From left to right, CIFF artistic director, Brian Owens, Francis (Kiko) Yutrago, star of Francheska: Prairie Queen, and Francheska: Prairie Queen director Laura O’Grady on the CIFF 2022 Rainbow Carpet for the film launch at Eau Claire Market in Calgary on Friday, September 23, 2022. PHOTO BY HAJAR AL KHOUZAII Credit: Hajar Al Khouzaii

The Calgary International Film Festival is celebrating its 23rd anniversary, showcasing more than 175 multi-genre films from both Canada and internationally.

The festival kicked off on Sept. 22 CIFF and runs through this weekend at Eau Claire Market, featuring a variety of film genres including Francheska Prairie Queen.

Rainbow Carpet event kicks-off CIFF, Sep. 22, 2022

“CIFF is a really well-respected festival,” said the film’s director, Laura O’Grady.

“It allows you to qualify for higher awards and I was very fortunate in the fact that this festival allowed me to get on a national awards list.”

CIFF is the largest film festival in Alberta and the sixth-largest in Canada. It is also an Oscar-qualifying festival for short films, a Canadian Screen Award Qualifying festival, and was named one of “50 Films Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” six times since 2009 by MovieMaker Magazine.

According to CIFF’s director, Steve Schroeder, the festival will showcase more than 200 films representing about 50 countries, many languages, and a lot of Canadian work from Alberta this year in particular.

From left to right, Jenney Steele, Laura O’Grady director of Francheska: Prairie Queen, and Alberta NDP Calgary East candidate Rosman Valencia on the CIFF 2022 Rainbow Carpet for the film launch at Eau Claire Market in Calgary on Friday, September 23, 2022. PHOTO BY HAJAR AL KHOUZAII

“Any great festival really represents the place that it’s from, it tries to express the personality of its city or its place through the programming of the festival,” said Schroeder.

“We do the same thing here.”

According to O’ Grady, the festival is quite crucial for Calgarians as it opens them up to exploring other films that don’t dominate the theaters like, Francheska Prairie Queen. 

Francheska Prairie Queen follows frontline healthcare worker and aspiring drag queen superstar, Francheska Dynamites, also known as, Francis Yutrago, as she attempts to reach drag superstardom while still supporting her family back in the Philippines.

“It’s important to see all kinds of stories, all different kinds of filmmakers and be immersed in different communities,” said O’Grady.

The documentary film tells the story of how a typhoon hit the island where she came from. Dynamites looked to an LGBTQ+ beauty contest of predominantly transgender people to try to raise the funds and awareness for the family and the people affected by the typhoon.

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“It means a lot to me to be part of CIFF as I believe this is the first time there’s a Filipino queen subject and I’m so happy because there’s a transgender community also be part of the film and we’ve never had that subject in the past as well,” said Francheska Dynamites.  

According to Dynamites, being a popular subject because of the film has had a lot of pressure on her in keeping up the conversation of understanding the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I didn’t realize that my story could go this far, I didn’t know that my struggle can be an inspiration,” said Dynamites.

“Hopefully this film will not only touch the hearts of the people who have a less understanding about the LGBT community but to allow some families who are struggling to accept having a queer child know that it’s okay to have us and to just love and accept that.”

CIFF takes place until Oct. 2 and tickets can be purchased online. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Steve Schroeder’s name. We apologize for the error.

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Hajar Al Khouzaii is the Lead Editor of the Calgary Journal. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Calgary majoring in Political Science and minoring in Philosophy. Hajar is scheduled...