In its eighth year, Cincinnati’s LGBTQ film festival celebrates inclusion and tolerance

When the OutReels Cincinnati Film Festival started in 2011, many thought that it was too soon for our region to host its own gay film festival. But all the 19 films that were screened at this year's festival — which ran Thursday, Nov. 21 through Sunday, Nov. 24 — have left any remaining naysayers biting their tongues. Every one of the films exhibited at least one of three things: a celebration of the uncelebrated, the movement of the needle of tolerance forward, and a brief escape from reality.

Throughout the years, the festival has enlightened, educated, and entertained the community through the exhibition and discussion of LGBTQ-themed films and, this year, it did not disappoint.

“In 2011 the festival was created in Cincinnati to fill the void I found while visiting other festivals,” says Chuck Beatty, the festival’s executive director. “Now, eight years later, OutReels Cincinnati, formally known as CNKY Scene and CNKY Film Festival, has grown into its own 501c3 not-for-profit organization.”

Over the years OutReels has given voice and visibility to a full spectrum of the LGBTQ experience by championing films, supporting storytellers, and engaging audiences in order to inspire dialogue, shift cultural bias, and empower our diverse community.

There have been a slew of advancements since the beginning of the film festival, namely because of the increase of gay and trans talent. It also helped that, just recently, Cincinnati was given a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI), which breaks down the inclusivity of municipal laws, policies, and services as they pertain to the LGBTQ community.

The films presented this year made viewers take an honest look at the way we love. Pride Prom and Lola, both helped to remind the audience of the awkwardness and obstacles faced by the LGBTQ community during adolescence and young adulthood.

Other examples included the locally produced A Culture of Silence: Being LGBTQ in Catholic Schools, a feature documentary that covered, among other topics, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s employment contract for educators.

Also, the film Search Engines, showed how sanity and relationships are put to the test when mysterious circumstances force a family to survive the Thanksgiving holiday without their cell phones.

“It is not only important for these films to be made,” Beatty says, “[but] it’s also important for those films be seen in a festival environment where you have an opportunity to have a discussion with the filmmaker. I started the festival with the goal of wanting to give the community I belong to a place in Greater Cincinnati to share our stories.”

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Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.