Credit: Scottish Queer International Film Festival

Preview: Scottish Queer International Film Festival

Credit: Scottish Queer International Film Festival

Louis Ratzel

A staple event in Glasgow’s bustling film festival scene

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) is returning to Glasgow for a fourth edition from Wednesday 5 to Sunday 9 December. Since 2015, SQIFF has established itself as a staple event in Glasgow’s bustling film festival scene. Its past instalments have showcased a will to tell stories outside the mainstream. SQIFF takes its queerness to heart: it gives people a voice whose bodies and experiences in society are no less real for not fitting neatly into currently available categories.

On Wednesday evening, SQIFF is kicking off with a collection of opening shorts, headlined by VISIBLE (a Campbell X and Kayza Rose creation) exploring QTIPOC (queer trans intersex people of colour) histories. Short film-enthusiasts are well provided for at this year’s SQIFF. The collection Overcome features trans and queer people negotiating antagonistic or new environments in a struggle “to express themselves and survive”. Bodies and Borders collates shorts featuring, among others, a gay Nigerian who is denied asylum in Switzerland, a “disabled queer body in water”, and an exploration of queerness in the working class.

Queer Arab Lives, another short film collection, is part of this year’s focus on queerness in the Arab world. This also includes My Brother The Devil, a film about two brothers navigating both gang violence and their racial and sexual identities, and Mr Gay Syira, which documents the lives and dreams of a barber in Istanbul and a Syrian refugee in Berlin.

East Asia is also in the limelight this year with a special focus including a range of exciting works. Extravaganza depicts the vibrant, fierce and ever-so-slightly chaotic world of one China’s drag scene and is accompanied by new Chinese short films selected by Extravaganza’s co-director, Matthew Baren. The Story of the Stone queers one of Chinese literature’s classical tales in an exploration of gay male experiences in modern-day Taiwan. Trans experiences in modern-day Taiwan are the subject of the intricately plotted Alifu The Prince/ss.

One further commitment of this year’s SQIFF is to represent queer people with disabilities. Deaf Perspectives features the zombie film The Deaf vs The Dead, a documentary, Rick, about the eponymous Deaf gay porn actor, a film-poem, called Bilingual Poet’s Dilemma about translation between British Sign Language and English, and The Unlimited House of Krip documenting the “fusion of D/deaf and disabled performers with the extravagant world of vogue culture.” This collation on Saturday 8 is preceded on Wednesday by a discussion about deaf and disabled aesthetics in film. Additionally, Pulse sees a gay disabled teenage boy swap his body for that of a non-disabled cisgender woman and asks where the line is between compromising for love and changing yourself to be loved. Finally, Ross Wilcock presents (and afterward discusses) his own video Online Dating with a Disability along with Sherren Lee’s The Things You Think I’m Thinking about a burn-survivor and amputee going on a date and Picture This, which documents Canadian activist Andrew Gurza’s mission to make sex and disability part of the public discourse.

In addition to these commitments, SQIFF has much more on offer: a retrospective of Berlin-based Bishop Black’s work in queer porn and a Scotch porn night where “Candy gets the full experience: sucked off, taking her man from behind, and getting to come on his face” and where Glasgow-based Dylan Meade screens Smoke gets in your eyes about a coven of queer witches and a “vase in ass sex magic ritual”. For those who don’t want to just sit and watch, SQIFF has organised workshops on – to pick a few – telling trans stories, creating online content, and a workshop for whoever has ever wondered: “Is My Vagina Normal?”  

SQIFF is not only about what’s on stage – the team is highly commendable for their commitment to accessibility. A quiet space is available at the main venue, the Contemporary Centre of Arts. A travel fund is provided for people who cannot afford travel costs. Tickets are priced on a sliding scale (free to £8 according to the attendee’s financial self-appraisal). All screenings have English captions for D/deaf people and those Hard of Hearing. Select screenings are accompanied by British Sign Language interpretation and audio description. The attunement and commitment to diversity that is evident in SQIFF’s programme also informs the festival’s organisation.

This year, SQIFF’s curators want to focus “more than ever on representing voices marginalised within film culture”. Judging by their diverse and, what promise to be, inspired selections, this intention is evident. If you want to learn more (or anything to begin with) about queer experiences in the Arab world, in East Asia, of disabled people, and much more, 2018’s Scottish Queer International Film Festival is the place to go. It looks set to be a very queer festival indeed.


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