QUEER MONGOL, 16min., USA, Documentary
Directed by Brandt Miller
Queer Mongol follows four characters over the course of Mongolia's LGBTQ+ Pride Festival, who embody a diversity of gender and sexual identities. The film is a meditation on queerness in the non-west and a nuanced glimpse into a nascent movement on the Central Asian Steppe.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
I've been working with the queer community in Mongolia for 16 years, first as a study abroad student doing research. I then returned to Mongolia on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2009 and created a multimedia exhibition about the very underground community back then—the first of its kind in the nation. Back then, the exhibition had to be faceless because it was too dangerous for individuals to reveal their identities to the public. I helped co-found the Mongolian LGBT Center and returned in 2019 to film Queer Mongol. I feel a deep connection with the place. The story of the Mongolian LGBT movement is a story I will be documenting my whole life.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
I finished the first rough cut and showed it to some Mongolian friends. Their reactions were not very enthusiastic. After talking with them, I realized that the narrative was very much through my lens as a white, western, cis, gay man. It was the story of how difficult is to be queer in the nonwest, a simplified story that has been told before. So the editor and I went back to the drawing board and started from scratch. I decided to step back and just depict the characters as human beings with their own unique stories, and to allow the overall story and threads to reveal themselves organically. And it worked. I learned so much about storytelling in the process. When I premiered Queer Mongol at a film festival in Mongolia this past September, the characters in it and other members of the queer community expressed how proud they were to have participated.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It made me tear up listening to others talk about this creative project that I poured myself into with such thoughtfulness and intentionality.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Storytelling has always been my passion and calling in life, both writing and filmmaking. I first started working professionally in film 13 years ago, after completing an MFA in creative writing. I see myself as a transformative storyteller and enjoy working in different mediums.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
I love documentaries and nonfiction storytelling. I've watched the docuseries, Wild, Wild Country multiple times over the last few years. The storytelling is nuanced and exciting and all of the characters are captured in their complex humaneness.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Perhaps connecting filmmakers with other filmmakers and producers for collaboration and funding.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
10. What is your favorite meal?
In honor of Mongolia, I would say Tsuivan, which is a fried noodle dish with the most delicious lamb you could ever eat. And then some hot milk tea on the side.