Meet the Programmers: Homo Arigato

photo by John Anderson for The Austin Chronicle

Since re-opening the doors of the AFS Cinema in 2017, AFS has been able to expand our offerings and bring in new partners to help program the screens. One of our monthly collaborators is Homo Arigato, a 5+ year-running film series focused on rare and beautiful queer films. Homo Arigato made the move to AFS Cinema in January 2018, where the programming has since included KIKI, PINK NARCISSUS, THE WILD BOYS, and more.

The team behind the series, Jeremy von Stilb and Tish Sparks, have been working hard for years to bring queer cinema and events to Austin, including Contrast Film Festival, which launched last year. We had a few questions for the programmers of Homo Arigato on their careers in programming, the series itself, and what they’re looking forward to in the future.

Where and how did you begin doing film programming?

Tish Sparks: I started doing film programming while attending Antioch College in Ohio. One of the campus work-study jobs was to program weekly screenings on campus, and since I was involved with event production and studied film, I was able to hold that position for a little while – which was super fun. After graduating college, I had taken a break from film programming for a while as I focused more on DJing and doing music stuff, but shortly after moving to Austin I started a screening series that was held at a couple of bars around town. Jeremy attended a couple of those and asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a screening to take place during SXSW, so we first worked together on that. Maybe a year later, he approached me about starting Homo Arigato at the Alamo Ritz, and almost 5 years later we are still doing the series and are about a year into our partnership with AFS. 

Jeremy von Stilb: I did a couple of short film series at Cheer Up Charlies.  I always thought short films are more imaginative than current feature films and loved things like Res Fest while living in LA.  I did a couple nights of strange things I found on the web and then saw Tisha was doing her own series and we started talking about doing something together.  

What advice would you give to budding programmers?

T: I would say to trust your instincts and be true to your vision. You can’t be everything to everyone, so focusing on what excites you instead of trying to please a hypothetical crowd will likely be what creates more opportunities and moves you forward. Anytime we have tried to choose a film because we thought it had broader appeal, it didn’t work as well. Our most successful events have always been the films we were super excited about and the choices that were seemingly ‘harder sells’. 

J: Curation is about discovery and taking chances.  A curator is part of the audience as well, so peek at anything and everything, you never know what will surprise you.  

PEPI, LUCI, BOM

What is Homo Arigato?

T: Homo Arigato is a film series focused on presenting ‘hard to find, hard to forget’ films from the queer film canon. We love to dig up oddities and treasures and present films that are hard to see elsewhere. I also think the series has a kind of punk vibe, we are always looking for films that are subversive, challenging, DIY, or freaky in some way. You won’t find a lot of ‘feel good’ films in our archives, haha.

How did this series come together?

J: The series happened a bit by accident. A friend got hired as a programmer at the Alamo Ritz and I made the suggestion of a midnight screening of Daft Punk’s ELECTROMAa. I primarily work as a DJ so I thought it would be exciting to present a film made by two music producers.  He liked that idea but not much came of it as the French film distributor was on a very French, very long vacation and weren’t getting back about lending a copy of the film to the Alamo.  So, the theater asked if I would instead come up with a queer film series for them. I asked Tisha to join me because she has a deep knowledge of film but also drawn to different types of things to me, so it seemed like a good match. 

What’s been your most memorable experience with Homo Arigato thus far?

T: I think our finest moment so far was screening Curt McDowell’s THUNDERCRACK! off of a Beta tape loaned to us by his sister. The theater was packed and the crowd was super into it. I think it was kind of illegal too, which is always a little more fun. 

J: Most of the films we show lean more to the cult side of things, but I once talked everyone into doing a sing-a-long night of SISTER ACT with our friend Ursula doing commentary throughout.  It was sort an idea so bad it was good and everyone had fun. I think we showed THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT the next month so it showed we were ready to take the audience on adventure from screening to screening.

Do you have any particular filmmakers you hope to explore in your future programs?

T: I’d like to show an Andy Milligan film one of these days, we haven’t shown any of his work yet and I think it would fit right into what we do. I’d also like to show some early 90s queercore films from GB Jones, Bruce LaBruce, etc. 

J: I’d love to show more current films from around the world to show how their queer communities are finding their voices.  

FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES

What do you love most about your next two films, FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES and THE CEREMONY? Why should folks not miss seeing them on the big screen?

T: FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES (screening January 22) will blow your mind if you haven’t seen it before. It’s so far ahead of it’s time, it’s punk before punk was a thing, it’s got some humor, it’s just totally wild. Even if you have seen it before, this is a move that deserves a re-watch, especially on the big screen.

THE CEREMONY (screening February 19) never got a proper release, so most people haven’t seen it, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into the world of Catherine Robbe-Grillet and an exploration of an expression of sexuality that is still seen as provocative to a lot of people. Celebrate Valentine’s month with some light S&M on the big screen!

Homo Arigato programs a new film every month at AFS Cinema. For a current schedule of upcoming films or to see past selections, click here.

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