Baltimore's Queer Film and Video Festival started the old-fashioned way. "It was shameless self-promotion," says festival founder Chris Lines, laughing shyly.
Of course, another term for shameless self-promotion is enlightened self-interest. Last year, Lines, a graduate film student at Towson University, needed a venue for his short film "Acceptance." So rather than search for a local festival to show it in, he started the festival himself.
Baltimore's Queer Film and Video Festival unspooled in June 1998 with 33 films, and Lines says, with some surprise, that about 1,000 people attended during the 10-day run. Even more surprising, he adds, was that many of them came from the suburbs. "It wasn't the bar crowd, even though I had spent all this time putting up fliers in bars," he says.
Lines hadn't planned on a second festival until last spring, when unsolicited entries started flooding his transom. "Then the e-mails started arriving right and left, so I went ahead and decided to do it." The festival has been abbreviated to four days, says Lines, "because I know better this year."
This year's festival will include nine feature films and about 15 short films, a program that will be bookended by screenings of two John Waters classics: "Polyester" (which will be seen in Odorama for the first time in Baltimore in more than 10 years) and "Hairspray."
Lines says he found most of the other films at festivals he attended last year with "Acceptance." He saw "Treyf," a documentary about two Jewish lesbians who fall in love at a Passover seder, and "When Love Comes," a slice-of-life love story from New Zealand, at the Turin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
He found "Kalin's Prayer," a short film by Baltimore native DeSales Linton, at the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festi- val. "I really wanted to get it in the festival last year, but it wasn't ready," Lines says of Linton's film, an experimental narrative based on the true story of her relationship with a troubled model.
Lines says he named the festival "Queer" rather than "Gay and Lesbian" in order to be more inclusive of people all along the sexual continuum, "and also because I didn't want to be answering the phone, 'Baltimore's Gay and Lesbian and Bi-Sexual and yadda, yadda, yadda.' " But although the festival is clearly sexuality-based, he says, few of this year's films deal graphically with sex. If a theme emerged, it was the antic satirical humor inspired by Waters' films.
"Strangely, it just happened," Lines says. "I had already decided to show 'Polyester' and 'Hairspray,' and then I got in films like 'Fag Hag' and 'Mmm! Smells Like Christmas' and '24 Nights' that had all these kooky, off-the-wall characters." The films, about a suburban Los Angeles beauty contest, Waters-esque horror films and a young man's belief in Santa Claus, are all comedies.
Lines says he hopes the festival, which will play at the Charles Theatre and the Theatre Project, will draw heterosexual and gay filmgoers alike. "One of the reasons I included 'Hairspray' and 'Polyester' was that I wanted it to be a more inclusive festival," he explains, "both audience-wise and filmmaker-wise."
What: Baltimore's Queer Film and Video Festival
When: Opens Thursday night at 7: 30 with a screening of John Waters' "Polyester" at the Charles; closes Sunday at 6 p.m. with a screening of Waters' "Hairspray"
Where: Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St.; and the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.
Tickets: $25 for a student/senior pass to $300 for an all-festival pass
Web: members.home.net/b926w/ queerfilm.html Pub Date: 9/07/99