Portland’s annual QDoc festival has been a staple event for 12 years. QDoc is the only festival in the U.S. devoted exclusively to LGBTQ documentaries.
The film festival was founded in 2007 by Russ Gage and David Weissman, and directed by Molly King and Deb Kemp since 2017. QDoc has shown award-winning films fresh from Sundance, Berlin, Hot Docs, Tribeca, Amsterdam and other top-tier festivals.
The event is known for their diverse and unique documentaries. According to their website, “Documentary as a form of expression is as vital and energetic as it has ever been, and QDoc brings the highest caliber of films – and their makers – to share with Portland audiences.”
Kemp and King, who are also partners in life in addition to Co-Directors attended the event several years ago and immediately became a supporters. They worked closely with the founders and soon took over last year.
We spoke to King about the importance of representation and what attendees can expect.
What is your favorite thing about QDoc?
Witnessing important stories being told on screen with a packed theater full of hundreds of LGBTQ folks and allies is a pretty special thing. That followed by the engagement with the filmmakers, subjects and audience in the Q&A’s immediately following the films – it’s such a moving experience.
What can festival goers expect this year?
Starting Thursday, May 17 at the historic Hollywood Theatre here in Portland, Oregon, we kick-off the festival by celebrating the rich history of the Imperial Council, the oldest LGBTQ charity organization in the world. On Friday, we get an intimate look into the lives of several Oregon LGBTQ service members and veterans. We also explore the underground LGBTQ punk rock scene born in the 1980s, and we explore gender identity, feminism, body image, and race.
On Saturday, we celebrate the life of a dominant bisexual fashion illustrator from the 1970s (ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX FASHION & DISCO), we learn about a community of leitis (trans women) rising to reclaim their righteous place in the Kingdom of Tonga (LEITIS IN WAITING), we follow a group of transgender men as they prepare to compete at the world’s first trans bodybuilding competition (MAN MADE), and we explore the history and culture of the underground black lesbian strip club scene in L.A. (SHAKEDOWN). On Sunday, we celebrate the life and career of one of the world’s most honored and risk-taking playwrights (EVERY ACT OF LIFE), we follow two gay Syrian refugees trying to rebuild their lives (MR. GAY SYRIA), we share the story of the only medical team in Utah to care for HIV/AIDS patients during the height of the crisis (QUIET HEROES), and we close the fest examining faith, love and civil rights colliding in a small Southern town with gospel drag shows and passion plays (THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA)!
Why is this event important to the LGBTQ Portland community?
QDoc takes a lot of pride in being the only documentary film festival in the country (and one of only two in the world) dedicated to screening LGBTQ documentaries exclusively. David Weissman and Russ Gage (QDoc founders) worked hard to make QDoc a uniquely anticipated highlight of Portland’s cultural calendar.
I think documentaries offer a unique vehicle to creatively engage core issues of queer identity and documentary as a form of expression is as creative and vital as it has ever been. That coupled with the opportunity for face-to-face dialogue between filmmakers and the Oregon community creates a truly special experience.
QDoc has done a great job showcasing QPOC and trans films. Why is this important?
Hearing that we’ve done a good job at programming QPOC and trans films means so much to us as visibility and representation is what we’re all about. It’s one of the reasons we offer free tickets to those age 23 and under. Seeing our identities represented on screen can be life-changing and sometimes even life saving.
Personally, any films you are most looking forward to?
Having a world premiere means a lot to the festival (50 YEARS OF FABULOUS) and so does having films with Oregon connections (BREAKING THE SILENCE, THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA).
We have a record number of visiting filmmakers and guests this year, which is really special because it enables those audience / filmmaker / subject interactions immediately following the film. I’m looking forward to what that looks like for MAN MADE and QUIET HEROES in particular.
Why should people attend this year?
In these times, giving voice and space to the underrepresented and marginalized has never been more important. Documentaries allow us to walk in another’s shoes and build a sense of understanding and shared humanity. Showing up and supporting events that enable that is critical.
What do you hope people takeaway from QDoc?
I truly believe the best way to care about something is to be given the opportunity to learn about it and documentaries enable that. If festival-goers can walk away with a mind more opened, a heart more full, and be inspired to take action big or small – I think we’ve succeeded.
QDoc takes place May 17-20 at The Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon. You can get more information at qdocfilmfest.org.