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Florida-focused LGBTQ+ documentary screening binds an audience in Gainesville

Audience members engage in a pre-show discussion before the screening of "Can't Stop Change: Queer Climate Stories From the Florida Frontlines" at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville. (Azhalia Pottinger/WUFT News)
Audience members engage in a pre-show discussion before the screening of "Can't Stop Change: Queer Climate Stories From the Florida Frontlines" at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville. (Azhalia Pottinger/WUFT News)

The audience experienced a mix of emotions during a screening of the new documentary “Can’t Stop Change: Queer Climate Stories from the Florida Frontlines” in Gainesville. The film premiered in March at the Tampa Bay Transgender Film Festival.

The audience experienced a mix of emotions during a screening of the new documentary “Can’t Stop Change: Queer Climate Stories from the Florida Frontlines” in Gainesville.

It laughed when the Philadelphia-born Shoog McDaniel, one of the filmmakers, showed off their numerous tattoos after professing an extreme love for their beloved adopted state.

It booed when archival footage showed the draining of the Everglades as part of the American industrialist Henry Flagler’s plans to extend his railroad and hotel empire.

And it hushed during the retelling of the killing of a 26-year-old environmental activist by state troopers in a raid on protestors occupying the Weelaunee Forest in Georgia in 2023.

Released in March, the 98-minute documentary uses interviews from 14 LGBTQ+ artists, organizers and educators across Florida to create an intersectional climate justice narrative.

READ MORE: New documentary highlights the intersection of LGBTQ+ activism and climate change

“I cannot recommend it enough,” said T Vargas, who organized the screening in conjunction with The Handkerchief of Gainesville – a “DIY Space” dedicated to providing safer and sober spaces for the local queer and trans community– at the Civic Media Center on South Main Street.

“Queer and trans bodies are very much under attack,” said Vargas, who uses the pronoun they. “A film like this is really important to show, because it talks about the connection between the destruction of our environment and the marginalization of our community.”

The audience discussed not only “Can’t Stop Change,” but also what binds them together.

“I am not a huge fan of how greedy people take all these resources, while regular people starve and lose access to farmable land, drinkable water and breathable air,” said Taissja Moore, who is studying sustainability as an online student at the University of Wisconsin. 

While not a part of the queer community, Fernando Figueroa, said he would not forgive himself if he had not come, because “these people are telling stories that I find really important.”

“Queer and trans bodies are very much under attack. A film like this is really important to show, because it talks about the connection between the destruction of our environment and the marginalization of our community.”
T Vargas

“Can’t Stop Change” is organized into eight chapters. The first four follow the production team as they travel from Miami to Tallahassee and interview community members on how ecologies, histories and political landscapes intersect with their lives.

In South Florida, the effects of climate change and repressive legislation on diasporic and immigrant communities are reviewed. In Central Florida, firsthand accounts about the failures of the state to help marginalized communities during hurricanes are shared. In North Florida, interviewees discussed whether or not to stay in Florida following anti-trans legislation.

The documentary also offers a historical and political analysis of Florida’s climate crisis and social injustices, and concludes with examples of resistance efforts across the state and the power of collective work to create change.

Members of the audience said “Can’t Stop Change” left them hopeful.

“I felt like the film was a hug from the inside out,” said Forest Sheffer, who uses the pronoun they and works in a mycology lab. They added, “This film was really like, anyone’s an ecologist if you have passion for the land.”

J D’addario, a health educator and mutual aid organizer, ended the discussion emphasizing the importance of relationships in the fight to make Florida more welcoming and sustainable.

“It’s really easy to think of your community as the people that you already know,” D’addario said. “There’s so many folks who are a part of your community that you’re just not connected to yet. Finding a way to build those connections … in and of itself is an act of resistance.”

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