Filmmaker Madeleine Lim heads up the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, presenting the 15th annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival at Brava in San Francisco this weekend. (Courtesy Leilani Nisperos)

SF Queer Women of Color film fest turns 15

Program and its parent group focus on creating community

As the San Francisco Queer Women of Color Film Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary this week, Madeleine Lim, founder and executive director of its parent organization, continues to tailor a space in the world of cinema that didn’t exist when she was an emerging filmmaker.

“My film is still banned in Singapore and I made that film in 1997,” says Lim, laughing as she refers to her short called “Sambal Belecan in San Francisco.”

Since 2005, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project has hosted the festival, which screens movies by nascent and experienced queer women of color, transgender people of color and gender non-conforming creators from around the world.

With the theme “Resilient Past is Vibrant Prologue,” the 2019 program offers 35 films screening Friday through Sunday at Brava Theater.

Yet the content of the festival selections can be just about anything, from the LGBTQ experience to political imprisonment, isolation or environmental issues.

“It’s about how we have been able to keep going,” says Lim, “The fact that [QWOCMAP’s] still around is a huge deal for us.”

“Resilient” aptly describes the modest-sized nonprofit that began in 2000 and survived the dot-com bubble burst, a recession and the continual gentrification of San Francisco.

And despite persistent economic challenges of funding an event of this scale, the QWOC festival remains free and open to visitors of all identities.

“It always feels like a home to me every year,” says Alice Choe, a Korean-American filmmaker whose environmental documentary “The Plastic Problem” is in Saturday’s program of shorts. “I’m always happy that it’s happening because so many things in the city are changing, and this is the one solid bedrock in terms of culture and community.”

Providing a sense of inclusivity is part of the festival, from the moment patrons step onto the sidewalk in front of the theater, where they’re greeted by volunteers and catered food in the lobby.

Still, Lim wants to evolve QWOCMAP’s methods of creating community, especially for queer women of color.

She plans to take the idea of open space to a literal level by projecting films outside buildings around 18th and Guerrero streets, a historically significant area but now with a dwindling lesbian community, Lim says: “The [Women’s Building] is still there, the nonprofits are still there, but the community is no longer in that neighborhood.”

Even decades after she started making films about queer women of color, Lim is well aware of the importance of QWOCMAP’s mission.

On June 5, the body of Chanel Scurlock, a 23-year-old African-American transgender woman who was fatally shot, was found in North Carolina. “Thirty years later, is it still necessary to have conversations about race within the LGBTQ community. Absolutely,” Lim says.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Queer Women of Color Film Festival

Where: Brava Theater, 2789 24th St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 14; 7 p.m. June 15 (screening), 10 p.m. June 15 (party); 5 p.m. June 16 (screening), 9 p.m. June 16 (award)

Admission: Free, donations accepted

Contact: (415) 752-0868, https://festival2019.qwocmap.org/

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