Category Archives: Press Release

Kokomo City @ CUFF

We salute our friends at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) for their ongoing commitment to queer content. Celebrating their 20th anniversary—the festival runs April 20-30, 2023—CUFF is presenting the Canadian Premier of Kokomo City.

Directed by two-time Grammy nominee D. Smith, Kokomo City presents the stories of four Black transgender sex workers in New York and Georgia.

Shot in striking black and white, the boldness of the facts of these women’s lives and the earthquaking frankness they share complicate this enterprise, colliding the everyday with cutting social commentary and the excavation of long-dormant truths. Accessible for any audience, unfiltered, unabashed, and unapologetic, Smith and her subjects smash the trendy standard for authenticity, offering a refreshing rawness and vulnerability unconcerned with purity and politeness.

D. Smith is a two-time Grammy-nominated songwriter-producer who produced and is featured on “Shoot Me Down” from Lil Wayne’s 8x platinum album Tha Carter III and wrote and produced the No. 1 Billboard dance single “Love Yourself” by Billy Porter. She made history as the first trans woman cast on a primetime unscripted TV show. This is Smith’s directorial feature film debut.

“As a Black and trans filmmaker, Smith refreshingly creates the space for [her subjects] to be provocative, raw and daringly glamorous in her taboo-breaking work filmed in gleaming black-and-white and edited with a fiery spirit.” – Harper’s Bazaar

“The principal participants … are an electric bunch, and the diversity of their testimonies propels this worthwhile project into refreshing, uninhibited territory.” – The Hollywood Reporter

Kokomo City screens twice: April 26 at 7 PM and April 29 at 1:30 PM. See you at the festival!


Save Our Backlot

Calgary’s queer community is mobilizing to save the Backlot, a historic and cherished gay bar. The Backlot is one of the last remaining drinking establishments for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and a link to previous generations of queers.

The Backlot’s historic neon sign that has served every incarnation of the bar.

Lawyer and former politician David Khan has spearheaded a call to action, asking the community to intervene in the development approval process (UPDATED: submissions close February 28).

He writes:

I understand The Backlot Bar recently received notice of termination of its lease due to a project to redevelop the land into condos by its landlord and Truman Homes. I am very concerned about this proposed development and the damage it will do to Calgary’s 2SLGBTQ+ community, and I oppose this development.

The Backlot is one of only three queer spaces in the city. It has been a fixture of our community for 47 years, giving Calgary’s 2SLGBTQ+ community a safe space to gather and avoid the discrimination our community continues to face in mainstream society. Calgary has historically struggled to be inclusive and queer-friendly, as exemplified recently by the demonstrations and threats of violence against drag events in our city. The Backlot provides a safe and welcoming space for our community to socialize. Many non-profit organizations have used the venue to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for community projects.

The building in which The Backlot is located is also a building with deep historical roots and significance in Calgary. It was built by Thomas Underwood, a former Mayor of Calgary, as the Calgary Gas Company Workshop in 1907. It is one of the last remaining structures of its type (wood-framed, wood-clad commercial building) in Calgary from that era, and one of the oldest extant workshops associated with the oil and gas industries. It is cataloged in the City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources.

The Backlot, like many businesses, struggled during the COVID pandemic. They have invested significantly in recent years to improve the building, including interior renovations and a completely revamped back patio space, staircase and second-floor patio space.

Mixed-use spaces are great, but residential use must be compatible with commercial use, especially in the downtown core. I am concerned this proposed development will not fit with the current businesses in this area (bars, restaurants, office space). If the development is approved, it must be designed so that a restaurant/bar with a patio space can operate in the same manner as it can in the current space.

The loss of The Backlot will seriously harm our community. I implore the City to reject this proposed development as it is currently conceived.

In addition, CTV Calgary reports: Backlot lease termination prompts movement to save decades-old Calgary queer space.

Social media pages “Save the Backlot Bar” on Facebook and Instagram will have the latest information about the campaign.

The Backlot’s patio in summer.


Involve: Stonewall & Carousel

Mark your calendars on Thursday, February 16th, for a stimulating gay history evening at Contemporary Calgary called Involve. This evening of discussion will feature New York Stonewall Uprising Activist Martin Boyce and Calgary’s Club Carousel Founder Lois Szabo, sharing their perspectives and experience of the 2SLGBTQ+ human rights movement.

Free tickets can be found: here.

Sponsored by local interior design studio, Lawrence, we caught up with designer Mitchell Brooks about Involve.

Mitchell explains: “I heard Martin Boyce speak last spring in Calgary and found his personal stories and perspective on the equal rights movement and community deeply profound. When International Day of Pink announced Martin was going to be coming back to Calgary this winter and looking for speaking events, I saw it as a great opportunity to host Martin again and make a local connection to his story and experience. As much as we know some of the international history and movements, I believe Canada and Calgary has a rich queer history as well. We wanted to pair the Stonewall event with what was happening in Calgary around the same time and thought the connection with local Rainbow Elder, Lois Szabo, would enhance that dynamic conversation in a way we may not have all heard before. On top of that, as the principal of Lawrence Interior Design Studio, I pride myself in being a visible and open example of a queer business owner in Calgary.”

Inspire hopes to educate. The event is framed as a queer-led conversation about queer history with queer people, but all Calgarians are welcome.

Mitchell adds: “our past matters—to know how far we’ve come, but also how far we still must go, and the importance of maintaining our progress and place in society. Our history also matters in recognizing and celebrating the people who have led us here and continuing to share their experiences further. What’s so great about the Calgary Gay History Project’s work is that it shares and protects the local history that we closely identify with. In hosting this event, I hope to make a small contribution to support that work, celebrating the history we all represent.”