So why is queer cinema critical to a university, such as UWEC? Why is it important to watch films that are disagreeable to our values and way of life? Why should we be involved in things that run cross-grain to the ways we were raised as a child?
These are all valid questions for someone who was raised in a conservative home, and perhaps in a Midwestern community. But what queer cinema offers to the viewer is the opportunity to watch a story unfold about an individual who may be struggling with social status, race, gender, sexuality, or other coming of age concerns. If we allow ourselves to embrace the story being told, to place ourselves in the shoes of the individuals on-screen, we can begin to empathize with their life, and their story.
“So why does this matter” one might ask? Because our world today is filled with concerns and divisions that have never occurred in a global setting previously. Because today’s world is more entangled, and the barriers of complexity in the world we inhabit can only be more productive, if and only if, we can see things from other’s perspectives. Our ability to abide and prosper in today’s demanding workforce requires our ability to include and adopt the viewpoint of others, that allow us to work through the highly contentious questions of our day.
Exclusion and division, building walls to separate people by groups, genders, nationalities, race, sexualities all define us as enemies and competitors against one another, which causes hate and uncaring, callousness and bitterness, envy and spite.
Queer cinema is not a solve-all for world-wide problems and concerns, but what it does offer is an opportunity to embrace the life of someone else, to see their world, to understand their concerns, to walk in their shoes—which allows us to soften our hearts toward those where enmity has existed. Queer cinema challenges us to reconsider our own thoughts and values, and how they play out in the world at large, not just those we were raised to adopt and believe. Queer cinema challenges us to question, to question global issues, but more importantly, to question ourselves, our world, and our most intimate thoughts.
While in San Francisco, I was afforded the opportunity to visit with a few of the top executives of Dolby Laboratories. They affirmed their pursuit of a diverse workforce, not to create division and disharmony, but because when people of unlike mindsets grapple with an obstacle, their distinctly separate viewpoints allow them the ability to work through the major and minor issues surrounding a problem, and because of their diverse viewpoint, and willingness to work and cooperate together, enable them to create new and better products for their customers, which has made Dolby, the brand we identify with when it comes with quality audio.
At UWEC we have little apparent diversity. We are primarily white Midwestern middle-class churchgoing people, with little opportunity to experience much diversity of race, culture, religion, gender or sexuality. This sameness limits our own opportunities for growth, and our opportunities in the job market once we graduate. The world we live in today demands our ability to work and be productive with people that we may not identify with—and this is where queer cinema can help us.
It allows us to see, feel, and experience the lives and issues of others, well beyond the scope of ours. It helps us to empathize with, learn from, and gain wisdom from cultures and issues well beyond the scope of our lives—and this makes participation in the Eau Queer Film Festival, a very important part of our education, and something that can help us, well beyond our college years.