by Liz Schob (she/her) Communications Manager, Charlotte Pride

Hey, Y’all. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like the first few months of 2023 have been pretty rough. Over 400 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in legislatures across the country, with a number of them right here in North Carolina. It can feel, at times, like the world has lost touch with its humanity.

I’ve only been at Charlotte Pride for almost six months but becoming rooted in this work has reminded me just how important it is to speak up and remind people of our collective humanity. In a time where lobbyists and politicians seek to erase the LGBTQ+ community from public spaces, we must continue to stand up and show the world that we’re here, we’ve always been here, and you can’t legislate us out of existence. It’s also important for us to take care of each other and practice community care. Activism is necessary, but so is rest. I’m so glad that, despite these dark times for our community, we have created spaces for ourselves where we can come together to find joy and solace and tell our stories. 

Fifteen years ago, a group of people from the LGBTQ community came together to start what is now known as Reel Out Charlotte: The Queen City’s LGBTQ Film Festival with a desire to highlight independent LGBTQ cinema during a time when streaming services like Netflix were in their infancy. Even today, there is much to be desired in terms of accurate and inclusive LGBTQ themes in the media, and they knew how important it was to have a space where we could tell our stories our way and experience them in community with each other. 

Since I joined the staff at Charlotte Pride, it’s been really exciting for me to see what it takes to build a film festival from the ground up. I can safely say that Reel Out would not be what it is without the community’s continued support as well as our amazing group of volunteers whose passion and enthusiasm for LGBTQ independent cinema knows no bounds. They have watched and discussed festival submissions for hours, making painstaking decisions about which short films we should include during our annual LGBTQ Shorts Night, and which films unfortunately didn’t make the cut. They have done an incredible job, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what they’ve put together. Sponsors like K&L Gates, Charlotte Gaymers Network, PBS North Carolina, WDAV, and others have also been integral to bringing this festival to life.

There is so much about this year’s Reel Out to be excited about. We are partnering with the Charlotte Film Society this year to bring this year’s festival to the Independent Picture House for all five days of the festival. Reel Out had previously been hosted in venues including the now closed LGBT Center, the old Manor Theatre, Theatre Charlotte, Johnson C. Smith, and most recently Camp North End. Partnering this year with CFS to bring the film festival to the Independent Picture House, a nonprofit theater that specializes in independent cinema, feels like a natural fit and we could not be prouder to support such an amazing local venue.

This year’s Reel Out is full of exciting events. On Saturday, May 13, we are partnering with The Artisan’s Palate for a Drag Cocktail Hour celebrating Old Hollywood and Wednesday, May 17, we will kick off the film festival with eleven short films during our LGBTQ Shorts Night sponsored by PBS North Carolina. Eleven feature films highlighting LGBTQ stories from around the world will be shown Thursday, May 18 through Sunday, May 21. On Friday, May 19, the Charlotte Gaymers Network has even sponsored a special screening of the modern cult classic “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”. This year’s lineup pays particular attention to young people, women, people of color, and gender expansive communities.

Having the space and the time to come together as a community with intentionality and celebrate our stories and our resiliency makes me incredibly proud. All those years ago, our festival founders knew the importance of showing our community onscreen and it’s an honor to continue their legacy. Now, more than ever, our stories deserve to be told 

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