The little fest that grew and grew despite threats to cut funds and plant bombs 

Wednesday 23rd, May 2018 / 09:00
By Gregory Balanko-Dickson 


Photo by Calgary Queer Art Society

CALGARY – This years festival will mark the 20th anniversary of Fairy Tales Film Festival’s opening. Over the past 20 years, Fairy Tales has shown great resilience and grown into a non-profit organization focused on supporting LGBTQ voices. If that’s not enough to wow you, they even made their own movie this year.  

Festival Director, James Demers,  says, “I think it’s really significant that Calgary has maintained a steady and well organized  and kind of forward thinking queer film festival in a city that doesn’t, hasn’t always been a bastion for visibility. I think that was really interesting and I think we’ve started to see people coming to the festival who are starting to be interested in stories that don’t personally relate to their experience, which I think has inherent value.” 

According to Demers this is particularly important because, “Queer spaces are becoming fewer and farther in between. We’re losing bars. So, a place where the community can gather is actually vanishingly rare. We provide one of those spaces, and I think there’s real value in that.” 

Yet, that doesn’t mean Fairy Tales went unnoticed. Before the festival was established they held an event at the Glenbow Museum. Demers says, “There was a precursor to Fairy Tales called The Fire Within, that was a short three film series held at the Glenbow. There were massive protests for the Glenbow partnering with that. They had their funding very seriously threatened by a bunch of private donors and chose to support the festival anyway. So we, the organizers at the time, made what they call the elevator pitch of the season and ran down there to change that.” 

But, the threats didn’t stop there.  

In the early years, Fairy Tales received “bomb threats.” Although none of the threats were credible. “All you need to do is call in a bomb threat to try and call off a festival,” says Demers. 

Despite the protests, Fairy Tales grew in popularity says Demers. “It was so popular that we eventually ended up in a situation where Fairy Tales really needed to be its own thing. The interest was really high and the critical discussions around the films and the way that the films were selected was taking a lot more time, and so developing it into its own organization made the most practical sense.” 

Other programs are being developed at Fairy Tales, including an “artists in residence” program, and a “transgendered education” program that will be some of the “first curriculum specific” courses that teach medical students how to “address the concerns of trans patients.”  

“Our programs have a lot of opportunities for community members and allies alike,” says Demers.  

And while creating these opportunities isn’t always an easy task, Demers and his team are always up for the challenge. 

“Trying to create opportunities for you to be represented in media is a complicated task. It takes a lot of work and forethought and critical self reflection to create an event that is authentic to experiences that are so rarely shown,” says Demers, “there’s a lot of experimentation and creative work and I think that adds to the pool of queer films to be totally honest.” 

Demers believes that these films give the LGBT community the opportunity to see “self-representation” and “teaches you that there is something beyond your struggle to strive for, and that you deserve that.” 

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