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Director Malcolm Ingram among highlights of 12th Reel Queer Film Festival

Open Doors, a Syracuse University group for queer graduate students and friends, is using this weekend's film festival as a way to bring the broader Syracuse community together to address issues typically only associated with the LGBT community.

The Reel Queer Film Festival aims to reduce prejudice and ignorance by telling the stories of LGBT community around the U.S. and world, but it's really done for the youth, planning committee member Benjamin Zender said.

"If you grow up queer and you don't see a lot of images of yourself reflected around you, you tend to feel isolated and confused," said Zender.

The 12th Annual Reel Queer Film Festival runs Thursday March 31 to Saturday April 2 at SU and screens nine films looking at themes like disabilities and race and gender identities, which haven't been covered in previous years.

"We want to feature a variety of experiences and identities and look into directions we didn't look into last year," Zender said.

And this year, the festival boasts more films and sponsors, a more professional feel with an increased budget and a professionally-designed poster.

Friday's screening of "Bear Nation" will be followed by a Q&A with director Malcolm Ingram, another first for the festival.

Another highlight of the festival will be the short film, "Beyond Better: A Manifesto for Queer Youth," put together by Professor Margaret Himmely and students in her Queer Writing Class.

The film is a critique of the It Gets Better Project, formed in September 2010 in response to a number of recent teen suicides linked to anti-gay bullying.

Instead of simply telling gay, bi-sexual and transsexual youth that "it gets better" over time, the group dissected the statement and to show how teens can make the world a better place individually.

With four times more sponsors from outside the LGBT and gender studies communities, Open Doors hopes to make the event accessible to everyone.

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