Moose Jaw can sometimes feel like a small town, but it is indeed part of a much wider world.
A series of documentary films screening on Monday night seek to bring that world here. Moose Jaw-born filmmaker and journalist Paula Stromberg will be presenting three distinct pieces dealing with LGBT issues in Cambodia and West Africa.
“We need to see what’s going on in the world for all kinds of people,” she told the Times-Herald on Friday. “It’s so easy to focus on complaining about the weather and forget the wonderful good fortune that we have, living in Canada.”
Transgender Wedding takes place in rural Cambodia and tells the story of one of the first legal transgender weddings in that country, while Family is Skin: Lesbians in Cambodia features long-term couples who survived the genocide of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, as well as younger women who still face discrimination today. The Cleansing is about a gay Ashanti man who was discovered in bed with his boyfriend and fled the country after relatives insisted he undergo a traditional shrine cleansing that was likely to kill him.
Moose Jaw Pride executive director Joe Wickenhauser said this is the second international documentary screening in the past few months the organization has put on. The screening will begin at 7 p.m. and entry is by donation.
“It’s really interesting to see the parallels between what has happened in the past in Canada and what is currently happening in other countries, but also to think about what happens when people aren’t able to protect those rights and the challenges that people face there,” he said.
He agreed that part of being a good global citizen is understanding the struggle of others, not just in terms of having empathy, but also to better advocate for change around the world.
“Some of the people I spoke to were in tears that somebody cared about them, that people would be hearing their story,” Stromberg said. “It meant a lot that their suffering and terror were being witnessed.”
Stromberg presented a film about her brother, Ted Stromberg’s suicide in 1969 on Thursday night. Despite the difficult subject matter — or perhaps because of it — the 40 or so people who attended were spellbound, and remained afterwards to speak with the filmmaker, of which many people have fond memories.
Monday’s screening will be in the theatre room at the Grant Hall, which only seats 22 people. People in attendance on Thursday were concerned that it would not hold the crowd eager to see more of Stromberg’s work.
While the two subjects may not seem related, the filmmaker sees the connection. She said she has heard of several gay men in Moose Jaw who have killed themselves as a result of feeling ostracized for their perceived strangeness, whether people knew them to be gay or not.
“It’s about making a bigger space in the world for people who are different,” Stromberg said. “There are all kinds of people and facets.”