Stories behind the Pink Façade

Still from the movie Girl Gets Girl, Celia Freijeiro and Sandra Collantes. / TAMARA ARRANZ

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A FEW BLOCKS FROM THE ALAMEDA DE HÉRCULES, on calle Yuste, there is a façade painted pink, which seems to shine brightly against the rest of the street. It is the small ground-floor office where the employ – ees and volunteers of the Triángulo Foundation work, an organization “for the social equality of LGBT people.” In the back room, there is a screen on the wall, and chairs like those in a movie the – ater. Most of the time, the office is almost empty, but for two weeks at the end of every November, the Triángulo Foundation attracts many people from all parts of Spain. During those two weeks, people of all ages and from all backgrounds come together to watch the stories of LGBT life play out on the silver screen.

The International Film Festival of Gay, Les – bian, Bisexual, and Trans Cinema, (abbreviated to AndaLesGai) has taken place in Seville since 2005. The festival began life a bit earlier at the University of Huelva, as a project of the founda – tion, and today has counterparts in Madrid, the Canary Islands, Málaga, and other parts of Spain. Their first event screened 40 movies from 15 different countries, which were presented in the small theater. The number of movies was similar in 2015 – there’s only so much time, after all – but the festival needed to rent some of the rooms at the Nervión Plaza movie theater complex.

Almost all of the festival workers are volun – teers, and their lives are divided into two halves: preparation for the Pride Parade, and preparation for the film festival. After the hard work done for the Pride Parade in the summer, the Triángulo volunteers begin preparations for the film festival. Andrés Vega Moreno, who has worked with the festival since the beginning and became its director three years ago, will spend several days in the small movie theater in the office with the rest of volun – teers, watching and judging the new movies.

Andrés talks quickly and uses his hands con – stantly, occasionally reaching up to adjust his glasses. He stacks miniature film festival guides on the table, and they spill out in different directions, offering glimpses of some of the many movies that have passed through the office.

The festival receives films in three different ways. One of the options is through a digital platform, where a director can publish their work online for others to discover. When you search for specific topics, there are various filters that can help you (i.e. movies with lesbian characters). Some movies are discovered at other festivals, either in Spain or across Europe. Some of these movies travel the festival circuit for long periods of time. One movie shown at the 2015 festival, Hidden Away, was first released in 2014, and continues to appear on the circuit, with a recent showing at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Finally, some movies are sent directly from direc – tors who contact the festival or the foundation in order to find an audience for their work.

“It’s impossible to have it completely bal – anced,” said Andrés. “The volunteers and I try to look for gay films first, then lesbian, then trans – gender, then bisexual.” Other factors must be balanced, too: between happy and sad, between gay and lesbian themes and – perhaps most importantly – between what the volunteers love and what they can afford to show. There may be a movie that everyone loves, but the organizers either lack the money or agree that another film has something the festival needs more.

After the decisions are made, the movies are translated to include Spanish subtitles. This is yet another task done by volunteers. With movies from around a dozen different countries, trans – lating them all is an enormous task. Additionally, short summaries of the plots are translated into English for the guides. The Triangle Foundation works with many different people in order to finish everything before the festival – a few years ago, a CIEE student helped with translations.

The Triángulo Foundation also provides opportunities for those that are unable to attend the festival. There are showings in several Spanish provinces throughout the year, functioning as a cycle or a smaller version of the festival. Additionally, the office in Seville has movie screenings in their small movie theater at the office behind the little pink door, or, during the summers, at the beach. Andrés tries to remember the name of the beach, but shakes his head and laughs.

“We don’t show very controversial movies; you know? We show films with gay or lesbian characters, or characters that you can interpret as queer. We want to show the reality of LGBT lives,” says Andrés. And what is the reality of LGBT life? According to the movies shown at the festivals, it’s not very different from the reality of men that love women or women that love men. There are love stories, like Hidden Away, a coming-ofage movie about two young boys: an illegal immigrant from Morocco and a Spaniard. There are stories of heartbreak, like Girl Gets Girl, in which a woman returns to Spain after cheating on her lover. There are comedies and tragedies, epic dramas and small, simple stories. Besides movies, there are many short films with durations between four and forty minutes.

There is also sadness in these movies, because sadness is a part of life, especially for LGBT-identified people. Although the world has changed drastically over the past ten to twenty years, there is still inequality for people with sexualities that differ from the norm. Andrés, who is a gay man, believes that society is changing for the better. The Alameda de Hércules in Seville, close to the foundation’s office, is widely known as a gayfriendly area. Sometimes, you can see same-sex couples holding hands as they walk through the streets. “We need to see more cinema with gay or lesbian characters,” says Andrés. “To fight prejudice, and to tell different stories.”

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Hidden Away, (Mikel Rueda, 2014), won the People’s Choice Award at the 2015 Festival. The film follows the beginning of a friendship between two young boys with very different backgrounds. / KENNETH ORIBE

The Triángulo Foundation works very hard to further the fight for equality and security. In the guide for the tenth festival, Raúl del Río González, president of the foundation, wrote that the Andalusian arm of the program touched the lives of 30,000 people in 2015. More than a third of them were adolescents. The foundation also advocates for safe sex, and the walls of the office have posters explaining sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. In a small basket on the desk in the lobby, there are free condoms, available for everyone, no questions asked. These are small things, true, but they are small steps toward a more tolerant world.

The festival guides feature different images every year. In 2015, the front cover had two people moving together for a kiss. In 2014, there were stars, and silhouettes kissing. Generally, although some covers lack images and choose more abstract designs, they all have a sense of positivity, of joy, of love. Likewise, the representation of gay characters – or other queer characters – is not just a political statement; it is an opportunity to see someone like yourself in a story, the normalization of a concept that has been treated as strange and monstrous. AndaLesGai, in plain terms, offers the idea that being gay is something to celebrate, and that everyone deserves the right to tell their stories to the world. •