Las Vegas Queer Arts Film Festival founder aims ‘to bring everyone together’

USA Vegas News

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

There are easier ways to meet other members of the local LGBTQ film community than launching a festival, but few are as effective.

“It’s really awesome that it is something that people do know about and get excited about and can connect with,” says Kris Manzano, founder and director of the Las Vegas Queer Arts Film Festival. “I’ve been meeting a lot more LGBTQ filmmakers. It makes me really happy.”

For its second edition, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Manzano says the festival received enough submissions that local artists earned their own block of short films. It’s set for noon Saturday at the festival’s home, the Regal Colonnade in Henderson. (For more information, tickets and a complete schedule, see

Friday night is reserved for the festival’s social mixer and ball at The Center, 401 S. Maryland Parkway. Attendees aren’t required to dress to impress, unless they want to walk for a chance to win the four prize categories that include “Atlantis glamour” and “drag realness.”

The ball bridges the twin careers — special events coordinator and filmmaker — of the 27-year-old graduate of Basic High School and UNLV.

“Just kind of express yourself and be creative with your choices and just kind of have fun,” Manzano advises ball participants. “But everyone is welcome, however you identify.”

Among the other highlights, the festival is screening its first features, “Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” (5 p.m. Saturday), a look at the asylum process facing LGBTQ refugees, and “A Night at Switch n’ Play” (noon Sunday), which focuses on the titular Brooklyn-based performance collective.

“I’m just really excited for people to experience it this year,” Manzano says. “There’s different stories from different parts of our community in the festival. There’s a lot of representation in it. So I’m excited for people to see a different scope.”

Review-Journal: What inspired you to launch the festival?

Kris Manzano: I realized that I wasn’t seeing too many LGBTQ filmmakers here locally. It was only a small amount of people that I knew that shared both communities. I was just thinking, “I know that there’s plenty of us out there, and I really would love for there to be a space for them to be able to present their art and show their works.”

What did you learn from the inaugural edition?

It was just a really great feeling. We created this festival, and people responded to it.

Are you trying to focus on celebrating queer stories? Queer filmmakers? Both?

Our focus is definitely the filmmakers. We have a couple of shorts in the festival that don’t really have a queer-centered storyline, but they’re still made by LGBTQ filmmakers. … I love queer-centered storylines as well, but I also want to be able to represent just filmmakers in general.

Straight cisgender folks are welcome at the festival, too?

Absolutely. Everyone is welcome because the point is to bring everyone together — not only within our community but everyone outside of it, too. And just show what we’re all capable of doing, what our art is and the great work LGBTQ filmmakers can do.

You’re branching out to The Center this year. Was that an important partnership for you?

It was! I’m so incredibly thrilled to be in a community partnership with The Center on this. I think it’s definitely important because The Center does a lot of great work for the community, and more people should be aware of it. … I thought it was just a great partnership to have a social mixer for LGBTQ filmmakers and the local industry and for people to just come together. It’s a perfect place for that.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Getting to know: Kris Manzano

Favorite movie

“Saw” (laughs loudly). I first saw it in when I was in eighth grade, and that twist ending had me so shocked, had me so emotionally turned around, that it inspired me.

Current obsession

Ari Lennox. Her music is so beautiful, and I cannot stop listening to it.


One of my favorite hobbies is going to events and dressing up and creating outfits out of concepts. For example, last year I did a couture fashion look inspired by a deviled egg.

Favorite restaurant

Hodad’s in Ocean Beach, California

Best thing about living in Las Vegas

The arts scene here is really starting to grow and flourish. I’m starting to discover smaller shows like improv shows and variety shows, just like a lot of fun, different kinds of events.

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