What’s queerness without community? We queers—we noble trans and gender-nonconforming folks, we lesbian, gay, pan, and bisexual babes, we non-binary, intersex, asexual and aromantic individuals have had to learn time and time again: next to nothing.
With the closure of bars, clubs, bookstores, community centers, gyms, and yes *winces* movie theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s quarantine orders, LGBTQ folk around the world are hurting. Since it became legal to congregate without fear of abuse or entrapment, queers have used art, and particularly film, to speak across cultural, economic, and moral divides of our common dreams and fears. That dialogue is indispensable, and — in an increasingly atomized world — more important than ever.
The late, influential queer theorist Jose Esteban Munoz noted that queerness has always been synonymous with futurity — creating aesthetics, schemes, and survival plans that are just one step ahead of everyone else. This year, on the film festival circuit, it has been no different. LGBTQ film festivals of all different affiliations and specializations, all across the world have had to adapt to the gauntlet thrown down by the coronavirus like everyone else. But that undaunted spirit of survival and inclusivity shines through with particular brilliance among this bunch.
Festival organizers ran the gamut from going fully virtual, to holding in-person and streaming events in tandem, to taking intentional hiatuses to focus on mutual aid and community development.
Here are 20 of the best, brightest, and queerest film festivals around the globe to keep your eye on for 2021.
Mexico City, Mexico / TBD 2021
MICGénero, or Mexico City’s International Film Festival with a Gender Perspective, taps into and makes excellent use of a resource that its home city has in an impossibly high abundance — colleges. This erudite festival focuses more on the activist and educational possibilities of film, rather than their formal qualities or market potential, as showcased in their signature program, the 100 Hours of Activism, in which “public officials, NGO professionals, activists and postgraduate students donate an hour of their time and participate in lectures related to the official selections of MICGénero, generating discussion spaces and possible solutions on gender issues and human rights.” In 2020, they expanded their mission to “democratize knowledge” by taking the whole program, including all public lectures, online.
Oslo, Norway / September 24-October 3, 2021
Sudden orders last year to disperse all planned public gatherings weren’t welcome news to executive director Bard Ydén and the rest of the programming team at Oslo/Fusion, who’d been planning the beloved Scandinavian LGBTQ fest’s 30th anniversary for months. But like everyone else, they adapted, opting for a unique double festival format. In September 2020, they held a traditional, irl fest (though with a drastically diminished indoor capacity) at longtime Fusion home Cinemateket, at the Norwegian Film Institute. And in October they held a virtual repeat. Oslo/Fusion is like the queer TIFF—if you want to take in the big, buzzy festival darlings, like Isabel Sandoval’s Lingua Franca and Pablo Larrain’s EMA, in a gorgeous, urbane locale, this is your fest.
Durham, North Carolina / August 12-19, 2021
Durham has a long queer history, rich with generations of lesbian and feminist community organizing. That spirit has been captured and thrown onto the big screen every year since 1996 at the North Carolina Gay + Lesbian Film Festival, held at the historic Carolina Theater in the heart of downtown Durham. Last year, NCGLFF went fully virtual and rebranded as OutSouth, preserving its Southern charm but repackaging its rebellious spirit for a widely expanded audience.
Ljubljana, Slovenia / December 12-20, 2021
France, Italy, Spain, eat your heart out: the Slovenian LGBT Film Festival, held every year since 1984 in the metropolitan oasis of Ljubljana, is Europe’s oldest continuously running queer film festival. The past 35 years have boiled the festivities down to a science: This non-competitive showcase kicks off at the Slovenian Cinematheque in downtown Ljubljana before traveling to smaller outposts like the coastal Koper, and Idrija in the Western hills. In 2020 guests could catch the whole, pan-Eurasian program online at Cinesquare.
Click on for more of our 20 Fantastic LGBTQ+ Film Festivals Around the Globe…