The Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s 26th Annual Seattle Queer Film Festival kicks off this week, and my word does it have a fabulous series of films. Taking place October 14 through 24, there is a varied lineup of cinema from documentaries to narrative features and imaginative shorts packages. All, of course, queer.
This year’s festival offers a hybrid of virtual screenings and in-person screenings at some of the best theaters in Seattle. Lucky PNW film lovers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska can access this digital programming unless otherwise noted that a selection is an exclusive in-person screening. There will also be many livestreamed Q&As on both the Seattle Queer Film Festival Facebook page and Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s YouTube channel.
If you go to one of the in-person screenings, make sure to bring proof of vaccination and wear a mask to ensure everyone is safe during the festival. That said, after more than a year of not getting to experience cinema together in a theater, this fest is a chance to come together to experience storytelling on the big screen. Sharing a movie theater now feels unique, and it's a blessing to have such a joyous lineup.
Here are some of the films we are looking forward to at this year’s festival.
Opening Night: Potato Dreams of America
USA, 2021, 95 min., Dir. Wes Hurley
A locally shot and set film that showed at SXSW, the Seattle International Film Festival, and the North Bend Film Festival, Potato Dreams of America is a profoundly personal family story. In a sign he is someone to watch, writer-director Wes Hurley recreates how he came to America with his mother from the Soviet Union when she was a mail-order bride. The film splits into two parts in both style and time. The first sees Hurley growing up in a setting framed like a darkly absurdist play, complete with Jesus Christ serving as an imaginary friend. The second part portrays a more grounded life in Seattle, with Hurley struggling to find himself in a strict household run with a controlling hand by his stepfather. How the pieces all come together, including an unexpected revelation about his new family, is sweet. It all flows along with a brisk tone that masks an engaging story of growing up and discovering your way. One of the funnier films of the festival, it works within the constraints of its budget to give birth to a compelling piece that represents what independent cinema can be.
(Thur Oct 14, 7:30 PM, SIFF Egyptian & Virtual Oct 14-24)
Centerpiece: Being BeBe
USA, 2021, 93 min., Dir. Emily Branham
An intelligent and collaborative look at the person who is Marshall behind the drag performer who was crowned winner in Season 1 of RuPaul's Drag Race, Being BeBe traces an icon's journey with a compassionate eye. The film wears on its sleeve that it's a documentary shot during the pandemic, playing out as an extended virtual conversation between filmmaker and subject. It mainly features archival footage and interviews that uncover Marshall’s upbringing, though with an additional layer to the approach. We watch along with Marshall, who offers commentary, both humorous and insightful, on the documentary as it is in progress. Taking the audience through an early upbringing in Cameroon through the experience of breaking into the scene in America and getting widespread acclaim, it is a comprehensive look at Marshall/BeBe that touches on the reality of how Cameroon criminalizes homosexual and transgender people. It is a documentary as vibrant as its subject.
(Sat Oct. 16, 7:00 pm, SIFF Egyptian & Virtual Oct 14-24)
Finland, 2020, 150 min., Dir. Zaida Bergroth, in Swedish and Finnish with English subtitles
A film that breaks the conventions of a biopic, Tove soars above other works in this well-worn genre, with outstanding lead performances and rich direction, all of it coming together to create a loving portrait of the acclaimed artist, author, and illustrator Tove Jansson. Most known for creating the beloved Moomins comic strip characters, Jansson is performed here as a multifaceted vision, played with a quiet gravitas by Alma Pöysti. The film follows her life from wartime to the mid-1950s, but her relationship with Vivica Bandler (Krista Kosonen) is at the film's core. I thought every frame was mesmerizing.
(Wed Oct. 20, 6:30 pm, Ark Lodge & Virtual Oct. 14-24)
We Need to Do Something
USA, 2021, 97 min., Sean King O’Grady
A film for the late-night weirdos, We Need To Do Something is a horror flick that dips its toe into black magic. The story centers on a family trapped in their bathroom after a devastating and mysterious storm, and it's adapted from a novella of the same name. It features claustrophobic isolation—it was shot in secret during the pandemic—and leans into being gloriously unpredictable. At the center is Melissa, played by a wonderfully snarky Sierra McCormick, whom you might recognize from 2020's sleeper hit The Vast of Night. While trapped, Melissa tries to get in touch with her girlfriend Amy (Lisette Alexis) and discovers their actions may be tied to what caused the storm. The film fully commits to being darkly comic and bloody, and it certainly won't be for everyone.
(Wed Oct 20, 9:15 PM, Northwest Film Forum)
See You Then
USA, 2021, 74 min., Dir. Mari Walker
A humble film made with care, See You Then is an emotional journey about revisiting the old parts of your life, and it finds expansiveness in writer-director Mari Walker’s dedication to its characters. Kris Ahadi (Pooya Mohseni) and Naomi Liu (Lynn Chen) meet up after their relationship ended abruptly a decade prior. Kris has also since transitioned after breaking up with Naomi. Both have gone in vastly different directions in their lives, almost feeling like strangers to each other. But they still have a bond. Mohseni and Chen play their characters expertly, perfectly capturing the feeling of people having their drunken confessions let sober thoughts out. I thought the ending was surprising and sad.
(Sun Oct 24, 2:30 pm, Northwest Film Forum & Virtual Oct 14-24)
Canada, 2020, 90 min., Dir. Phil Connell
A sentimental film that features one of the last performances of the legendary Cloris Leachman, this delicate drama leads with a confident hand. It centers on Thomas Duplessie as Russell, an aspiring actor turned drag queen who, fresh off a breakup, goes home to be with his grandmother in her small town. Leachman’s Margaret, who often goes by Gran, is in her older years and fearful about being put in a home. Just as Russell is trying to figure out what he wants his future to be, Margaret is facing down what her end will look like. It is their central relationship that gives the film its beating heart. A tragedy circles the film, but amidst it all, there are some outstanding drag performances.
(Sat Oct 23, 5:15 pm, SIFF Egyptian & Virtual Oct. 14-24)
For a look at the full lineup of films and more, head on over to the festival calendar of events here.