Film curator Lucy Mukerjee (all images courtesy of Lucy Mukerjee)

The month of June is a time to celebrate LGBTQ communities. It’s a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture of the queer community, as well as more recent advances made in the realm of civil liberties. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many queer individuals are navigating greater risks to their health, safety, and livelihoods.

Cognizant of the need to stay connected and elevate queer voices amid uncertainty, Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one queer art worker per day on our website and asking them to reflect on what this time means to them. If you identify as a queer art worker, we’d love to hear from you. Click here to learn more about how to participate. 

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What’s your name?

Lucy Mukerjee

Where are you based currently? 

I’ve been quarantining in Colombia since attending the Cartagena Film Festival in early March, but I live in New York City.

Film curator Lucy Mukerjee

Describe who you are and what you do.

I’m a Senior Programmer at the Tribeca Film Festival, where I curate feature-length documentary and narrative films, with a focus on underrepresented voices. I’m a queer bi-racial activist and I firmly believe that film festivals have the power to change the cultural conversation, and a responsibility to reflect the rich array of identities that exist in the world around us. Before I joined the Tribeca team, I was the Director of Programming at Outfest, the leading LGBTQ+ media arts organization. There I led the curation of a trio of annual film festivals (Outfest Los Angeles, Fusion, and Newfest) as well as their educational initiatives. I also founded their Trans Summit event.

Over my career I have produced two dozen theatrical feature films, predominantly for Lionsgate and Warner Bros. I pivoted into programming because I saw the power of connecting filmmakers with audiences and wanted to provide a platform for stories about marginalized communities. I am currently working with Tribeca to launch a fund solely dedicated to financing films by LGBTQ+ creators. The mission of this fund is to expand the canon of queer cinema and empower our community to achieve sustainable careers in the industry.

Pride festivities organized by the Tribeca Film Festival

Tell us about your greatest achievement or something you’ve done lately that you’re proud of.

I’m proud of having gotten out of my comfort zone by leaving an LGBTQ+ organization in order to provide a platform for queer creatives to reach a mainstream audience. It meant starting over in a new city at the age of 40, and building a new community for myself in New York. But I’ve encountered nothing but support and I’m proud of the work Tribeca has done so far for the community. Rest assured, there is a lot more in the pipeline!

Favorite ways to celebrate your queerness and community?

I find joy in seeing my community engage in unapologetic acts of queerness, but as a straight-passing female in a relationship with a (trans) man, it can sometimes be hard to find ways to outwardly express my own queer identity. I celebrate my queerness by surrounding myself with the work of LGBTQIA+ creatives and feeling affirmed by seeing myself reflected in their artistry.

What’s been top of mind for you lately?

How can we each access the joy, visibility and morale-boost of Pride month all year round? Can we encourage (ie. pressure) corporate brands to spread their LGBTQIA+ marketing funds throughout the other 11 months of the year in order to make a more meaningful impact? How are the frontline workers who are part of our community finding support during this time? And how can film programmers sustain themselves financially when physical festivals are cancelled and their jobs are being furloughed?

Talk to us about your immediate queer community/support systems. (Feel free to shout out other folks or organizations you think are doing important work.)

I find that it’s important to have people in your life that you can have candid conversations with, whether that’s friends, family, your partner or your therapist. That’s the best support system I’ve found to keep me grounded. I’m grateful to the LGBTQIA+ film festivals like Outfest, Frameline, and NewFest as well as organizations like GLAAD who are doing invaluable work to keep our spirits up during this difficult time.

Film curators Lucy Mukerjee and Charlie Hidalgo

How are you celebrating Pride Month this time around?

Because of the work that my partner and I do as film curators, we’ve collected a circle of queer artist friends around the world, so we will definitely make time to check in with as many of them as possible. We’ve been quarantining in rural Colombia, and never expected to be here for Pride month but quarantine restrictions have been extended to the end of the month. While it’s unclear what LGBTQIA+ community exists here, I’m grateful to be somewhere that feels safe. We’ve had to move around quite a bit since March but we’re now in a place where we can settle down, so Pride month will probably be a lot of cooking, hiking, and daydreaming.

Are there ways you think queer artists and art workers could be better supported?

There are myriad identities under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, but often corporations, brands, and institutions presume that we all share the same experiences and as a result, their inclusion efforts feel superficial. Only when they do the work to understand the inequities that exist across the queer family will we achieve greater representation and inclusion for our community in the arts, in the media, and in everyday life.

In the communities that you’re part of, what are you hoping to see shift in the future?

I want to see films about the LGBTQIA+ community that don’t center on violence or tragedy, and don’t make us the sidekick or the punchline. I want to see narrative features written, directed, and starring trans folk, with stories that are centered on the experiences of trans people, that go beyond transition itself. As a film curator, I’ve seen an abundance of documentaries that sexualize and fetishize the trans community, 99% of which are fixated on the physical transition. It’s time to make room for trans men and women as the lead characters in every other genre of filmmaking from romantic comedies to thrillers. This is the work that is largely absent from film festival submissions, and the films that will shape future attitudes towards us.

What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when it feels safer to physically gather again?

I can’t wait to throw a big queer party!

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Dessane Lopez Cassell

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.