in Columbia City this year and had many sold-out screenings, so I think it's super exciting we're able to take [SQFF] there this year, too.

"But SIFF Egyptian, Northwest Film Forum, and the Broadway Performance Hall, we've been working with them all for many years. It's good to be back utilizing these great venues with a full lineup this year."

1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture — Courtesy photo  

Documentary centerpiece
It's exciting for the filmmakers, too. "I can't wait to get back to Seattle," said Sharon "Rocky" Roggio, the director of this year's documentary centerpiece, the highly praised 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture. Roggio's film is part mystery, part familial drama, and part treatise on faith and religion. It focuses on how two Greek words and their retranslation by a select committee of theological scholars have shaped right-wing interpretations of the Bible for almost eight decades. The story is juxtaposed with that of the filmmaker's complex relationship with her dogmatic father, Salvatore Roggio, a devout pastor who refuses to accept homosexuality as anything other than a sin.

Salvatore Roggio in 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture — Courtesy photo  

"I think we've been exposed to too much misinformation and disinformation," said Roggio. "This is poisoning our minds, separating us, and causing division. We're not able to see one another, because we're automatically opponents.

"With 1946, we wanted to separate ourselves from that and bring people back to a civil conversation. We're not listening to one another — and we have to be able to listen to one another. And at the end of the day, maybe we're not going to agree. But if your beliefs impede on my personal basic human rights, that's an issue. So we have to start seeing and listening to one another.

"But how? You can still believe in whatever version of the Bible you want to believe in, but it has to stay out of public policy. We didn't get into a lot of that in the film, but those are the goals as far as having conversations that don't divide us, that don't immediately turn off, or vilify the other side or make it an us-versus-them kind of thing.

"We're never going to get anywhere otherwise, because it's our loved ones who are our oppressors. It's our family members, and we love them too. We need to break the chains of political and propagating media that is all around us."

Inspiring voices
For Mullen, bringing confident and inspiring voices like Roggio's to Seattle theaters is what SQFF is all about.

Going to Mars The Nikki Giovanni Story — Courtesy photo  

"I see a huge growth in the various kinds of stories that are being told," she said with an enthusiastic smile. "Some people are making romantic comedies and hilarious films, like Cora Bora or Jess Plus None. Other people are making films like 1946 that are real issue-oriented. Or films about two Black poets and writers going to Mars [Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project] and ones about the origins of Black power, AIDS activism, Afro- and Indigenous futurisms, and marriage equality [Jewelle: A Just Vision].

"Just the various kinds of work is extraordinary. It is really astounding. They're all very different and unique, [looking] at what Queer people want to voice and how they voice it.

SLASHR featured in Scream, Queen film shorts program — Courtesy photo  

"For example, we have a whole genre section. We have a Friday the 13th double bill, with Departing Seniors, about a young Mexican-American teenager — it's kind of a thriller-slasher movie and it's great — and Scream, Queen, our annual horror shorts block.

"So it is exciting to me that not all of the films are the same, that they're all from different kinds of voices ... different stories. Some are political and some are funny and some are heartbreaking. Some are about love. They all have a place."

Filmmaker Sharon Roggio on the set of 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture — Courtesy photo  

Amplifying Queer stories
Roggio concurs, and it's why she feels that festivals like SQFF are essential, not just for celebrating and promoting the arts but also as a hallmark of a thriving community.

"Not only are they important for films like this, they're important to amplify Queer stories, period," proclaimed the filmmaker forcefully. "We need more representation of our community in cinema, in art, in all forms of media.

"As we learned through my story [1946], when I was five years old in the 1980s, I saw two women who were Queer-identifying Lesbians, which was what they would've said in that program. ...They were holding hands, and I identified with them. That was a pivotal moment for me.

"Remembering my little five-year-old self and seeing myself on the screen? We need more of this. I'm just so encouraged by festivals like Seattle ... and other Queer film festivals that do amplify our stories. I hope that people come out and support them."

Roggio also added, "From our film, one of the other key throughlines is relationship. Relationships matter. They're important. [Go] to the Queer film festivals. [Meet] a Queer person. Be in a relationship. Make new friends. Experience new stories. Listen to diverse voices and hear what they have to say. That is how you change culture."

Northwest element
With so much of the last third of 1946 taking place in and around the Pacific Northwest, notably Vancouver, BC, and then right here in Seattle, the director is eager to get back to the city and celebrate.

"We have some pretty big backers from Seattle," said a beaming Roggio, "so I imagine we're going to have not only a crowd that's excited to see it in their hometown but also people who've been wanting to see the film for a long time. I mean, Mary Lambert's from Seattle, and she's responsible for the music. Hopefully, those Seattle seats will be filled."

As for what she wants audiences to take away from her film? After thinking for a moment, Roggio quietly responded, "The biggest takeaway for an audience would be to take a step back from wherever they came from and ask the question, 'Could we have these things wrong? If we do have things wrong, then what do we do next? Is that okay?'

"I hope that the answer is yes, because that's okay. The thing to do is to continue on the journey of asking questions, seeking more answers, and pulling back the veil without fearfulness of what else could be wrong. How do we recognize where information comes from, how it's dispersed to us, and ... what's correct and what's incorrect, so we can better our culture overall? Those are important questions.

"I think that there's too much that is easily spoon-fed to us, and I think we're all slowly realizing it. Don't be afraid of the journey; embrace it, and then move forward."

Working hard to support Queer voices
Mullen echoes those statements, not just about the festival but about all of Three Dollar Bill Cinema's projects and programs throughout the calendar year.

"Three Dollar Bill Cinema is a really important organization in Seattle," she said with pride. "The Seattle Queer Film Festival, Translations, our outdoor cinema, and our Reel Queer Youth series — can you imagine a city without those things? Without our organization?

"We do a lot to support Queer voices and Queer stories. We work really, really hard. Because we believe in resistance, we believe in community. Because we believe in community, we believe in Queer joy. Come celebrate that Queer joy with us, not just at the Seattle Queer Film Festival, but year-round, too."

The Seattle Queer Film Festival runs October 12 thru October 22 at venues throughout Seattle. It also features a virtual festival for residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska from October 22 through October 29 (not all in-person titles will screen virtually, and vice versa). For a full calendar, tickets, and additional information, head to https://www.threedollarbillcinema.org/sqff2023