Ep. 47 – Learn more about Reel Q, Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ+ film festival

TJ Murphy, executive director, shares highlights of the organization’s 35 years and some of this year’s virtual programming

by Stephanie Brea
September 29, 2020

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TJ Murphy, executive director of Pittsburgh’s Reel Q Film Festival

Pittsburgh’s Reel Q film festival celebrates 35 years this October. In this episode, executive director TJ Murphy highlights some of the organization’s history. Reel Q is the longest running LGBTQ+ film festival in the region (as well as the sixth longest running in the world), and Murphy shares some memorable moments. For him, the festival is about community, coming together, and the conversations that take place with each film. He explains how he stumbled across a flyer at (now-defunct) Pittsburgh Filmmakers and began his tenure with the organization as a volunteer. Learn about what changes are in store for this year’s virtual programming, including Murphy’s can’t-miss suggestions and details on their drive-in movie event on Oct. 17.

Reel Q’s history

Reel Q Founder Rich Cumming is quoted as saying that the major motivation for the festival was the book, “The Celluloid Closet,” by Vito Russo. The book exposes how gays have been portrayed in film over the last 70 years, and focuses on the stereotypes and oppression that Hollywood mainstream films perpetuate. And as such, having an LGBTQ film festival is important and worthwhile; it gives an opportunity to show the issues and problems the gay community faces and to break down these stereotypes.


Another history highlight is Reel Q’s local premiere of “Before Stonewall,” a documentary that details the history of the LGBTQ+ movement in America. It was first shown in Pittsburgh in 1984, for multiple years afterward, and again to a packed house at the Warhol Museum in 2019.


What are Murphy’s can’t-miss films this year?

“All of them,” he jokes, before mentioning “The Rehabilitation of the Hill,” a lesbian love story shot almost entirely in Pittsburgh’s Hill District; “Alice Junior,” a Brazilian film about a transgender teen; the Black Excellence programming, which features six films that highlight queer black experiences all around the world; and the drive-in movie showing “Hellbent” (considered to be the first gay slasher film).

For all the details on Reel Q’s 35 Anniversary Film Festival or to purchase tickets, head to their website.




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Stephanie has been organizing events since 1998, starting with a series of motorcycle rides through the Arizona desert to support her father’s business. She’s probably crossed your name off a presale ticket list or served you a beer somewhere around town. An undergrad degree in poetry means she has lots of unpractical knowledge about iambic pentameter, while a brief stint as a copy editor for Alternative Press taught her that twenty one pilots is stylized in all lowercase letters. Wanna throw a party in a vacant parking lot? She’s interested. At the onset of COVID-19, Stephanie took on the role...

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