Film festivals have a rich history in Virginia. One of the oldest and most well-known festivals is the Virginia Film Festival, which was founded in 1988 by the University of Virginia. Over the years, the festival has featured a diverse range of films, including international films, documentaries, and classic cinema. Another prominent festival is the Richmond International Film Festival, which was established in 2010 and has quickly become a popular event in the city. Other festivals in Virginia include the Northern Virginia International Film Festival, and the Williamsburg International Film & Music Competition Festival. These festivals provide a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work and for audiences to enjoy a variety of films from Virginia and around the world.
A notable and welcome addition to this lineup is the first Virginia Queer Film Festival in Norfolk, VA, which will be held Wed, June 14 ‒ Fri, June 16, 2023 at Old Dominion University. We spoke with Eric Hause, President & Festival Director, about the festival, its beginnings and what’s planned over the three-days of screenings and events.
Eric, you’ve been very invested in supporting and connecting Virginia’s LGBTQ+ community for many years. Tell us a little bit about your own history in Virginia, and your work.
I’m a North Carolina boy, but have made my home in Hampton Roads for nearly 25 years now. In that time, I have seen the LGBTQ+ community here and across the Commonwealth grow and thrive. As part of that movement locally, I founded Outwire757 in 2016 with my husband. We wanted to provide an information source for the events and groups and organizations that were and are doing the work in our community. All the queer media had gone away, the bars were closing, and I remember thinking that if I was an 18 year old queer kid who fled a deeply red state to join the Navy and landed here, where would they find our community? So we started a web site, and that turned into a beautiful lifestyle magazine, and I’ve just kept going since then. We now also produce an LGBTQ+ Career Expo, sponsor LGBTQ+ themed social and business events, and publish a resource guide. All are in great demand.
What inspired you to create an LGBTQ+ film festival that showcases films made both locally and internationally?
I have a good friend who’s a renowned filmmaker in Los Angeles, and during one of his visits here (his home), we talked about the value of queer cinema as yet another avenue for LGBTQ+ visibility and storytelling. Shortly after the visit, I think I just woke up one day and thought, “Well, Eric, you don’t have enough going on, so let’s produce a queer film festival here!” While our mission is primarily to give voice to Virginia and Southern queer voices, once we started accepting submissions, we were astounded to see that queer filmmakers from around the world were submitting their work. Right now, we’re judging 50 film submissions for June.
Are you finding festival entries are representative of the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community and its experiences?
Absolutely. And as you might expect given the current climate, many of the submissions ar transgender-themed. The submissions as a whole range from full-length features to 15 minute shorts, so there’s a wide variety of storytelling going on this year. We’ll be presenting awards for narrative short and feature, documentary short and feature, animated short and experimental short films, and possibly others.
What role do you believe the festival plays in building connections within the LGBTQ+ community?
Once again, it has to do with visibility. Think about the first queer-themed film or television program you ever saw. When you’re that kid sitting in a darkened heater, and you see yourself reflected on the screen for the first time, that’s a powerful affirmation that you’re not alone. And that realization is the first step in living authentically.
This is truly an exciting and, surely, work-intensive endeavor. What local and other partners have you worked with to make the festival happen?
You have no idea! But we have enlisted some great community partners ranging from the City of Norfolk, WHRO Public Media, Old Dominion University, Deadline Digital Printing and WHRO Public Media. And also loca LGBTQ+ community support and social groups such asl Stonewall Sports Norfolk, The WAVE, to as well as a number of prominent individuals in both the queer and allied community, such as local realtor Lin Miller. The response has been so encouraging that I feel certain the Festival will live on past our first year.
When you are traveling in Virginia (other than the Hampton Roads area) what are a few of your favorite places to stay, eat, shop and play?
My husband and I love Virginia, and we are explorers at heart. We make a point of regularly visiting new as well as familiar places. Our favorite weekend getaway spot is Richmond, and we really immerse ourselves in the progressive vibe of your city. We love Scott’s Addition, Carytown, Downtown, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom. It’s nice to have different choices of gay bars such as Babes of Carytown, Barcode and Papi’s Downtown. However, we also love the rooftop, city-view bars at the Quirk, Kabana and Hofheimer. When we need to engage with our rural upbringing, we take a day trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel