Notre Dame's Queer Moment: Condemned by the Catholic University's Leadership, an LGBT Film Festival Goes Forward. but Its Longevity May Soon Be Victim to the Ongoing Culture War

By Basile, Joanna | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), March 14, 2006 | Go to article overview

Notre Dame's Queer Moment: Condemned by the Catholic University's Leadership, an LGBT Film Festival Goes Forward. but Its Longevity May Soon Be Victim to the Ongoing Culture War


Basile, Joanna, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In mid January, University of Notre Dame president and Catholic priest the Reverend John Jenkins took aim at the school's Queer Film Festival. Its name, he said in a speech, implied that the two-year-old event would "celebrate and promote homosexual activity"--an endorsement the Roman Catholic university could not allow.

A campus-wide debate about academic freedom and Notre Dame's adherence to traditional Catholic "morality" erupted, and the film festival's existence was briefly in doubt. But student organizers were undaunted, and three weeks later, February 10-12, the festival took place as planned, renamed Gay and Lesbian Film: Filmmakers, Narratives, and Spectatorships, which at least sounded more academic. Nevertheless, the program was the same: Brokeback Mountain, Breakfast on Pluto, and four other films about the LGBT experience.

"Over the past few weeks on this campus there has been a palpable sense of disillusionment and frustration," Chris Sieving, a visiting assistant professor in the department of film, television, and media, said on the weekend of the program.

The ongoing rancor led to record numbers of ticket buyers pouring into the festival, where all seven screenings--Brokeback was shown twice--were sold out. But did that enthusiasm translate into understanding? Not from what openly gay writer-director Don Roos, a 1977 Notre Dame graduate, observed. "I will never come back to Notre Dame again--ever," says Roos, who has participated in all three of the university's queer film festivals, this year screening his latest film, Happy Endings. "When I come here, all I feel is hate. They don't want me here. They don't want me to have my daughter [in the same home] with my boyfriend. …

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