Philadelphia-based LGBTQ+ activist James Duggan took on a challenge in 2014 – a new venture in something he had never taken on before: nonprofits.

At this time, the organizers of the nonprofit Philadelphia Cinema Alliance, who for 19 years produced Philadelphia’s LGBGTQ+ film festival known as The Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, and eventually changed to the name QFest, walked away after the loss of their largest sponsor and left Philadelphia without its major LGBTQ+ film festival. Duggan who was an entrepreneur before he began this journey decided to “jump in, grab one of the original founders and ask them to teach me about running film festivals.

The First qFLIX in 2014 at Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater.

“… I did it because I was angry that the organization – after 19 years of holding an LGBTQ+ film fest – just walked away and left [the Mid-Atlantic Region)] with nothing,” Duggan continued. “I felt I had to do something. I had no knowledge of what I was doing but I just knew that I had a couple of months to plan a film festival and launch it.”

The first festival in 2014 spanned over five days and 35 films. Today, the organization runs four festivals over 85 days and more than 300 new and independent LGBTQ+ films from around the world. 

“My vocation is not a job: it’s a mission. All of us, regardless of who you are, need to feel empowered,” Duggan explained. 

But he eventually realized that there was much more to film festivals than telling stories. 

“It is beyond just showing a film – our mission is so beyond just doing that. It really is the education and empowerment of a community, and I realized what I had developed was beyond my reach.”

“We believe that our stories are the soul of our community and are best expressed in the arts. As such, these stories must be shared far and wide.  Our stories gathered from around the world, educate, empower, entertain, and inspire a people to move further towards equality, and into a world that is not simply diverse and inclusive, but one that creates a sense of belonging for all LGBTQ+ people.”


His goal is to one day make all these films accessible to everybody globally and remove financial barriers for both filmmakers and viewers. 

“I never set out to change an industry, not to challenge the way things are done, but I think what’s happening is a natural course. 

“… I may have had the initial [drive] but what this has become has been the voices and action of our community.”

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