LORAINE: Hi, I’m Loraine with Seattle Out and About, a queer blog run by T(OUR) Literary Magazine. T(OUR) Literary Magazine is a queer publication that features queer art and stories from all around the world. If you’re interested in learning more about the publication, take a look at the links on our YouTube page. Today, we’re sitting down with the founder of Sistah Sinema, Isis Asare. ISIS: Hi.
LORAINE: We’re going to explore the history and background of her organization and find out more about the events she’s been doing. ISIS:Thank you for having me. It’s an honor and a pleasure. Sistah Sinema started in 2011 in Seattle. Really small. I think our first Sistah Sinema had literally 10 people and it was all my friends. I made them buy tickets and they were so supportive and so cute. The inspiration behind it… I just had a really good circle of friends that got together every Sunday, for Sunday dinner. It was such a deep sense of community and coming together and feeling supported. I just wanted to expand that circle and that support. That was the impetus behind Sistah Sinema. I think the act I did in November and the first Sistah Sinema that was the following January. Six months ago we launched in Cleveland and that’s been fabulous. I mean, who thought Cleveland would have a community that would support Sistah Sinema? But they really embraced it. Everything from the academic community to the Cleveland LGBT center has been super supportive, so that’s been great. We’ve recently launched in Atlanta and Portland. That’s been fabulous as well. So that’s Sistah Sinema in a nutshell! LORAINE: It seems like a lot of it is done solo through you. ISIS: Oh no. So that’s one correction. It’s not done solo through me. There’s SO many people who work on Sistah Sinema and support Sistah Sinema. I could not do it alone. But it is a virtual team. Deirdre McPherson, who runs Sistah Sinema Cleveland, is in Cleveland. Amber Moore who runs Sistah Sinema Atlanta is in Atlanta. The owner of Busk Films is in Vancouver. Andrea Wing. So it is definitely a virtual team. And I’m based here in Seattle. One woman who did a lot of work, especially for the indiegogo campaign, Kimberley McLeod, who runs Elixher.com, and she’s in DC. And that’s just the power of social media and the internet. We skyped. I feel like I know Deirdre. Like I feel like I should know her shoe size. Granted I’ve never met her in person. You know, I had to ask her the other day: How tall are you? It’s just weird how you can build connections in a virtual space with people that you’ve never met.I found that kind of fascinating in growing and developing Sistah Sinema.
LORAINE:In setting up these events, have you encountered any issues or challenges in hosting these at venues. Or any resistance to bringing more visibility to a diverse community with the cinema? ISIS: You know, the venues have been really supportive. In Seattle, we love our current venue. Thank you, Roy Street Coffee and Tea! So it’s awesome! It’s a very intimate and cozy space. People think you go watch a movie and you don’t really connect with other people with you. You’re just watching a movie. But since Roy Street is so intimate and so small, you not only get a chance to hang out with your friends, but you get to meet other people who are attending. People who have come to Sistah Sinema have met their girlfriends, met their best friends, we’re going to get them on camera to give testamonials soon. It’s been really great to allow people to connect. LORAINE:They’ve actually travelled to about four different cities in the US and maybe some others. Cleveland, Seattle, Portland, and Atlanta. Can you tell me how you chose those cities?
ISIS: For Seattle and Portland… I was living in Seattle and Portland’s really close. Cleveland is my favorite story. I get this message on Facebook: “It would be so awesome if Sistah Sinema was in Cleveland! And I’m like, “Let’s make it happen!” I think we just need a venue and a marketing plan. And she comes back, “I have a venue, I have a marketing plan, and I’m good to go!” Sistah Sinema Cleveland has just been amazing, it’s been awesome, it’s been hugely successful. She’s put a lot of work into it. I’m definitely very proud of her for that. Atlanta was very intentional. Atlanta has a huge queer women of color community, they’re very connected, they’re very engaged, they’re super artistic. And personally, I just love Atlanta. I really want to be in Atlanta. I remember we started off, I put up a Craigslist post. “We need a brand manager in Atlanta.” And I didn’t get any responses. [laughs] But a friend forwarded it to a friend, who connected me to a friend. Now Amber Moore, who works with the Real Bois Health Initiative, runs Sistah Sinema Atlanta out of the Rush Center, which is Atlanta’s LGBT Center. LORAINE: Nice. Since Atlanta plays such a prominent role, had you lived there prior to that? Or were you a visitor, that kind of started considering Atlanta?
ISIS: No! Oddly enough, as much as I love Atlanta, I’ve never lived there. I like to visit my mom and sister who live there. I just have this huge love for Atlanta, even though I’ve never lived there. LORAINE: As far as the selection of films go, I actually got to see The Journey here in Seattle… how do you curate these films and choose those. And also what kind of limitations do you run into in terms of licensing and showign it in public and all that? ISIS: In terms of curation, I wish I could say it’s this really deep process. But really, sometimes I start with a theme, and I want to find a movie that fits. Particularly like last year’s Valentines Day, I remember spending like a good two weeks finding the right movie for Valentine’s Day. Because it was really difficult to find a movie that wasn’t a coming out story. About two queer women of color falling in love. So eventually, we found the right movie for that particular Sistah Sinema, which was really exciting. And the audience loved it, and it was a film that people hadn’t really been able to see. Especially in Seattle, for almost a decade. It wasn’t available online. I think that I had to buy it on VHS or something kinda crazy. In terms of the movie rights, filmmakers have been really supportive and distribution companies have been great. I remember our first two movies for Sistah Sinema were two films by Faith Trimel. She didn’t know me from Adam. But she’s like, if you want to show my films, let’s work it out. She truly supported me, giving me a break financially in terms of the movie screen rights, which I appreciate and that’s been good. As we’ve gotten bigger, we can work with more established distributors. The movies in February and March are both Wolfe films, and we now have the budget to pay the movie screening rights for both Wolfe films. So that’s very exciting. It’s been great to work with a company like Wolfe that’s been in the LGBT cinema space for years, and now be able to give them an additional way to monetize their queer women of color content.
LORAINE: Awesome, thank you. In terms of your recent indiegogo success… For background, Sistah Sinema recently finished an indiegogo campaign successfully with the intention of creating a channel on Busk Films, to provide access to different films featuring queer women of color. Can you tell me more about that experience, and what that’s really driving toward?
ISIS: The indiegogo campaign was so empowering. It wasn’t my success, it was really seeing the community come together and say, “This is something we want. This is something we believe in. This is something that we really feel should be out there. And taking ownership of that. To me that was the most exciting part of that Indiegogo campaign. Now it’s like, that was a solid and great foundation. A great way to get the word out about Sistah Sinema and the potential of Sistah Sinema online, which will definitely happen. And the actual platform is up and now the next step is getting content. So if there’s a particular movie you want to see, send us an email. If you’re a filmmaker with great content, definitely send us an email. We want to launch the site with at least twenty movies. We’re about halfway there with contracts signed and movies uploaded. We hope to get the next half shortly and have people be able to go online, see these movies. And also connect online. We’ve hosted a couple Google Hangouts and to further that conversation. And simulate that Sistah Sinema experience with the post-movie discussions in a virtual community. So we’re very excited about that. And very excited about the level of access that it gives to the films themselves and the community around those films.
LORAINE: So what does the future look like for Sistah Sinema? ISIS: I’m so excited as to what Sistah Sinema has next. We’re in four cities now, so one of my aspirations for the end of 2013 is to be in ten cities. Definitely looking for people who are excited about organizing and connected to bring Sistah Sinema to their cities. The goal is for each city to have a target audience of 50 people. I feel like that’s enough people to have a good and deep conversation that’s representative of a broad range of different ages and backgrounds in the community. But not so large that it’s hard to connect with different people. In terms of the online platform, the goal is to have a total of about 50 movies, and that includes short and feature-length films. An also on average, to have about 20 viewers of movies, watching on average, three movies a month. I’m a former finance person, so for some reason, I like to count. That’s why all my goals are kind of numerically based.
LORAINE: I think that about wraps it up. Do you have any closing things that you would want to tell an audience about Sistah Sinema?
ISIS: I think that’s everything. One thing I want to highlight is Sistah Sinema is so much more than just the movies. I think of Sistah Sinema as a movie movement. Where queer women of color are creating economic and social opportunities for us, by us. It’s not my project, it’s not my success. It’s our project and our success. It will only continue if people stay involved. So I’m just really excited about working with the community. LORAINE: Awesome. Well, thank you, Isis Asare from Sistah Sinema. Stay tuned, keep an eye out. Seattle Out and About and T(OUR) Magazine are always posting new content regarding happenings around Seattle and the queer community.