There are a slew of stereotypes that fill the minds of many when it comes to the lifestyles of Appalachian natives.
Little know of the small community of Lewisburg, West Virginia, in the southern region of the state, but the tiny town hosts one highly impactful festival.
The Appalachian Queer Film Festival is an event focused on shedding stereotypes and expanding minds in the Appalachian region. By bringing queer films and filmmakers to West Virginia, the Appalachian Queer Film Festival, in its second year, aims to open the doors for individuals to be moved by diverse films and interactions with filmmakers.
Tim Ward, co-founder and director of the Appalachian Queer Film Festival, said the importance within the title truly is what makes the festival so successful in breaking down negative connotations that circulate the state.
"We chose the words ‘Appalachian’ and ‘queer’ in the title specifically because those are two things you don’t necessarily see together a lot of the time," Ward said.
As Ward said, few would ever think to consider the words "Appalachian" and "queer" in the same breath. The turnout for the debut of the Appalachian Queer Film Festival in 2014, however, proved that individuals living in the mountains of West Virginia have more interest in the event than anticipated.
Ward said the four-day event hosted 200 people last year and received write-ups in popular newspapers nationwide ,such as The Huffington Post, LA Times and Washington Post.
The Appalachian Queer Film Festival is expected to bring in applauded films directed by popular filmmakers. One of the featured films includes "Tangerine," an interesting film telling the story of transgender African Americans living in Los Angeles.
"Tangerine," written and directed by Sean S. Baker, was shot completely using an iPhone 5S and an $8 application. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, the movie has also won awards at renowned film festivals, such as Traverse City Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Ward said one of the producers and one of the starring cast members will be present at the Appalachian Queer Film Festival. In a live question and answer session, the audience will be able to ask unfiltered questions after the screening of the film.
The Appalachian Queer Film Festival not only serves as an event to educate the public through moving films, but through open panels and discussions, as well. Ward said the panel presentations implemented through the program create conversations outside of the riveting films. The panels, he said, allow for individuals to take something more personal away from the event - a piece of information to carry with them back to their community.
The panels this year feature a discussion on the importance of diversity with LGBTQ films. Ward said the popular new movie "Stonewall," set to release Sept. 25, has stirred controversy in the LGBTQ community for its lack of truly representing the racial diversity that was involved in the Stonewall riots.
This year, the Appalachian Queer Film Festival will also host a panel in collaboration with Fairness West Virginia, a statewide organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights within the LBGTQ community. The sponsored panel will focus on the fight for equality in West Virginia.
Ward said that thanks to generous sponsors, the Appalachian Queer Film Festival will be free for college students who show a valid ID at the box office.
"We are very committed to making sure that our festival and its mission is realized," Ward said. "Who better to realize that than college students."
The Appalachian Queer Film Festival will take place Oct. 1-4 in Lewisburg, West Virginia. For more information, visit http://aqff.org/.