The Reel Queens

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Jackson Heights filmmaker Hector Canonge, who founded the borough's only monthly film program for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, has turned his lens on an often-overlooked element of the gay community — the elderly — in a new short documentary that he will screen this week in Queens before touring it on the film festival circuit.

Canonge, born in Argentina, will screen "Senior Pride," a 20-minute documentary that includes on-the-spot interviews with LGBT seniors attending last year's gay pride parades in Jackson Heights and Manhattan, June 5 at 8:30 p.m. at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center, at 37-06 77th St., as well as at a yet-to-be-decided Manhattan locale later this summer.

"Our society is so youth-oriented and pays so much attention to our physical aspects," he said. "We put aside our elders. Gay, lesbian and transgender elders face these same problems, but also greater ones. They often either don't have families and children or, if they are in a relationship, do not get anything if their significant other dies because they are not legally married."

Canonge said he did not want rehearsed interviews for the film, but to capture their responses to issues, such as aging and the gay liberation movement, on-the-spot. He took his camera and microphone last year to the city's biggest gay pride parades in an attempt to find answers to his questions.

"It was a challenge because many people do not want to talk when you have a huge microphone in their face," he said. "Some people said, 'Get that camera away from me.' Many LGBT seniors are still in the closet. They come from a different generation and are not yet comfortable with who they are. And many of them came out later in life after they had already been married and had children. I had to win their trust in just a couple of minutes."

In the film, Canonge interviews both men and women between the ages of 60 and 80.

The film, which will be free to the public, will screen Thursday with "Lavender Ink," a 15-minute multimedia visual narrative that explores the experiences of elderly residents of the LGBT community, and readings from Canonge's new publication "Rozine," which features short stories, essays and poems written by LGBT seniors.

A discussion with Canonge and participant writers will follow the screening.

Canonge said he intends to send "Senior Pride" to film festivals across the United States and abroad, as well as hoping that it could eventually be included on a DVD compilation of short films. He said he will use any money he makes off "Senior Pride" to expand the film's concept into a feature that will explore similar themes.

Canonge has shot eight documentary shorts in the past 10 years, including "Go Boys!," which chronicles the experiences of male hustlers. He also teaches multimedia and creative writing classes at various city colleges part-time.

In 2004, he founded Cinemarosa, a free monthly film program that screens shorts, features, documentaries and experimental films with LGBT-related subject matter at the Queens Museum of Art.

Each screening includes discussion between audience members and the film's producer or director.

"It's the only queer film program in Queens," he said. "Perhaps, it's the only one of its kind in the city."

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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