Paducah's Maiden Alley Hosts Inaugural 'Cinema Systers' All-Lesbian Film Festival

Sep 12, 2016

Rural western Kentucky was host to the 'only all-lesbian film festival in the United States' over the weekend. Paducah's Maiden Alley Cinema was home to the inaugural three-day Cinema Systers Film Festival.  Matt Markgraf went to the festival on Saturday and brings this report:

Paducah only has a population of about 25,000 but at it's heart is a burgeoning arts scene: home to the National Quilt Museum, galleries, microbreweries, theaters, murals and now an annual showcase of work by lesbian filmmakers from around the world.

Organizer and Paducah resident Laura Petrie says she was inspired at last year's 40th and final Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. "They asked us to go out and sprout our acorns and create women's space, and I decided I wanted to contribute a film festival to it, so this is my acorn," she said. Petrie said she wanted to create a space where lesbian women can be themselves. "They feel like they're in their element here in this theater. They're watching films about lesbians. They're so happy that this is come to fruition."

Pleased with the turnout, she said people traveled from all over the world to this event: "We've had women come in from Australia and all over the United States and even Canada."

Dr. Reika Ebert of Murray, Kentucky: "I'm surprised that there are so many here, yes, and I noticed also that there are lots of my generation - of the old lesbian feminists." She said she's learned through panel discussions before the films about the butch community and generational differences in terminology.

Sasha Goldberg of Bloomington, Indiana was on one of the panels about butch sisterhood and female specificity. She was also one of the subjects in a film titled "Gender Troubles: The Butches" a candid examination of butch identity and misconceptions, directed by Lisa Plourde of Berkeley, California. In the film, she said in her youth she was hungry to meet other women she identified with: "The dream come true initially is finding the other butch women and realizing, you know you're not... the vision I'm thinking of is the 'lonely little prince on the moon' - or 'princess' in the case of, I suppose, us. But being here and having the connection is definitely a dream come true. It's the dream we're trying to keep going."

Plourde described one way to keep the dream going, "I think we keep talking and we keep being out and present and being a part of the community - me being at my kid's school and being visible."

Petrie said she plans to host the festival again on Memorial Day weekend. Until then, she said she wants people to keep the conversations going, "I want them to talk about the films. I want them to talk about the camaraderie they felt here in Paducah, the acceptance that they gained here in Paducah and know that Kentucky is the place they can come to and celebrate being themselves."

Emmy Jo Walton of Paducah said she hopes Paducah becomes a destination for women, "Putting us on the map as kind of a lesbian destination would be really nice."