Writer Eva articulates the importance of queer representation and communities in her review of Immigrant Stories.
The Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) celebrated the last event of its Mini-Series on Friday 21 October and I had the pleasure of attending the screening Immigrant Stories with LGBT Unity Glasgow. They are a community-led group which supports LGBTQIA+ refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. This partnership with the group meant that the screenings focused on immigration, queerness, identity, belonging and connection.
The first short film, Who I Am Now (2022), was directed by J.C. Goessens. It told the story of Tariq and Denise, two trans refugees who left their countries of origin and loved ones to live truthfully to their identity, and now play football together. As well as reflecting on the traumatic consequences of uprooting and starting from scratch in a new country, the short film also emphasised the role of sport as community activity. It reminded me of the organisation Leadership, Equality and Active Participation in Sports for LGBTI people in Scotland (LEAP Sports Scotland), an organisation which states they are “committed to breaking down the structural, social and personal barriers which prevent LGBTI people across the country from accessing, participating and excelling in Scottish sports”. The short film was impactful and covered current and relevant issues, while the inclusion of drawn animation scenes evoked feelings of warmth and comfort.
The second film showcased, No Hard Feelings (2020) by director Faraz Shariat, was a heart wrenching yet funny love story between Parvis, son of exiled Iranians, and Amon, who has fled Iran and is seeking asylum in Germany with his older sister Banafshe. The film explores the tentative friendship that grows between the three of them at the refugee shelter where Amon and Banafshe live, and Parvis is doing community work. No Hard Feelings powerfully showcases the tension that refugee identities have within themselves: Parvis as the son of immigrants cannot remember the home country he is supposed to mourn, whilst Amon and Banafshe are caught within the bureaucracy and other barriers of Europe, longing for Iran. It is also a lovely reflection on ‘found families’ and the way queer comunities often rely on these groups of people who have no blood ties, but nonetheless, through common otherness, acceptance and loyalty, act like a family toward eachother.
In addition to the screening, SQIFF also partnered with Luminate to create an event that delved into older queer narratives, and also hosted a workshop called “d/Deaf approaches to Filmmaking with Jamie Rea”, which served as a networking experience for deaf and hard of hearing queer filmmakers of all levels of expertise. The screening event I went to, hosted in the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), was very accessible and accommodating for everyone, including wheelchair accessibility, English subtitles, live closed captioning (so d/Deaf and hard of hearing people can experience all sounds in the film through text) and British Sign Language interpretation.
SQIFF has also been going through a development process for the past year, with a new team on board and a new director, Indigo Korres. I exchanged a few emails with her, and she explained to me that SQIFF created the Mini-Series to reach out to the audiences and to understand what the community wants from this festival in the future. This interest for improvement and attention to audience response was exemplified at the end of the screening where the SQIFF team were actively taking notes and handing out a Audience Feedback survey. This visible commitment to growth and positive change further proves the passion and dedication of the SQIFF team and helps not only with future queer visibility but also authentic representation. I wish them all the best in these endeavours and would love to come back next year.