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SQIFF attends Iris Prize Forum on programming LGBT cinema

Morvern Cunningham, a member of the team behind the new Scottish Queer International Film Festival, received a Film Hub Scotland bursary to attend a forum on Programming LGBT Cinema at the Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff in October. She fills us in on her experience…

At the start of this year, I and a bunch of like-minded individuals from various backgrounds got together (at the behest of my GFT colleague Helen Wright) to form the backbone of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival, or SQIFF as it’s now more casually known. Cue various meetings and discussions across Scotland’s two major cities, which culminated in our inaugural event at Glasgow’s CCA in September – a screening of acclaimed feature Tomboy, preceded by an eclectic programme of short films. In addition, we also had free beer on offer thanks to Fyne Ales, therefore adding weight to the word association with ‘squiffy’ as our slightly intoxicated sell out audience had an excellent time! (Note, the Urban Dictionary also defines squiffy as: Awkward, wrong, lopsided, ruffled or strangely different, all further acceptable definitions we feel – just don’t look up squiff!)

It was therefore with great excitement we were offered the chance to represent SQIFF at The Iris Prize in Cardiff as part of their annual Producers Forum, which included a session on Programming LGBT Cinema, arranged by Film Hub Wales. The Iris Prize is a four-day LGBT film festival that offers the largest prize for an LGBT short film in the world—a package valued at £25,000—allowing the winner to make their next short film. The day started with a discussion on what support was available for feature film writers, directors and producers, with a panel that included representatives from BFI Network Wales, Creative Europe Desk Unit (Wales), Ffilm Cymru Wales, S4C and the Welsh Government. The viewpoint was understandably Welsh, but was interesting nonetheless both in a comparative sense to Scottish opportunities, and for universals when it comes to filling out funding applications! Session two was an insight into crowdfunding and acted as a launchpad for the Indiegogo campaign to fund a film called Maldod, the first gay feature film in the Welsh language.

After lunch was the Programming LGBT Cinema session with Gaze Festival in Dublin, Eyes Wide Open in Brighton, Liverpool Pride at the Pictures and Bristol Pride Film Festival all represented (alongside SQIFF of course!), in a gathering that also included representatives from the British Council, Creative Scotland and Ffilm Cymru Wales. It was great to share knowledge and ideas with other programmers around the country. We discussed how our screenings were similar or differed from one another and what approaches had worked for us in the past, alongside opportunities for future collaboration, e.g. by sharing a programme of short films or harnessing BFI-led initiatives to encourage more LGBT content in general. There was also chat about utilising mobile venues such as the new Picturehouse Mobile Cinema down south, or the Screen Machine in Scotland in order to take queer cinema into less populated areas of the UK. We all agreed to stay in touch and continue the constructive dialogue, with the hope that there will be opportunities to collaborate in the future.

Towards the end of an already packed day, there was still time to see some films, so I caught the first programme of the newly formed British Shorts at Iris. A truly eclectic range of shorts was on display, from dystopian fantasies based on Chaucer, to comedy, gritty realism and bonkers arthouse incest (!) though it was disappointing that no female directors were represented in the selection. Also featured was the British programme’s only Scottish short: Middle Man by Charlie Francis. Short and sweet, the film follows a make-up conversation between two lovers via a type and talk service that allows people with hearing difficulties to receive phone messages via a ‘middle man’. A fun and playful short, I was pleased to learn it won Best British Short 2014 later on at the festival. I also had time for The Samurai by Till Kleinert, a German horror film that boasts a trans* samurai-wielding killer at its heart. The film already went down a storm at FrightFest and while I found it very enjoyable as a horror, I didn’t feel The Samurai quite managed to shake the shackles of the trans* female trope within the horror genre. For more on this subject, read this interesting article by Mey Rude on Autostraddle. All in all, it was a packed, stimulating and fun-filled 24 hours at The Iris Prize! Having been my first time at the festival, I can’t wait to return and spend more time in Cardiff…

SQIFF’s next event is a screening of Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, as part of the Scottish Transgender Alliance’s Trans and Intersex Conference of the Isles, on Saturday 1 November at the John McIntyre Conference Centre at 8pm. For more info, check SQIFF’s facebook page.

20 October 2014

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