Get to know the The University of Wisconsin-Eau Clare "Eau Queer Film Festival" Group!
A word from the Editor, Brianna Mueller:
I guess we’ll call me that at least. I am Brianna Mueller and I am a Theatre Education major aspiring to do theatre outreach with LGBT youth someday, but my other passion project is being the Eau Queer Film Festival Director that takes place at our University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus each Fall. To our immense gratitude, we’re back partnering for the third year with Frameline, our most supportive and generous partner. Our trip here comes out of a phenomenal cultural immersion LGBTQA studies course, designed and led by our professors Pamela Forman and Ellen Mahaffy, that blends together a diverse base of academic theory with critical analysis of queer cinema through history and across genres. It sounds like a lot, and frankly it is, but also entirely worth the time and energy. Frameline36 acts as an advisor to our festival in many ways, attending films and eventually programming our festival based on what we see here and as screeners back home. In addition, our students are traversing the city going rogue with cameras, audio equipment, and a whole lot of for their own documentary endeavors. I was blessed enough to screen our film from last year, Hear Me Now, as part of the Generations: Youth and Elders Making Movies program and experience the power that storytelling through film really holds. The film producers, Liz Albert, Katie Chaplin, Megan Chilman and I are continuing our work over the course of the festival and Pride and we will be telling you a bit more in upcoming posts, so stay tuned! More importantly, I am reveling in what this art form means to me. It has the capacity to affirm identities, create community, and spark activism. It has truly ignited me, and the students now too, so we are thrilled to have this opportunity once again to share our thoughts. It’s my words you’ll read through this blog, but hopefully the voice and embodiment of the students opinions, thoughts, and ideas. So let’s meet these folks:
Michael Federspiel (Major: English Minors: Communications and Public Relations) is asnowboarderturned film critic who has come to find the Castro a place of “freedom to be who I am without fear or apprehension. I felt that I was part of a community that I never intend to leave. Laughing, crying, loving and coming together about the same bits of a film proves that film can create a place of complete togetherness amongst the chaos that life can sometimes bring. This new togetherness could not have been any more welcome.”
Stephanie Gottschalk (Major: German, Minor: Linguistics), an animal-crocheting connoisseur, describes her first experience in the Castro as “mind-blowing” and truly an affirmation of her own identity. Though she describes herself as being somewhat closed off to other people verbally, her favorite opening night moment was a chance meeting with a stranger who borrowed a tissue from her at particularly emotional point. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. Stephanie is excited to get into what she describes as “bitchcritic” mode and give readers a bite of spice with her opinions.
Pete Helios III (Major: Advertising/Public Relations) spoke very candidly about his Castro experience and how he connects with the programming of Frameline36. His words speak volumes: “Coming from the small town of Neillsville, Wisconsin I was not sure what to expect. It felt really cool to be in room of over 1500 gays because that is basically the size of the town I grew up in. The best part of being in the Castro was seeing all the couples that have been together for years and that grew old together. After seeing some of the films I remember telling my group that I can not believe how real the movies are, its like all straight people were replaced by gays. I will be dreading going back going back to Wisconsin I have never felt more at home and so welcomed.”
Mike Jacobs (Multimedia Communication) is a returning student from last year's trip to this beautiful city and to Frameline who can’t believe he almost forgot how kind and happy everyone is in the Castro. He says, “I have never felt so welcomed into a family of strangers as I do here. I never could have imagined such a welcoming and open community of people who give so much work and passion to show us their stories.” Mike is excited to blog for Frameline because he aspires to be a documentary filmmaker himself and has always connected to this art form on a very deep level. “I may be straight, but I am learning what it means to be queer, and I am like you,” he notes. Mike looks forward to joining the audience in hissing and cheering and making the most of Frameline36.
Ariel Jurmain (Major: Sociology) is a violin playing pastry chef who was “captivated by the beautiful architecture, and the overall atmosphere” of the Castro that always seems to welcome newcomers in with open arms. Ariel notes that her favorite part as an audience member is the hissing. She says, “I had heard about it before, but experiencing everybody hissing at the screen all at once was very unifying.” Ariel looks forward to learning from these films and being shown “a new facet in my lens of looking at the world” through cinema.
Thom Kishaba (Major: Linguistics and Teaching English as a Foreign Language) has a very deep love and connection with film, but despite that Frameline is completely new for him, being underexposed to queer cinema throughout his life. He says that Vito was an excellent primer giving him a rich, queer cinema history and sense of community in the Castro, both in the theater and the district. To put it humbly, Thom says, “I love film, and I hope that comes across in everything I write here - perhaps not very intelligibly, but most definitely passionately.”
Charlotte Kubista (Major: Social Work, Minor: Women’s Studies) who believed she was prepared for the Castro and Framleline36 from our class conversations, found out quickly that words couldn’t quite describe the atmosphere. “The organist was wonderful and so befitting the mood of opening night. The theatre itself seemed to hum. A quote from the movie that now rings so true for me is ‘that we found out that we all laughed at the same times.’” This sense of community is truly profound for Charlotte who perhaps hadn’t realized she would feel so at home here, or that she could actually express every range of emotions in the company of these audiences. She is excited to start writing for the Frameline Blog and share her feelings through words, but wants you to know a bit about her life outside film too. She shares this, let’s call it quaint, anecdote about her midwestern upbringing and the roots of her telltale accent: “When I was 16 the film Fargo had been out for only a few years. My friend Rene and I were pumping gas and a truck pulling a fishing boat pulled up to a pump. The door opens and the driver steps out and shouts to another man who was also pumping gas ‘Ya hay dar Bobby! How do ya like pumping that dar gas fer a dollar 69 a gallon, ay?’ I guess I am sort of showing my age here. Ay?”
Taylor Kuether (Major: Journalism) who has an affinity for cats, coffee, and clothes says that she was awed by the sense of community felt at the Castro on opening night. She jokes, “It was a film-viewing experience unlike any other I've ever had (and that includes the sense of camaraderie that accompanied each midnight premiere of the films in the Harry Potter series - which is saying something!)” She looks forward with anticipation and excitement to each piece she sees and has found herself pleasantly surprised at how these films “challenged my perception of what love looks like.”
Bridget Oliver (Majors: History & Women's Studies) is a young lady with a passion for paranormal research, cryptozoology, and ufology (Yes, we’re talking UFOs and Loch Ness monsters.) But in all seriousness, Bridget has a keen eye for critical thought and has centered her experience on observation and reflection. She elaborates that “Watching films at the Castro is a great way to start, but I have learned that observing the people I am living with and the people on the street is just as rewarding to take in and reflect on.” In addition, Bridget says what surprises her most “is the openness and genuine care that San Francisco people have for everyone they encounter, no matter how much of a stranger we may be. That is something I truly respect and an example I believe the whole world should follow.”
Andrea “BA” Van Haren (Major: Environmental Geography) revels in the history of this space and says it is “Nothing like I imagined. I am still in awe of how beautiful the inside of the theater is and look around at every time I am there. She is truly warmed by the welcome and comfort of the Castro community and feels she has a place here. She jokes that in reading about the hissing and outpouring expression towards the screen, she never realized how motivated it would feel and even finds herself “reacting the same way to those moments.” She is ready to continue those experiences with each film and share her ideas with you afterwards.