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Building community: Way Out West Film Festival celebrates LGBTQ experience

Niv Nissim and John Benjamin Hickey in a scene from the film “Sublet.” (Courtesy of Way Out West Film Festival)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Way Out West Film Festival celebrates the diversity of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer experience.

This year is no different, although the festival will be held virtually, from Friday, Oct. 9, through Oct. 18.

The 10-day festival will feature films, documentaries, short programs and special events — all online.

“Like many film festivals across the country, we were deeply impacted by COVID-19, but we know our communities need art and inspiration now more than ever,” says Roberto Appicciafoco, festival director. “The Way Out West Film Fest has earned a strong and loyal following throughout our history for its high-quality programming and community focus, and going virtual allows us to invite more people into the festival family. Thanks to the fantastic work of our steering committee, we are excited to be hosting a great slate of programming that truly has something for everyone.”

A scene from the short film “Query.” (Courtesy of Way Out West Film Festival)

This year’s festival will include more than 100 films – the largest lineup in its history – that will be screened in 36 programs.

Major themes include films focused on LGBTQ+ youth and seniors, films about the intersection of being black and queer, lesbian and bisexual subjects, and Latinx and foreign-language films, which have had a long-standing presence in the festival.

The festival opens with the film “Sublet,” at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9.

The film, directed by Eytan Fox, is a heartwarming ode to gay men and to aging that tells the story of a New York Times travel writer who befriends a handsome tenant in Tel Aviv.

“The Whistle” tells the story of a group of predominantly Latina lesbians who came out as youths in the ’70s and ’80s in Albuquerque, and the secret code they used to find one another and build community. (Courtesy of Way Out West Film Festival)

The festival is also presenting “The Whistle” at 2 p.m Sunday, Oct. 11. The film is a homegrown documentary by StormMiguel Florez that tells the story of a group of predominantly Latina lesbians who came out as youths in the ’70s and ’80s in Albuquerque, and the secret code they used to find one another and build community.

The film collects and preserves a little-known piece of LGBTQ and Latinx history and explores the resiliency of queer communities during that time.

Director StormMiguel Florez

“One of the biggest gifts and surprises in making this film was the opportunity to meet some of the people who came out a decade before I did,” Florez says. “These women paved the way so that my peers and I had a celebratory culture to come out into. I think our support network and particular culture were pretty unique for LGBTQ youths in the ’70s and ’80s, especially outside of urban areas like New York and San Francisco.”

A scene from the film “Cured,” which is screening as part of the Way Out West Film Festival. (Courtesy of Way Out West Film Festival)

The University of New Mexico’s Truman Health Services will host a free screening of “Cured,” a documentary chronicling one of the most significant turning points in LGBTQ+ history. The suggested screening time is at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10.

“Cured” tells the story of the scrappy band of gay and lesbian activists, from both outside and within the psychiatric field, who took on the medical establishment’s views about homosexuality in the 1960s and ’70s and fought to have the American Psychiatric Association remove the stigma of mental illness from its medical manuals.

“Throughout our history, LGBTQ+ people and our allies have had to build community in creative ways,” says Jake McCook, festival manager. “The pandemic has been especially challenging for many of us, who often seek comfort at in-person events, gatherings and other safe spaces we don’t have access to right now.”

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