A year ago, I attended BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival for the first time. The trip partly inspired the formation of SQIFF. So, I was very happy to have the chance to go back again this year and represent our new Festival.
Flare provides a platform for discussions around LGBTI and queer politics. The majority of people I’ve met ... are tuned in to issues around intersectionality and inclusion, which SQIFF aspires to talk about through its programming.
Being at Flare is like being in a magical queer film-land. It’s a relatively huge gathering of queer programmers, filmmakers, and film fans, all hanging out together with the purpose of watching and talking cinema. More than that, Flare provides a platform for discussions around LGBTI and queer politics. The majority of people I’ve met and made friends with at the London event are tuned in to issues around intersectionality and inclusion, which SQIFF aspires to talk about through its programming. It’s therefore very useful and motivating to spend time there.
It’s generally an exciting time for queer film exhibition in Scotland. At the same time that Flare was taking place in London, the inaugural edition of GLITCH, a Queer/Trans/Intersex People of Colour film fest, was happening in Glasgow. There are also other indy and DIY filmmakers and LGBTIQ exhibitors making stuff and putting on events around Scotland. SQIFF wants to contribute to this by showing films which might not otherwise screen here and to generate discussion and reflection around them. Going to Flare thus provides a great chance to view a wide selection of movies we might want to programme ourselves. Some of my highlights this year included Frangipani, a stunning drama about a queer love triangle in Sri Lanka, In the Turn, a documentary about the positive influence queer roller derby collective the Vagine Regime has on young people (and which SQIFF is screening in June), and Alive!, a doc about five gay men who are HIV positive training together to do a parachute jump whilst reflecting on their lives.
The discussion and reflection element is continuously present at Flare. All screenings featured an introduction from one of the programmers and many included Q&As with filmmakers. I was able to observe the extra events Flare put on to generate more community engagement and exchange of ideas and consider similar plans for SQIFF. There was a Family Fun event, where kids could join a stop motion animation workshop, a showcase of archival British material from the BFI’s mediatheque, and a book group looking at queer novels which have been adapted into films. We are busy programming SQIFF 2015 at the moment, so observations on these activities at Flare are feeding into our imagination.
Being a delegate also afforded a behind-the-scenes view of things. I went to a number of industry events. My favourite was a panel discussion titled ‘Where are all the lesbians?’ bemoaning the continual lack of repression of queer women in films. This was followed by a women’s networking event, put on by Looking At You, an excellent production company specialising in queer community filmmaking and run by women. It’s very inspiring to hang out in an all-queer women space in contrast to the hetero-male dominated film world in Scotland. Experiences like this give a big incentive to make SQIFF a similarly stimulating event for those who are marginalised by mainstream film culture.
I was invited to take part in another panel discussion called ‘We are UK’ featuring a range of programmers from across the country. This was a chance to talk to filmmakers and other programmers about SQIFF and let people know what we’re up to. Interesting discussion points included the type of films which are most likely to be chosen for festivals, how best filmmakers can promote their work to programmers, and accessibility issues surrounding screenings such as provision for people with disabilities.
It was a massive privilege to be able to go to Flare and represent SQIFF and I made lots of great connections with people, many of whom have promised to make the trip up to Glasgow for our Festival in September! I look forward to hopefully returning to London next year…