Reel Affirmations

Reel Affirmations

Reel Affirmations (RA) is a non-profit, all-volunteer LGBT film festival in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1991 and held every year in mid-October, Reel Affirmations is the third largest LGBT film festival (in terms of attendance) in the United States [Wasserman and Hausrath, "Washington, DC from A to Z: The Look-up Source for Everything to See and Do in the Nation's Capital," 2003.] [ [ "LGBT Film Festivals," Out in Television and Film, no date.] Accessed October 27, 2007.] and the largest all-volunteer film festival in the world. [ [ "Reel Affirmations," Film Festivals Pro, no date.] Accessed October 27, 2007.]


Reel Affirmations is a program of One In Ten, a Washington, D.C.-based LGBT non-profit arts organization. One In Ten is overseen by a board of 3 officers and nine board members. A full-time, paid executive director oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization. All One In Ten programs, including Reel Affirmations, are conceived, organized and implemented by volunteers.

Planning for Reel Affirmations begins after the conclusion of each year's festival. Deposits are placed to secure venues, and corporate sponsors are secured (an ongoing process which lasts until August). Programming teams for feature films, women's shorts, men's shorts, and documentaries begin researching and screening films in February. Films are secured by contract beginning as early as May, although most contracts are not finalized until early July. A coordinating committee begins meeting in August to oversee implementation of VIP relations, hospitality, volunteer coordination, marketing, embassy relations, public relations and other aspects of the film festival.

Most funding for Reel Affirmations comes from corporate sponsorships and ticket sales. Additional support comes from grants provided by the D.C. city government. [Thomas, "Are 2 Roles Too Many at Filmfest DC?", "Washington Post," April 29, 2007.]

Reel Affirmations also sponsors a two-day film festival which coincides with Capital Pride. ["Growing Pride," "Washington City Paper," June 5, 2003.] The program began sponsoring monthly film screenings beginning in 2000, but stopped these after RA15 in 2005."Reel Affirmations 15 Program Guide," 2005.]


Early years

Reel Affirmations was co-founded by Barry Becker, Mark Betchkal, Matthew Cibellis and Keith Clark, gay residents of Washington, D.C., who wished to found a gay arts organization.Plowman, "Rehoboth Beach Film Fest Makes A Splash at the Box Office," "Delaware Today," October 2000.] The four began meeting in 1990, and founded the LGBT arts organization One In Ten, with Reel Affirmations as the organization's first program.Howe, "Gay and Lesbian Festival," "Washington Post," October 16, 1992.] The three sought the advice and input of Frameline, then the largest LGBT gay film festival in the U.S. With financial and administrative assistance from Frameline, the first Reel Affirmations film festival opened on October 11, 1991. The first festival venue was the Biograph Theater in downtown Washington. The 10-day festival screened 62 feature films, short subjects and documentaries to 2,500 attendees. [Documentary films formed a significant portion of films screened at Reel Affirmations in its early years. See "News at 11," "Washington City Paper," October 18, 2001.] The opening night film was "My Father Is Coming," [imdb title |id=0102491 |title=My Father Is Coming] and the closing night film was "Together Alone." [imdb title |id=0105611 |title=Together Alone] ["An Italian's Real 'Story'," "Washington Post," October 11, 1991.]

In 1992, the festival expanded to screen its opening night film at the Cineplex Odeon Embassy Theatre in the District. Author Armistead Maupin opened the festival. RA2 screened 76 short and feature-length works shown at the Biograph. [Each Reel Affirmations film festival is referred to by the acronym "RA" followed by a number which indicates which festival it is. For example, the fourth Reel Affirmations film festival is "RA4"; the eleventh Reel Affirmations film festival is be "RA11."]

The following year, the festival screened 24 features and 44 shorts [Nambiar, "A Reel Look at Gay, Lesbian Experience," "Washington Post," October 16, 1993.] and added screenings at the Goethe-Institut and The Sumner School. With the film festival on firm financial footing, Frameline did not provide administrative and financial support for RA3.

The festival continued to expand in 1994, screening 130 films and dropping smaller venues (Biograph, Sumner School) while adding larger ones (such as the West End 1-4 cinema). The festival also conducted a screening at the Hirshorn Museum—one of the first gay events to be held in a federal building. 1994 was also the year the festival scored its first U.S premiere. [Howe, "Celebrating Gay Cinema", "Washington Post", October 14, 1994.]

By its fifth anniversary in 1995, Reel Affirmations was the fourth-largest LGBT film festival in the United States in attendance, with more than 12,000 attendees. Although the festival screened only 102 films that year, it expanded to a fifth large venue (the AMC Courthouse Theatre in Virginia). A year later, it dropped two of its smaller venues in favor of the 275-seat Goldman Theatre in the D.C. Jewish Community Center in midtown Washington.

Lincoln Theatre years

Reel Affirmations' growth led it to move out of the Cineplex Odeon Embassy and West End theaters in 1998. The film fest moved into the 1,200-seat historic Lincoln Theatre at U and 14th Streets N.W. RA8 screened more than 140 feature films, shorts and documentaries at the two venues. [O'Sullivan, "Gay Film Fest Changes Venue", "Washington Post", October 16, 1998.]

1999 was a turning point for Reel Affirmations. Several years of declining attendance by women led festival director Sarah Kellogg to create a special women's program. The event, known as the Women Filmmakers Brunch, has continued ever since and features women filmmakers, screenings, and a discussion of films with particular appeal to women. [O'Sullivan, "Gay and Lesbian Film Fest Adds a Women's Program," "Washington Post," October 15, 1999.] RA9 also was the only LGBT film festival of the season to screen "Boys Don't Cry." The film debuted in New York City, screened at Reel Affirmations, and then opened in theaters nationwide. [Fritz, "Boys Don't Cry", "MovieMaker", October 1, 2007.]

In honor of the festival's continuing success, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., bestowed its 2004 Distinguished Service Award on Reel Affirmations festival director Sarah Kellogg. [ "GLAA Announces 2004 Distinguished Service Awards."] Press release. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., February 23, 2004. Accessed January 2, 2008.] In 2006, RA 16 screened more than 100 movies to more than 30,000 attendees during its 10-day run. [McCarthy, "Shia LaBeouf Has Come of Age", "Washington Post", October 13, 2006.]


Reel Affirmations presents four major awards each year. Each award is bestowed based on audience balloting. Honors are given for Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Male Short, and Best Female Short.

Reel Affirmations also distributes a Plant A Seed filmmaker grant at the end of each festival. The grant was established in 2000. It is supported by audience donations and a silent auction held throughout each year's festival, and varies in amount from year to year. The grant is awarded by the One In Ten board to a filmmaker or filmmakers who have previously produced a feature film, short or documentary. The grant is intended to help the filmmaker complete a current work in progress.



*"An Italian's Real 'Story'." "Washington Post." October 11, 1991.
* [ Fritz, Daniel. "Boys Don't Cry." "MovieMaker." October 1, 2007.] Accessed October 27, 2007.
*"Growing Pride." "Washington City Paper." June 5, 2003.
*Howe, Desson. "Celebrating Gay Cinema." "Washington Post." October 14, 1994.
*Howe, Desson. "Gay and Lesbian Festival." "Washington Post." October 16, 1992.
* [ "Light in Darkness." "Washington City Paper." January 9, 2003.]
*McCarthy, Ellen. "Shia LaBeouf Has Come of Age." "Washington Post." October 13, 2006.
*Nambiar, Shanthy. "A Reel Look at Gay, Lesbian Experience." "Washington Post." October 16, 1993.
* [ "News at 11." "Washington City Paper." October 18, 2001.]
*O'Sullivan, Michael. "Gay and Lesbian Film Fest Adds a Women's Program." "Washington Post." October 15, 1999.
*O'Sullivan, Michael. "Gay Film Fest Changes Venue." "Washington Post." October 16, 1998.
* [ Plowman, Terry. "Rehoboth Beach Film Fest Makes A Splash at the Box Office." "Delaware Today." October 2000.]
*"Reel Affirmations 15 Program Guide." Washington, D.C.: One In Ten, 2005.
*Thomas, Desson. "Are 2 Roles Too Many at Filmfest DC?" "Washington Post." April 29, 2007.
*"Two Film Fests Begin." "Washington Post." October 17, 2003.
*Wasserman, Paul and Hausrath, Don. "Washington, DC from A to Z: The Look-up Source for Everything to See and Do in the Nation's Capital." Washington, D.C.: Capital Books, 2003. ISBN 1931868077

External links

* [ One In Ten, the parent organization of Reel Affirmations]
* [ Reel Affirmations]

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