Twenty-five years ago, filmmaker Jim Hubbard and writer Sarah Schulman started the MIX NYC festival for queer experimental film. Over time, the festival has been crucial to the careers of many queer filmmakers. Jonathan Caouette debuted “Tarnation” at the festival. MIX was the fiscal sponsor for Sandi DuBowski’s documentary “Trembling Before G-d.” Todd Haynes, Jennie Livingston and Christine Vachon have all screened works there. MoMA’s Chief Film Curator Rajendra Roy is a former Director of the festival.
In its 25th year, the roaming festival rages on in a location in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn (near the Atlantic Avenue train hub). In addition to the annual week of screenings, MIX also runs the ACT UP Oral History Project (still maintained by Hubbard and Schulman, which recently was used to assemble the feature film “United in Anger,” directed by Hubbard), a preservation program, and a production workshop for homeless queer youth.
Speaking with Indiewire, MIX Executive Director Stephen Kent Jusick explained what makes MIX special. On one hand, Jusick said, “There is not an overabundance of opportunities for queer experimental work.” But on the other, “Last week, I had to choose between going to MoMA to see the new print of a Warhol film and a James Benning film at Light Industry that has a lesbian plot line in it. We’re lucky in New York, and yet the things that MIX does and the things that MIX shows and the way we show them are unique.
“When we showed John Greyson’s ‘Fig Trees’ [a postmodern documentary opera from the famed Canadian director], it had already had screenings in New York at the Mead Festival and NewFest. But we did things differently, there were value-added elements. Home-made fig trees. HIV activism t-shirts like the ones featured in teh film. Unbeknownst to John, I interviewed him in an outfit we made just for the event. I was dressed as the squirrel from the film.”
One of the key features of each year’s MIX is the unique environment the festival lives in for the weekend. “When the Mix Factory is open, it’s a multipart experience. There are films, and art installations. It’s also a place to hang out. It’s not sterile in the sense that here’s a lounge where you can have a drink and go to your screening.
“We have a ‘Be here, be who you are, stay as long as you want.’ attitude. It’s not about cocktails and cheese. It’s so much more than that! In 2010, we had parties scheduled at bars and diff places – it became clear, no one wanted to leave – they were happy being in the space we created [with many artists, called Under the Queer Fruit Tree].”
Jusick’s spirit is inspiring. “We’re still a place where things can happen that can’t happen elsewhere,” he said. “There’s the John Greyson example, but there’s also someone like Jerry Tartaglia, who has shown work since the first year, and recently did a whole evening of performance. He came to us with this idea that involved 8mm, 16mm, video, performance and a tactile elemnet. We were the right place to say absolutely yes! And we presented it on opening night.”
Jusick continued, joking, “Guy Maddin says ‘I need a full orchestra and Lincoln Center’s like ‘But of course!’ We can’t do that, but we’re there to say ‘of course!’ to lots of other people!”
MIX NYC is looking to raise $25,000 to help stage this year’s festival. Check out their Kickstarter campaign here, and view their Kickstarter video below. For the complete lineup for this year’s MIX NYC festival, visit the MIX NYC website here.