Women of color come to the big screen

Madeleine Lim, executive director of the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, knew she wanted to be a filmmaker when she was 16. Raised in a working class family in Singapore, Lim felt frustrated when she turned on the TV or went to the movies because there weren’t any characters with whom she could she could identify. With a goal to make films that represented her world, she was well aware that pursuing a career in filmmaking could be difficult.

“Both my parents had a 10th grade education and becoming a filmmaker is something that you just didn’t really do, or even consider, when you’re from a working class background. And being an immigrant, a person of color and queer was something that I knew would be challenge. Besides, I didn’t even know any filmmakers.”

Despite trying to shake her passion for the art form, Lim, who immigrated to the United States at 23, eventually pursued filmmaking as a career at age 30.

Upon completion of her first film, Lim noticed that she was but a handful of queer women of color working the film festival circuit. In an effort to join forces with like-minded filmmakers, and to reflect experiences of her community, Lim created the Media Arts Project in 2000, which offers no-cost filmmaking workshops. Since 2003, Lim has helped local queer women of color produce 93 films.

Beginning Friday at the Brava Theater in San Francisco, the third annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival showcases 40 films, 32 from women with whom Lim has worked. The event is just one of 50 in the National Queer Arts Festival, a month-long series now celebrating its 10th anniversary at 13 venues throughout The City.

The film festival offers four free screenings, and opens with “Loving in the War Years,” a group of shorts addressing topics such as as immigration and motherhood. On Saturday, the panel “Representations of Queer Black Women in the Media” features an acclaimed lineup of queer black women filmmakers: Cheryl Dunye (filmmaker, “Watermelon Woman,” “Stranger Inside”), Shari Frilot (programmer, Sundance Film Festival) and Tina Mabry (filmmaker, “Brooklyn's Bridge to Jordan”). Sunday, the festival changes gears with an afternoon screening of documentary shorts, which span topics from the military’s influences on fashion to the death penalty and closes with an evening of films about love and relationships.

“We’re really trying to convey the whole spectrum of experiences of queer women of color,” says Lim. “Some of these films are funny, some of them are really tender. The whole mission of the festival is to showcase a diverse range of experiences, break down stereotypes and to make our stories visible.”

Queer Women of Color Festival

When: June 8 though June 10

Where: Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco

Tickets: Films free, $15-$35 for special events

Contact: (415) 864-4124; www.qwocmap.org/festival.html; www.queerculturalcenter.org

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