Brooklyn Pride Event
249 Fourth Ave., btwn. Carroll & President Sts.
Park Slope, Brooklyn
Jun. 5 6 p.m.-midnight
Queer Black Cinema
New screening series to host Pride event in Park Slope
No doubt about it—it’s been a groundbreaking year for queer cinema.
Yet the astounding success of “Brokeback Mountain” and “TransAmerica” didn’t mean much for queer black films.
But their day may soon be coming—a monthly movie series called Queer Black Cinema recently launched.
Founder Angel Brown was inspired to create the unique series while attending a film festival. The festival, she said, was “showing this particular black gay film, and you couldn’t get in. The line was around the corner, up the block, and I’m not exaggerating at all… And I said, ‘Here’s an opportunity for me to create a film series that’s definitely needed.’ To me, it didn’t make any sense that [at] this major film festival … there was one black gay film, for one time [only].”
Brown was definitely on to something. Queer Black Cinema’s first screening—held on January 26—sold out. And Queer Black Cinema’s Web site, queerblackcinema.com, crashed from all the traffic it got—even before the series launched.
In addition to movies, a typical Queer Black Cinema event includes music, trailers, an on-screen quiz segment that highlight pioneers in the black community, goodie bags, a post-film question-and-answer session, and public service announcements.
One of those public service announcements—called “Remember Me?”—was directed by Brown herself. It addresses the controversial issue of unprotected lesbian sex. Many lesbians, she said, don’t see this as a problem, for a number of reasons.
“You have some of these gynecologists saying, ‘It’s rare that you’ll get something from another woman,’” she said. “Or you’re just uncomfortable even talking to your gynecologist about it. Or your gynecologist doesn’t even talk to you about it at all, or give you any type of information to protect yourself. So you feel, ‘I don’t have to worry about that.’’
In April, Queer Black Cinema screened Faith Trimel’s lesbian thriller, “Black Aura on an Angel,” which focuses on domestic violence. Brown said the discussion about that problem “was so empowering. A lot of people needed to talk about that [in general], and talk about the different places that they can go to, to get help, and how to communicate with their partners a little bit better.”
A senior counselor from the gay and lesbian organization Identity House and a yoga instructor were also there, as panelists.
“So we’re not just showing the films,” noted Brown. “We’re actually doing community outreach.”
Mostly though, Queer Black Cinema tries to focus on positive black-on-black queer relationships, something Brown and series producer Kawana Bullock feel is missing from the majority of black gay movies. “One of the other reasons why Queer Black Cinema was started up was to show that… queer black people who are in relationships or who have long-lasting relationships with other queer black people are not invisible,” said Bullock.
March’s screening, which was also sold out, was held in honor of Women’s History Month. A diverse crowd of women, and even some men, attended.
“It was just a privilege to see not just black women, but [other] women of color, and white women come out and say, ‘I didn’t know these films were out there. I would love to purchase this film. I would love for this to be part of my collection,’ ” said Bullock.
So far, the series has been kept afloat financially through sponsorships, advertising, and Bullock and Brown’s own money.
“We believe in the mission so much and it’s something that we’re passionate about,” said Bullock. “So when the money isn’t there, to make sure that [the series is] long-lasting, we do what we can to keep it [going]. And a lot of people don’t realize that.”
On June 5, Brown will be having a special benefit screening/concert/Pride celebration at the Park Slope lesbian club Catty Shack. Those who can’t attend can donate money via PayPal at Queer Black Cinema’s Web site. Brown hopes this event will introduce more people to the series.
On tap for Queer Black Cinema this fall is “Straight on Gay,” a screening of black gay films made by straight black filmmakers. Queer Black Cinema will be inviting these directors to the screening to talk about how they see black gay people.
Screenings have so far been held at Fort Greene’s Audre Lorde Project, a gay and lesbian center for people of color that Brown said is “a wonderful, supportive organization.” However, she would like to eventually show the films in a theater. In addition, she would like to reward emerging black gay filmmakers with grants. And since both of these goals require money to achieve, Brown hopes to one day increase sponsorship.
She has another aim as well.
“If you’re a musician,” she said, “you know you’re good when you perform on the Apollo stage and everyone is [excited about] your music. And that’s how we want to be, but from a filmmaker’s point of view.”