The 29-year-old Pittsburgh International LGBT Film Festival
brings little-seen, world-class independent films to
downtown’s Harris Theater.
olding a film
on lesbian, gay,
themes was a lot
different in 1985.
When Rich Cummings launched a spin-
off of a Pittsburgh Gay Community Center
film series, “Having the fest was a very politi-
cal thing to do,” says Mitchell Leib. “Years ago,
the festival was picketed. That doesn’t happen
Leib is the executive director of what now
is called Reel Q, The Pittsburgh International
LGBT Film Festival. Now in its 29th year, the
festival is North America’s fifth-oldest contin-
uously running gay film festival; it began nine
years after the first, San Francisco’s Frameline.
Reel Q is an all-volunteer organization, and in
addition to running the festival, it presents or
co-sponsors screenings year-round.
About 20 programs, including narrative
films, documentaries and collections of shorts,
will be screened from Oct. 10-18 at the Harris
Theater, downtown. Although many LGBT
filmmakers will be represented, subject matter
is the most important quality for a Reel Q
selection, Leib says.
“I’ve had issues where we have an LGBT
filmmaker [who’s] making a film that doesn’t
have an LGBT theme,” he says. “I just feel the
theme is more important; that’s what we’re
“We’ve also really been trying to look at
the bisexual and transgender segment of the
population. They’re the really under-repre-
Though visibility of LGBT characters in
film and television has risen, many of the films
screened at Reel Q otherwise wouldn’t be seen
in Pittsburgh. Leib compares these movies to
those shown at other area film festivals, such
as the Silk Screen Asian American Film Festi-
val or The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival, in
that they don’t have the marketing muscle to
reach a wide audience. “They’re really small,
independent films,” he says, “so you might see
[them] through [Pittsburgh] Filmmakers, but
you’re not going to see [them] at a mainstream
Reel Q will open with a screening of
“Blackbird,” a Southern-set drama based
on the novel of the same name by Larry
Duplechan. “It’s the story of . . . [a] gay
high-school student coming to grips with his
sexuality,” says Leib, who notes that the film
equally is about the lead character’s family and
friends and their struggles. “Blackbird” is the first
film featuring actress Mo’Nique (above) since
her Oscar-winning performance in “Precious.”
The Brazilian film “The Way He Looks”
will close the festival on Oct. 18. Described by
Leib as “one of the sweetest, most wonderful
films” he’s seen, it is a coming-of-age story
centered on a blind boy struggling to define
his sexuality. “The Way He Looks” was a hit at
the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.
Other films in the Reel Q lineup include:
investigates the mishandling of a 2006 crime
involving a group of young black women; “Eat
with Me,” a comedy about a mother coming to
terms with her son’s sexual orientation; “Tru
Love,” about an unlikely friendship between
two women; and “ 52 Tuesdays,” an award-
mother as the
mother transitions from female to male.
While the rise of Netflix and other video-on-demand services has given independent
films a greater platform than ever before, audiences continue to attend festivals such as Reel
Q for the communal experience, Leib says.
“The sense of community is still there . . .
I still think it’s important to watch films with
your peers and not watch them at home on
your sofa.” PM
BY SEAN COLLIER
REEL Q FESTIVAL
809 Liberty Ave., downtown
Individual, festival and ticket
packages available. Showtimes not
available at press time; see
reelq.org for listings and prices
Scenes from "Out in the Night,"
"Blackbird" and "The Way He Looks"