In my mind, one of the main functions of art is to open up other worlds for the beholder. Movies, music, literature and drama have always been my passport to other places, my peephole into hidden lives. Through these mediums I have experience and felt, however imperfectly, childhoods in Victorian England, the jungles of Africa and storming the beaches of Normandy.
This similar view of art drives Gordon Sombrowski, president of the Fairy Tales Production Society, to spend much of his free time coordinating the Fairy Tales International Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Film Festival. The festival's purpose is, "to bring the best quality films in that we can that show diverse perspectives showing the diversity of the world, essentially from the perspective of gay, lesbian transgender, bisexual, twin-spirited, or anything else that kind of fits under what now days is loosely termed queer."
The Fairy Tales festival, now in its sixth year, has been received positively by people of all walks of life. People from many of Calgary's different age, sexual and racial groups have turned out for the festival in the past.
"We think that the films are of such quality anyone can come and enjoy them, especially if they have an open mind," says Sombrowski. "Anybody watching the films can usually get something out of them that's a bigger life story. Great film is usually about that. You take the story you're seeing, and you can translate it into something that has an affect on your own life."
People shouldn't be quick to dismiss Fairy Tales just because it falls under the heading of alternative sexualities. The movies in the festival come in a wide variety of subjects and styles, from dramas to documentaries. Within the festival the films are not static in their themes going beyond sexuality. Just because a movie falls under a banner of a certain sexuality it doesn't mean its of a sexual or perverse nature. The purpose of the festival isn't to display sexual deviance or porn, and watch the heterosexuals squirm in their seats.
"We're really conscious about the quality of the films," explains Sombrowski. "If a film is shown only with the purpose of shock value or porn value, then typically that's not a great film. We wouldn't select a film that wasn't great. On the other hand, if we think a film is hard-hitting and edgy and is a brilliant film, we would show it irrespective of whether people thought it was controversial or not, because great film is sometimes about that kind of thing."
In fact, the material you'll see at this year's festival isn't much different from what you'd see at any other film fest.
"Anybody who has seen, [the recent mainstream film] Monster can easily watch anything that we're going to show in our festival, and not find it to be very challenging," explains Sombrowski.
The Fairy Tales festival offers Calgary a chance to see independent films which have limited distribution, something we don't get enough of in our city. Art fans and film buffs would do well to check out the films playing this year, like the Sundance wining The Mudge Boy and a special episode of The Ambiguously Gay Duo. As for those who are still frightened by the festival's label, Sombrowski has this to say:
"I would encourage anybody who feels threatened by it to see what its about, and push their limits, because maybe they'll find they learned something from the festival."