LGBT Film Fest this weekend at Fargo Theatre

Just how many films does the juror for a film festival have to watch? In the case of Kailyn Allen, a juror for this week's FM LGBT Film Festival, the answer is "lots and lots." "That's the number I'm going to go with," she adds, laughing. But the...

Just how many films does the juror for a film festival have to watch?

In the case of Kailyn Allen, a juror for this week’s FM LGBT Film Festival, the answer is “lots and lots.”

“That’s the number I’m going to go with,” she adds, laughing.

But the hours and countless films barely scratch the surface of the experience. The hardest part of being a juror for a film festival with hundreds of submissions? Deciding which ones to keep.

“It was really difficult,” Allen says. “We all said we wished we could have two film festivals this year.”


The decisions probably will keep getting more difficult, too, as the event continues to grow. This is the sixth year of the festival, which focuses on films made from the perspective of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups and individuals.

Raymond Rea, director of the festival, says viewing such a large number of films could be fatiguing, but the power behind the stories keeps jurors interested.

“With any identity-based film festival of any kind, you would think there would be some fatigue,” Rea says. “Instead, you start to see the enormous amount of diversity in that category. There isn’t just one type of queer film. There isn’t one type of queer person or character or documentary subject.”

For the jurors, many of whom identify as LGBT, that discovery was notable. Denis Richardson and his partner, Nelson Richardson, both combed through nine feature-length documentaries as part of their juror duties. It was their first time jurying the festival, and the viewing took about two weeks. Because Nelson is blind, Denis read subtitles aloud for him.

Denis says he was moved by films made in Russia and Pakistan that document the LGBT experiences there, and watching these stories unfold can be a learning moment for anyone.

“Even if you fail every single subject in college, you still learn something. You learn there are other people on the planet. This is like that. It’s important for young gay people to learn that there are others like them. It’s encouraging,” he says.

By focusing on individuals, Denis says, these stories also reiterate the importance of gay rights on the local and international levels.

“It’s an important human rights issue. It’s about our aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins. It’s not us versus them,” he says.


Allen says this infusion of fresh voices onto screens at the Fargo Theatre reinforces the point of the festival, and not just from an LGBT standpoint. Other cultures and socio-economic factors also play a role.

“Our attention goes toward whatever has the most media coverage and commercials,” she says. “I love pop culture, but a lot of LGBT voices are simply not present. Regardless of how you identify, it’s enriching to see anyone’s story played out on screen.”

Rea echoes that point, saying that because the festival centers on LGBT people doesn’t mean any person of any identity couldn’t find something to like. He says the festival is geared mainly toward film fans who can’t find films like this in large theaters or even places like Netflix.

Ultimately, Rea hopes the exposure to these stories will empower local filmmakers to try their hand at sharing their own.

“I’ll probably stand up in front of this film festival and tell people to, please, pick up a camera and start making their own films. You have stories to tell, and you should start producing your own work,” Rea says.

The LGBT Film Festival is set for this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12-13, at the Fargo Theatre, located at 314 Broadway in Fargo. Tickets are $5 per screening and available only at the door. Visit for more information.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo.

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