“We are about making our festival an experience. I love it when we make an impact on people.”
Since 1987, Atlanta has been celebrating LGBTQ Pride with Atlanta’s Out On Film festival. The festival shares stories of life, love, laughter and grievance within the LGBTQ community. This year it will showcase over 80 films from comedy, romance and drama genres. Out On Film runs from October 2-9 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. Jim Farmer, the executive director of the festival, spoke with The Audience Awards about the history behind the festival and its impact on the community.
Q: What is the history of Out on Film? A: We are one of the oldest LGBT film festivals in the country. Out On Film began 27 years ago by local activists. For many years, it was produced by an organization called SAME. For much of its existence, though, Out On Film was produced by the Atlanta Film Festival. They produced it until 2008, when they gave it up to focus year-round on the Atlanta Film Festival. I was part of the group that took over. We became independent and have been producing ever since.
Q: What are your favorite films in this year’s line-up? A: I love “Blackbird,” our opening night film. It’s a coming of age story about a 17-year-old African American young man living in Mississippi. It’s beautifully made and acted, with a cast including Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington and newcomer Julian Walker. Audiences are going to love it. That’s the only film we’ve publicly announced so far. The rest of our schedule comes out mid August. We are very pleased with the quality and diversity of our 2014 schedule.
Q: What is an exciting aspect of Atlanta Out on Film? A: We show a lot of different kinds of films and we focus on diversity. We try to program our schedule so that there is something for everyone, and try to have as much talent as we can at the event, in terms of directors and performers. Our audience loves that. Our growth is also exciting. I am looking forward to seeing how far we can grow. Since we became independent in 2008, we have attracted more and more people every year – and not just in our backyard as well. We have visitors from across the country.
Q: What film festivals inspired you to work in the industry? A: Living in Atlanta, I have been to the Atlanta Film Festival almost every year for a long time. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has been an inspiration to me, especially in how they have cultivated their audience over the years. And Frameline in San Francisco is an absolute inspiration – there is nothing like seeing a film with an audience at the Castro Theatre and being part of that environment.
Q: What do you love most about working with Atlanta’s Out on Film? A: I love what I do. Seeing a movie is something you can do practically anywhere these days, but we are about making our festival an experience, a place where you can see relevant films in a communal environment and meet exciting new voices as well as veterans in the industry. I love it when we make an impact on people. When people come up to us and thank us and tell us what Out On Film means to them, it is a great feeling.
Q: How has this festival helped create awareness surrounding important issues within the LGBT community? A: We show important, timely documentaries and features every year. Last year one of our biggest films was “Bridegroom,” which dealt with a young man who was denied being able to attend his late life partner’s funeral. With the fight over marriage equality now, that was a very topical film. We love being able to show films that can entertain as well as educate – films that touch on issues that are particularly vital in our community. We work closely with other LGBT organizations in the city to promote those films and get them seen by as many people as possible, both within the LGBT community and outside.
Q: Is there anything else you would like our audience to know about your festival? A: We run October 2 – 9 this year and we are as excited as we’ve never been with this year’s slate, as well as some of the talent that will be here. We got a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences last year to enhance our filmmaker appearances and we are doing that! – To find out more about the 27th annual Out on Film festival, coming up this October, visit their website.