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QFest Concludes after 25 Years This Weekend

The local LGBTQ film festival ends with a screening of Swan Song.

‘Swan Song’ starring Udo Kier screens in Houston this Sunday (Photo by Chris Stephens. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures). 

QFest, Houston’s annual international LGBTQ film festival, is lowering the curtain with a final celebration this weekend.

“It has been an extremely challenging time for many arts organizations, locally and nationally, and QFest is no exception,” said Kristian Salinas, QFest’s executive and artistic director. “[In addition to] the many challenges of organizing festivals during a pandemic, an unanticipated loss of financial support has led us to decide that our 25th annual festival will be our last.”

This year’s festival will conclude with one last in-person screening of director Todd Stephens’ Swan Song at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on October 2 at 5 p.m. The star-studded film, which features performances by Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, and Michael Urie, tells the story of a retired hairdresser (Udo Kier) who escapes from his small-town Ohio nursing home after learning that a former client’s dying wish was for him to style her final hairdo. 

QFest began in 1996, when a group of maverick arts organizations collaborated and created thel Houston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (HGLFF). The inaugural event was launched by Loris Bradley of DiverseWorks, Liz Empleton of Rice Cinema, Sarah Gish of Landmark Theatres, and Marian Luntz of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

HGLFF would soon grow to include Steve Buck of Angelika Film Center and Andrea Grover of The Aurora Picture Show. In its early years as a multi-venue annual event, the Southwest Alternate Media Project served as the festival’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor. The first HGLFF co-presidents were Gudrun Klein and Andrew Edmonson, followed by Margaret Zigman and Ernie Manouse. In 2005, Margaret Zigman became the festival’s sole president.

In 2006 (under then-president Sixto Wagan), Rob Arcos, formerly of Landmark Theatres, was named festival director and Kristian Salinas was named program director. Now charged with creating its own program, the festival condensed its previous two-week runs into a five-day weekend. In 2007, led by newly appointed executive director Kristian Salinas, HGLFF’s 11th year launched with a new name—QFest.

“We’re extremely proud of having foregrounded queer perspectives, supported a great many risk-taking artists, and brought countless expressions of LGBTQ life and imagination to Houston screens over the past two-and-a-half decades,” Salinas said. “At the 25-year mark, and with the 2021 festival encapsulating the kind of fearless, uncompromising curation QFest has become known for, we’ve decided this will be the conclusion.”

For tickets to QFest’s Saturday screening of Swan Song, visit


Brandon Norvell

Brandon Norvell is a fall 2021 editorial intern for OutSmart Magazine.
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