Last updateSat, 07 Dec 2019 10am

Serving on a film festival jury: one woman’s odyssey

Kathleen Mullen, a jury member for this year’s Premio Maguey, the award for LGTBQI movies in the recent Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG), had secretly been hoping to receive an invitation for some time.

pg6Not just because she has contributed to film and festivals for almost two decades and is the current director of the Seattle Queer film festival, but as a gay person herself, she is passionate about promoting LGBTQI movies at both queer and mainstream festivals.

“We write scripts, we are cinematographers and directors and it’s crucial that these films are out there in society,” she said.

Mullen has a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in film production from York University and owns a consulting company called Letter K media that supports festivals, filmmakers and arts organizations. She has also made her own films, which include a series of shorts and an award-winning mid-length documentary called“Breathtaking.”

Mullen has lived her whole life between Canada and the United States. She was predominantly raised in Alberta, Canada and spent a lot of her youth reading and watching movies in her basement. Her family weren’t “movie people” but she had an insatiable craving for moving images and watched all kinds of films with a particular soft spot for old musicals.

After school she began volunteering at Canadian film festivals. Working in movie loving environments with like-minded people led her to believe she had found her calling.

Through her work at festivals, Mullen has seen thousands upon thousands of films and says the main criteria for selecting a movie for screening is that the subject matter should involve something significant enough to create dialogue and inspire viewers to have discussions afterwards.

Mullen gave the film “Rafiki” as a prime example. A love story between two Kenyan girls, it won both the audience and jury award at the Seattle Queer film festival last year yet was banned in Kenya, as are many other forms of LGBT content there.

“We have to support film and filmmakers like that; support what these people have been through and have to say,” she said. “Our lives are as diverse as they are part of this world. There are still an incredible number of discrimination and hate crimes happening, and film and cinema is a way to express this.”

After much deliberation, she and the other Premio Maguey jury members decided to award Best Film to “One Taxi Ride,” a powerful Mexican documentary with an important message that examines the shame male victims feel after suffering sexual abuse.

“‘One Taxi Ride’ skillfully brings us into the life of Erick, a gay man whose world was irrevocably changed when he was sexually assaulted as a young man,” Mullen said. “Interweaving his daily life and family story into the narrative is what gives the documentary such poignancy.”

As for the future of Queer Cinema, Mullen added that it is evolving and is pleased there is more LGBT-themed content in mainstream television, films and festivals. Yet this content is still downplayed (as was apparent in this year’s Academy Award-nominated movies “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

The least increase in the production of queer films shows a shift in terms of thinking. Mullen says it is thanks to festivals such as FICG and others that the LGBTQI community can find a haven to watch stories that truthfully reflect their lives and have their voices be heard.

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