AT FIRST GLANCE, QDoc: Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival might seem like it occupies too particular a niche—don't we already have a gay and lesbian film festival? Do we need a festival that's just about queer documentaries?
But we live in a world where queer stories have long been surreptitiously told, or not told at all. In that context, QDoc's mission makes perfect sense, and their hodgepodge of intimately personal and overtly political programming makes sense, too—why shouldn't Regarding Susan Sontag, a warm biography charting Sontag's evolution from housewife to New York intellectual, sit alongside fest headliner The Case Against 8, which looks at the legal backdrop of the Proposition 8 Supreme Court case? And why shouldn't both of those films accompany Derby Crazy Love, an action-heavy look at the international roller derby championship? (The latter, BTW, features a handy derby tutorial, if you've been too long baffled about how the sport actually works.)
This year's fest is heavy on biographical docs. The most interesting, for my money: Kate Bornstein Is a Queer and Pleasant Danger is a remarkably relaxed portrait of the trans activist; she welcomes the camera into her home, shows off her Battlestar Galactica tattoo, introduces her girlfriend. The Dog is a fascinating, funny, dark look at John Wojtowicz, the man who inspired Dog Day Afternoon when he robbed a bank to fund his lover's sex-reassignment surgery. My Prairie Home is a tour diary from the charming trans singer/songwriter Rae Spoon. And then there's To Be Takei, an informative profile of Star Trek-star turned activist George Takei, whose very existence summarizes something crucial: No matter how niche a festival might seem, no two stories are the same.