BENT, Sacramento’s only LGBTQ film festival and the region’s longest-running film festival of any variety, will soon be ending for good after 30 years.
BENT Sacramento LGBTQ+ Film Festival in a recent social media post announced that it will be closing after a pair of free online-only screenings next month.
“When the film festival started, there wasn’t a lot of LGBT content,” said Scott Brozek, president of BENT for nearly a decade. “So it was a gathering of people from different parts of the community to be together under one roof.
“It was a place where people could come and see a movie and be in a safe place with other people, where you weren’t judged for who you were.”
Brozek said the pandemic partially contributed to the decision to end the festival, but that interest and attendance had dwindled even before COVID-19.
“It was going that way. Even with our virtual platforms, they have not been so well received.
He said the festival’s virtual presence saw a slight increase in the first year of the pandemic in 2020 and then a decline last year.
Local film festivals in general, Brozek said, are becoming increasingly difficult to organize as moviegoers choose to simply stream movies online instead.
BENT got its start in 1992, founded by Allen Cole and originally known as the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It was born after the Delta Lambda Phi fraternity chapter and other Sacramento State LGBTQ organizations were inspired by a similar student-run festival in Fresno State.
Brozek rose through the ranks of volunteering and program distribution to become event chair. He described organizing a film festival as a surprisingly laborious undertaking, likening it to a second job, and noted that BENT only had four board members left in charge of the event.
“You don’t appreciate the seriousness of a film festival until you’ve been told what’s in it.”
BENT, a non-profit organization, wrote in a letter posted on Facebook on Tuesday that last year’s hybrid festival “was not as successful as we had hoped despite all the planning and publicity efforts. of our team”.
BENT hosted the in-person portion of this hybrid festival last October at the Crest Theatre.
Brozek said turnout was disappointing, likely due at least in part to COVID-19. The festival’s Facebook letter said COVID-19 has caused “issues for so many families, businesses, and nonprofits, including us.”
“It wasn’t the numbers we were looking for, but we understood that some people weren’t ready to come out yet,” Brozek said. “We had all the social distancing measures and masks in place.”
BENT in the letter this week said it had decided at a recent board meeting to “begin the closing process.”
“The sad truth is that it’s time to say goodbye.”
The festival will wrap up virtually in the middle of Pride month, streaming comedy “Cloudburst” and romantic comedy “Big Eden.” Both will be available June 18 and 19 on bentlgbtqfilmfest.festivee.com.
Brozek said he was happy to have been able to be a part of BENT and had made many “close and dear friends”.
“I hope it will be reinvented,” he said. “I hope someone will take up the torch, because it is desperately needed.”