Mason film student’s inclusive festival celebrates its second year


As a film student at George Mason University, Roberto Ferreira De Araujo wanted to celebrate diversity and highlight the full spectrum of experiences represented by the LGBTQ+ community. 

During his first semester at Mason in fall 2022, Ferreira De Araujo and two of his classmates created the Here and Queer Film Festival as a final project for KJ Mohr’s FAVS 399 Curating and Programming course. 

Roberto Ferreira de Araujo posing with the 'Here and Queer Festival' poster during on screening day. Photo provided.
Roberto Ferreira de Araujo posing with the 'Here and Queer Festival' poster during on screening day. Photo provided.

“Growing up, I didn't see a lot of films with queer characters, and when I did, they always involved crimes, violence, and diseases,” said the film and video studies major. “I struggled to find a film that I really loved, so I attempted to find those films with this festival.” 

“Roberto is building a safe and celebratory space for communities at Mason in particular. It comes at a crucial time with the majority of students being in their late teens and early twenties,” said Mohr, who is the director of the Maryland Film Festival and the director of programming for the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Florida.  

“It's such a crucial moment in one's life to be grappling with these issues and to feel that net of support can be, frankly, a matter of life and death,” she said. 

Ferreira De Araujo found inspiration to create the festival after completing an internship with the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art in the summer of 2022, where he was involved in programming films, he said. 

“I knew that I wanted to make something around films and showcasing films,” said Ferreira De Araujo, who transferred to Mason from Northern Virginia Community College and is graduating this spring. “I would spend 40 hours a week just watching films and writing notes about it, creating lists of the themes and how would that be presented.” 

The first festival was such a success that Ferreira De Araujo decided to hold a second iteration this November in the Johnson Center. “I received such positive feedback [last year] and noticed a strong interest in a second edition. It motivated me to start working on this year's programming,” he said. 

The 2023 festival featured short films from all over the world including work from Mason students and faculty, including Djola Branner, director of Mason’s School of Theater, whose film, Mighty Real, was shown at the festival. 

“It’s important to me to show more queer films and have more representation. I'm trying to put content out there that I wish I had when I was [younger],” said De Araujo. “These films not only provide entertainment but also contribute to meaningful conversations surrounding queer experiences.” 

“I wanted people to [leave the festival] with the assurance that no matter what, they would always have a community out there that celebrates and supports them,” he said. 

Additional reporting by Katarina Benson.