Launching a new film festival isn’t easy, but it might be just as difficult to keep a festival going beyond its first year, after the initial rush of enthusiasm has been met with all the hard work and logistical challenges that come with mounting a major event. So the return of the Las Vegas Queer Arts Film Festival is just as notable as its launch last year, and festival director and founder Kris Manzano has had an entire year to plan and curate the 2019 event, as opposed to just a few months before the initial launch. “Now that everything had already been done and the festival was already its own entity, all I had to do was help nurture it,” he says. “Finding sponsors became easier, because we also had something to show for what we did.”
Those sponsors include Regal Cinemas, which will host festival screenings at its Colonnade location in the southeast Valley, and Downtown’s Gay and Lesbian Community Center, which will host the festival’s opening-night ball. Produced by performance artist Ajá Hildreth, the ball takes inspiration from the LGBTQ underground ballroom circuit, which has been having a pop-culture moment thanks to the FX series Pose. “I was honestly floored by the turnout that we got,” Manzano says of last year’s ball. “This year’s theme was aquatic, and the message was ‘make waves’; through your art, make change. So this year we’re doing an Atlantis ball.”
Last year’s festival also featured sold-out screenings, and the film slate has expanded to encompass eight short-film blocks and two feature films, the documentaries Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America, which follows LGBTQ refugees in the U.S., and A Night at Switch n’ Play, which profiles a Brooklyn-based queer performance troupe. Director Tom Shepard and some of the subjects will be in attendance for a panel discussion and Q&A after the Unsettled screening. “The quality of the films that we have in this year’s lineup alone really says a lot about LGBTQ filmmakers and what they’re capable of creating,” Manzano says.
Saturday’s program opens with a shorts block showcasing local filmmakers, another first for the festival. “I’m really excited because we actually have enough films to make an entire block for them,” Manzano says. He cites shorts Realness, The Sea Runs Thru My Veins, Intrinsic Moral Evil and Moth as further highlights. “What I really enjoyed about Moth is not only how well-made and how well-directed it was, but also that it doesn’t necessarily focus on an LGBTQ storyline,” he says, pointing to the festival’s diversity. “That was a focus of ours, making sure that there was a diverse set of stories, different voices and different identities within our own community that we’re able to show people and have represented.”
Las Vegas Queer Arts Film Festival November 8-10, times vary, $10 per screening, $75 pass. Regal Cinemas Colonnade & the Center, lvqueerarts.com.