LGBTQ+ Film Festival Coming to Warren County

Warren County Pride, Struthers Library Theatre announce 5-day event leading to Pride Day 2022

Your Daily Local graphic by Brian Hagberg

WARREN, Pa. – Warren County Pride will be even bigger in 2022 as the group, along with the Struthers Library Theatre, announced the creation of an LGBTQ+ Film Festival that will be held in the days leading up to Warren County Pride Day on June 18.

“We are looking forward to working with the historic Struthers Library Theatre on Warren County’s first LGBTQ+ film festival in the week prior to Warren County Pride,” Doug Hearn, of the Warren County Pride team, said. “This partnership is historic and supports the initiatives of a welcoming community for all.”

Festival organizers plan to feature at least five films during the inaugural festival, which will have its official name announced at a later date, that will “honor the LGBTQ+ community.”

“Struthers Library Theatre’s mission is to entertain, enrich and educate the people of Warren County and the surrounding region in all the qualities and delights of live theatre, music, dance, and film,” SLT said in a statement. “In partnering with Warren County Pride, we celebrate the profound contributions of our LGBTQ+ community to the arts. Our culture is made more beautiful and rich through diversity and inclusivity.”

Pride’s partnership with SLT began in October when the theatre reached out to Pride to help with a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Last October, I got an email from Karen Austin (acting SLT executive director) and she said, ‘We’ve got some ideas and we’re wondering if you’d like to partner with us on a film we’re showing,'” Hearn said. “They used our logo, a Pride flag and some bunting to go with Rocky Horror. That’s how (the partnership) started.”

Hearn said Austin informed him around that time that the Theatre was planning a showing of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in the week leading up to Warren County Pride Day 2022.

“It’s kind of an iconic film for people in the LGBTQ community,” Hearn said. “I asked a couple of times, ‘Are you sure Struthers Library Theatre wants to do this?’ She said, ‘Most definitely, we have a lot of youth involved in the theater and they would definitely appreciate this recognition.’ Part of the mission of Struthers Library Theatre is to educate the people in our area and this is a great way to educate.”

The plan is to show one film per night beginning on June 13 and ending on June 17, the night before Pride Day. There’s no set in stone criteria for what other films will be selected, though Hearn said they are likely to feature some message for the LGBTQ+ community.

“What we’re hoping for is that the filmmaker had a story or a message that they wanted to get across,” Hearn said. “For instance, in Priscilla, it’s really a story about how a small community accepted these diverse people who had a broken-down bus and they were really embraced by the community. It’s to help dispel the myth that just because we’re a small town, we’re closed-minded. I don’t believe that is the case.”

Hearn said he contacted other film festivals to see what movies they featured and offered suggestions to SLT for films that carried a message without being overly provocative.

“When I looked at those movies, they are very artistic and kind of provocative,” Hearn said. “And I thought that wouldn’t be appropriate. I gave Karen a list of films we could’ve seen at any theater around here.”

The full list of films will be announced once everything has been finalized.

Pride organizers said during Pride 2021 that two of their goals were to grow the event and promote Warren County. Bringing a film festival to the area satisfies both.

“Warren, as far as I know, has never had something like this,” Warren County Pride Vice President Jill Sumner said. “My hope is that it puts us on the map as an LGBT-friendly city. Struthers Library Theatre is very influential and has a lot of reach. We’re hoping this will bring people into Warren for the festival and they’ll look at us as a friendly place. Anything we can do to promote diversity, that makes Warren County look like a better place.”

Hearn hopes the festival will be a boon to local businesses as well.

“We are really going to be networking with other organizations around us to make sure that we get out that there will be this film festival in our town,” Hearn said. “Every opportunity that we get we are telling people to come to Warren, enjoy our hospitality, spend the night, go to one of our breweries. We’re trying to do it generally right now. We want to align with people like the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry and Warren County Visitors Bureau and say we want to bring people to Warren County.”

Both Sumner and Hearn said the number of people reaching out to see how they can either help with, or participate in, Pride 2022 has been overwhelming.

“A lot of people from the community are reaching out asking how to help,” Sumner said. “We’re getting a lot of positive comments and support.”

“Since last June, we’ve had people approach us and say we want to be part of this,” Hearn said. “That’s just amazing to me that people are doing that. We are getting known, slowly but we are getting known.”