by Lorie Lewis Ham
As the Reel Pride Film Festival in Fresno celebrates its twenty second year, the festival organizers have made an extra effort to bring in local youth to the festival. One of the things they have done toward that effort is to bring on board Clovis youth Justin Kamimoto as outreach coordinator. Reel Pride runs from September 14 through 18.
Reel Pride is a five day festival and one of the largest gay and lesbian film festivals in the country, showing over 50 films. It is also the sixth oldest such festival. According to Justin, for those who have experienced it, it is much more than that. “Reel Pride is a family. We all know, or get to know each other, talk, see each other at events we throw, and have a good time. When I talk to people about Reel Pride, I don’t say, ‘See you at one of our screenings.’ I say, ‘welcome to the Reel Pride family’ because that is what we consider each other – family.”
While Reel Pride has had youth events for many years, last year they noticed a decline in youth participation. Justin stated that not many youth know about Reel Pride’s efforts, which is the part of the problem he is helping to address this year with things such as a Reel Pride Student Outreach Facebook page. He believes a youth member is the best person to give input on how to reach the youth.“We have a group of people who personally select the films we show at the festival and our youth films are picked with the youth in mind,” continued Justin. “Our pizza party is something we have been doing in the past and it works great! This year, like last year, we are having The Trevor Project have a table to provide resources to youth.”
According to previous Festival director Jon Carroll, the idea behind a youth focused event was to provide a safe space and social event for those folks that don’t have many social outlets or options to gather around. “Although not everyone knows while they’re still a teenager that they are homosexual, bisexual, or transgender, many do. And for these young people, growing up can be much harder due to the isolation, ostracism, and negative pressures they frequently face. We hope that this event can provide learning and growing opportunities to our queer, queer-friendly, and questioning youth.”
This year the Festival also has more youth directed films than they have ever had. “On Thursday, September 16 we will be hosting a ‘Finding Identity’ theme of Youth Shorts,” said Justin. It will be taking place at 7:30 p.m. at the Tower Theatre. On Saturday, September 17, they have a Youth Film Screening and Pizza Party lunch. The screening will take place at the Starline and the pizza party will be at the Tower Theatre. This event is complimentary to high school and college students who show a valid student ID.
On Sunday they will be premiering The Wise Kids at 12:30 p.m. at the Tower Theatre. With a valid ID students will receive half off tickets to screening films, as an incentive for them to attend. As an extra bonus the first 22 youth who come up to their box office right before a film runs will receive a complimentary ticket. Youth must arrive when a screening is about to start or currently is running to receive this deal.
To learn more about all of the events at this year’s festival check out Reel Pride’s presence online: