On Sept. 21, in Northampton, Mass., Out! For Reel hosted a showing of the award-winning lesbian film “Snapshots” to an audience of nearly 600. Out! For Reel is a local organization in Western Massachusetts which prides (pun intended) itself on being “the largest LGBT cultural events organization west of Boston.” They focus primarily on bringing award-winning LGBT films to the Pioneer Valley—home of Smith College—while also hosting several live performances throughout the year. Out! For Reel was founded ten years ago this month. After a brief hiatus, they returned this past weekend with the brilliant film, based on a true story that intertwines the stories of three generations of women and the matriarch’s 1960s lesbian love affair.
The cast includes Oscar nominee Piper Laurie as Rose, the fiercely independent grandmother, Brooke Adams as the ignorant non-lesbian mother, Emily Baldoni as the confused and conflicted granddaughter, Emily Goss as the bold lesbian lover and Shannon Collis as the timid but passionate young Rose. Both the present-day story and the “snapshots” of Rose’s love affair in the ‘60s illuminate the complicated narrative that often forms in any queer life: the simplicity of passionate, true love, tainted by confusion and fear.
The film itself was beautifully produced and the plotline was captivating, utterly passionate and real. But what really struck me from my evening out with the queer community in Western Massachusetts was the demographic of people who I was sitting amongst. The film was shown at the Academy of Music, just a two-minute walk from Smith’s campus, and tickets were priced at $8 for students. Yet I didn’t see anyone else my age. Not one single college student. I’m sure there had to be at least a couple of students there, but there certainly weren’t enough for me to notice them. I even made a point to look around the entire theatre just before the film began to survey the crowd and the vast majority of people I saw were middle to retired-aged queer women. Again, I’m sure there were at least a few people closer to my age scattered throughout, but if there were any more than a dozen they had to have been wearing invisibility cloaks.
During the opening presentation, the director of Out! For Reel quoted the organization’s motto, “celebrating our community, our love, our strength” and I couldn’t help but wonder how strong the queer community can truly be without enthusiastic membership from younger generations. Where were all the college students? From the five colleges in Western Massachusetts combined there are nearly 40,000 undergrad students in the local area. I wondered if the lack of younger faces at the film screening was a result of poor publicization of the event, or if it was due to lack of interest. I would be very surprised if it were the latter.
Having lived in Western Massachusetts my entire life until coming to Wellesley, I have grown to understand the true power and change that can result when its people unite. Now more than ever, I believe that no community will be able to inspire change or even survive against opposing forces if every generation doesn’t band together. Older generations bring the wisdom of their vibrant past, while their children and grandchildren bring youthful exuberance and the motivation to scream louder than their elders, evoke change.
At the end of the opening program, local singer Evelyn Harris lead the audience in several civil rights era songs. Some clapped, some stamped their feet, some sang, but overall, we sounded like a contained and gentle choir. During the last one, about two dozen—out of roughly 600—people were moved so deeply that they stood from their seats and started swaying back and forth. I was one of those two dozen and I’m nearly positive that had the audience been composed of more college-aged people, the entire room would have been standing and swaying together. The rafters would have started to creak from the echoing vibrations of collective voices so loud, they would have literally raised the roof.