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Thirty years of queer art and activism at image+nation

Arts & Entertainment/Film and TV by

Thirty years ago, Canada’s first LGBTQ film festival held its inaugural screening. Today, the image+nation festival continues to share queer cinema with Montreal’s wider community, supporting the producers and artists who create these spellbinding stories.

Bringing all of this together is no easy task. Programming director Katharine Setzer and her team scour other film festivals both here in Canada and around the world. This year alone, the image+nation organizing staff selected over 120 films to feature during the 10-day event. Her team communicates with the artists themselves to bring it all together.

According to Setzer, there is never a shortage of queer content to share. Every year image+nation receives more and more film submissions.

“[The hardest part is that so much of] the work is really strong and that […] you have to make a choice,” Setzer told The McGill Tribune.

By the end of the process, the festival lineup is filled with a variety of content. Featuring films all the way from a short recounting the story of a young man’s experience growing up gay in the Soviet Union (Little Potato) to a documentary detailing the history of punk rock’s impact on queer activism (Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution), image+nation encompasses an incredibly diverse range of queer stories.

But the work does not stop after the content is selected. According to Setzer, gathering the financial resources to run the festival proves to be one of the most difficult parts of organizing image+nation every year. While image+nation receives a large amount of support through traditional funding methods, such as ticket sales and membership fees, image+nation remains the only queer film festival in Canada that does not receive provincial funding due to legislative complications with the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC).

“One thing that could help is membership and a community coming together and saying yes we support our festival,” Setzer said. “[The problem is that] it really comes down to having the funds to put together the festival, it is never the case that there is not enough brilliant work to show.”

Despite these obstacles, image+nation remains a key member of the international queer film circuit, and an important advocate in the fight for queer rights.

“[This festival and activism] are very intrinsically connected,” Setzer said. “There are a lot of queer artists who are also activists. I think that art in general, and filmmaking in general, is a form of activism.”image+nation has been at the vanguard of Montreal’s queer art and activism scene, and witnessed the changing climate.

“Lots has happened in 30 years,” Charlie Boudreau, image+nation’s Festival director, said. “This year’s preparations have given us valuable moments to think about how our LGBTQ stories have evolved in parallel with our ever-changing society. What is clear is that we have managed to take charge of our own narratives and our stories are the truer for it and more representative of our wonderful diversity.”

image+nation is held annually in theatres across Montreal. While we will have to wait until November for the 2018 edition, in the meantime image+nation’s website provides opportunities to support the event by becoming a Friend of the Festival, or even submitting a film for consideration.

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