Weekend Short Film Festival Gives Folklore A Queer Spin

May 10, 2018

Folk tales and fairy tales are conventionally viewed as repositories of traditional culture. But they can also be dark, anarchic, and downright weird, full of violence, shape-shifting and magic.

Drawing on some of that anarchic primal energy, Fairy Fantastic is an art initiative by artists and educators Hilary Harp and Suzie Silver that aims to use the form and content of folklore to illuminate queerness, including different types of gender expressions and unconventional family relationships.

OUT IN THE WOODS screens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 11. OVER THE RAINBOW screens at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12 (preceded at noon by Drag Queen Story Hour with Akasha L. Van-Cartier).

The project began as an umbrella for their own films. But this weekend, Harp and Silver present a mini-film festival of international, queer-themed, short animated and live-action films from around the world.

“Out in the Woods” gathers 16 such shorts, drawing on folklore from Mexico, China, Japan, Sweden and more. “Over the Rainbow,” a program aimed at children, offers eight shorts, most of them animated, including a couple of animal fables.

The programs at Melwood Screening Room in Oakland this Friday and Saturday are part of Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Luna Park Experimental Film & Media Series.

“Some of the stories are about finding one's place in the world when one's desires are thwarted, and ultimately finding a happy ending, just not the one that's expected,” said Silver, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. (Harp is an associate professor at Arizona State University.)

  • Out in the Woods: Queer Fairy Tales (May 11) includes “The Sausage,” Harp and Silver’s own live-action comedy based on a Swedish folk tale about “two sisters, three wishes, and a calamitous obsession with sausage.” From the Netherlands comes Willem Timmers’ “Jordy in Transitland,” is described as a modern fairy tale about a character on the brink of her physical transition. Denise Quintero’s “El Tigre Y La Flor” dramatizes a same-sex twist on an ancient village ritual. The program also includes Liang Huang’s beautiful animation “Ama”; “Sinalela,” a Cinderella story with a cast of Samoan transgender people and drag queens; “Little Taiko Boy,” which draws on Western holiday traditions, Shinto mythology and Japanese gay culture; and Kirsten Lepore’s animated internet sensation “Hi Stranger.”
  • Over the Rainbow: Queer and Experimental Shorts for Kids of All Ages (May 12) features “Tomboy,” Barb Taylor’s heartfelt animation about a young Latina girl who gets grief from classmates about playing sports and other “boy” things; Beth David and Esteban Bravo’s animated “In A Heartbeat,” about a schoolboy’s crush on a fellow schoolboy; Claude Cloutier’s surreal and hilarious animated spoof “Sleeping Betty”; and Yulya Aronova’s gorgeous and whimsical “My Mom is An Airplane.”

The films range in tone from campy (mostly on the adult side) to sweet, as in “In a Heartbeat.”

Silver described the latter as having “a sort of Pixar animation style and [featuring] a young boy who has a crush on another boy and whose heart literally leaps from his chest and seeks the object of his affection. It's a very heart-warming film that I think everyone will appreciate and love."