SQIFF: Coming Out – the honesty of first hand documentary

Credit: Tiu Makkonen

Credit: Tiu Makkonen

Marion Prieler
Writer

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival is quickly establishing itself as a leading platform for the screening and promotion of queer cinema. This year the festival showcased a wide range of genres and themes: from feminist pornography to old school horror. Often some of the bravest and rawest pieces at the festival come in the form of documentary.

It’s hard to find a documentary with an approach as bold and honest as Alden Peters’ Coming Out, which is particularly remarkable considering that the young filmmaker chose a subject for his directorial debut that could hardly be any more intensely personal: Peters is gay and he’s decided to finally tell his friends and family – whilst documenting the whole process on camera.

Arguably the main pitfall for the documentary form is filmmakers trying too hard to convey a certain message or influence the viewer in a certain way, and that’s where Coming Out proves to be refreshingly different. There is no moving and subtly manipulative soundtrack, no flashy camera techniques; Peters simply sets up his camera somewhere in the room – or car – and lets the conversations evolve. The results are powerful, unfiltered reactions and emotions, often surprising to both the viewer and Peters himself.

Contrary to what you might expect, none of Peters’ friends and family behave artificially or unnaturally in front of the camera, in fact they must be so used to being filmed by him that they seem almost oblivious to the presence of it at times.

Even though Coming Out predominantly shows us raw, intimate moments of love and support in all its wonderful, various forms, and makes us laugh about scenes that are almost painfully hilarious in their honesty, there are deeper, sadder notes to it too. Places like Glasgow’s colourful West End sometimes make us forget the gravity of growing up hiding your sexuality from everybody; of living a life in the closet.
Peters decided to produce Coming Out after a series of suicides by gay teenagers in the United States. “I was always anxious. I was always angry. I just wanted to escape myself“ is how Peters describes his own teenage years. Coming Out is a brave debut that raises questions of identity and of belonging, and which reminds us of something we may be privileged enough to occasionally forget; just how important it is to live a life true to yourself.