There’s no doubt queer cinema made huge strides in the last year, when films like Call Me by Your Name and Love, Simon exceeded expectations at award shows and the box office, respectively. But both films still follow white teenage men exploring their sexuality within privileged, accepting families.

That’s why QFest, the Houston LGBTQ film festival now in its 22nd year, continues to spotlight filmmakers of diverse backgrounds who illuminate different narratives, hardships, and complexities that queer people face—not only the ideal, happy version.

“You’re going to see films that are representing as many corners of the world as possible,” says QFest Artistic Director Kristian Salinas. “These filmmakers are people who are committed to making something with impact, with meaning, and are against great odds in doing so.”

Instead of the usual curated film series, this year’s festival is a juried competition awarding excellence in five categories, including a freedom of vision award given to one outstanding feature film. Competitors were narrowed from over 1,500 submissions to 16 features and 17 shorts. The festival will also screen five films Salinas says “have the buzz,” like The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.

While the 2018 festival has no overt theme, Salinas says these films see humankind in a global perspective. Foreign-language films—in Hebrew, Spanish, German, Mandarin, and more—dominate the lineup. Non-Western cultures are centered in films like Call Me sis, a Korean feature that follows a middle-aged woman who learns joy and self-love after meeting a young woman. 

QFest also screens five documentaries, all of which will be free for the public on the weekend because they’re both educational and “these documentaries are some that we really want people to see,” Salinas says. Sidney & Friends, for example, follows an intersex Kenyan child named Sidney as he flees to Nairobi and meets transgender friends who love and accept him. It shows the audience “how their humanity can inspire our humanity, just working towards the sense of one community with a global vision overall.” 

The French film Tempting Devils (Que le diable nous emporte) marks another festival first as the inaugural 3-D screening. Also joining the schedule is a revival of the Japanese film School of the Holy Beast, which will be projected on the enormous screen at Rice Cinema in a rare 35 mm print.

Taken as a whole, the lineup provides a sustained argument for how vast and particular the queer experience really is. 

“We need to also be aware of others around the world and to acknowledge their struggles and how they overcome them because their struggles are different,” Salinas says. “They’re based in cultures and government and politics that are unique to their environment.”

July 26–30. Tickets from $10 (some screenings free). Various locations. More info and tickets at q-fest.org.

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