Preview: Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2016

Preview: Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2016

Madonna, alt porn, features, shorts, workshops and Freddy Kruger: coordinator Helen Wright shares some insight to the second coming of SQIFF

After a hugely successful inaugural event, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival is set for a sophomore splash later this month. The diverse programme promises everything from great films to artist Q&As, workshops for budding filmmakers to late night parties.

The festival was launched with the aim of getting people 'watching, talking about and making more queer films'. In the process, the SQIFF team has created the hottest new queer film fest in the UK, appropriately situated in Glasgow where the bar has already been set so high by the brilliant Glasgow Film Festival.

The headliners are easy to pick out, opening night film Strike a Pose is a behind the scenes documentary about Madonna's Blond Ambition tour dancers, while the Queer Horror strand is a real highlight and ought to draw in a broader audience to the festival and get them thinking differently about some real horror classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. The Feminist Porn Night returns, accompanied by a workshop, not to mention films that explore ageing, disability, sexuality and much more.

We caught up with Festival Coordinator Helen Wright to chat about the 2016 programme…

It's the second year of SQIFF, did you approach programming differently last year based on the 2015 festival?
We've kept the same tone – fun but still deep and challenging – but we changed a few things, yes. We have a themed retrospective, Queer Horror, to generate interest around the queerness of that particular genre, and we have more events covering specific identities, such as intersexuality and LGBTQ+ Deaf culture, to try to cater for a greater range of people and provoke thinking about less mainstream communities.

Strike a Pose looks perfect for the opening night slot, a real crowd-pleaser where you might want to come armed with a box of tissues...
Yes, Strike a Pose is very moving but it's ultimately uplifting and it has lots of beautiful dancing in it, enough to sweep everyone up and make them feel good! Madonna should draw people in, of course, but we hope they'll leave feeling they've got to know and fallen in love with the lesser known entertainers in the background, her 'Blond Ambition' dancers.

How hard is it to put together a programme that covers the diverse range of issues, interests and experiences that fall under an increasingly broad scope of SQIFF, or do you try to let the quality of the films dictate that?
It's hard because we obviously can't feature every issue and identity but we give it a shot and we love to hear feedback on what people would like to see covered – if it's not in the programme this year, there's always next year. Quality for us is partly about the perspectives driving a film, so that includes originality in terms of work made by filmmakers whose work is rarely shown in mainstream festivals, for example, trans or disabled filmmakers.

Workshops formed part of the first year and they return this year with some really interesting subjects. Sustainable filmmaking could really appear in any film festival, Porn Filmmaking a little less so: what drew you to this and Vex Ashley as a producer and performer to lead the session?
Sustainable filmmaking could appear in any festival but being green is a queer issue because it's about anti-capitalism and collectivism. Porn-wise, we think representation of queer and feminist sexualities are important in countering the damaging mainstream sexual images of women, particularly lesbian and trans women, that are out there. Vex Ashley is one filmmaker creating original, interesting, and sexy (!!) content that does just that.

Delving into the programme some more, one film that stands out as particularly timely is Intersexion, particularly given recent coverage of Caster Semenya at the Olympics, but there's obviously other films in the lineup that should broaden perspectives, both social and political within the community...
It's horrific what Caster Semenya has been subjected to and I hope our intersex event will contribute to educating people and challenging that kind of bigotry. Yes, representing LGBTQ+ communities and broadening perspectives are big aims for us – people should check out Silent Laughs, our event about queer Deaf culture, Yes, We Fuck! about sex and disability, and Women and the Word: The Revival, which zones in on the experiences of black queer women in the US, amongst others.

It's great to see the horror genre featured in the programme, what was the thinking behind the films selected and were you a bit spoilt for choice?
Yes, very spoilt for choice! There's something intrinsically queer about the horror genre. I guess it's the idea of an outside, evil force disturbing normative social relations, which can be equated with queerness. Obviously, the 'evil' part is a bit problematic but we picked films which have fun with that, like Fright Night and Nightmare on Elm Street 2, or subvert it, like The Haunting arguably does. Plus we have some explicitly LGBTQ+ films like Bruce LaBruce's satirical zombie porno, Otto, and a programme of horror shorts, Specimen, by up-and-coming filmmakers.

What films from the programme would you pick out if you were choosing some personal favourites?
Strike a Pose I love but also our closing film, Real Boy, a doc about a young trans man, which has a unique focus on his difficult relationship with his mother, is stunning. We'll have one of the film's stars, Joe Stevens, coming from the US for a Q&A. We have another guest, Liz Rosenfeld, coming from Berlin for Q&As after a porn mockumentary she stars in, When We Are Together We Are Everywhere, and her own experimental shorts series, The Surface Tension Trilogy, which are both excellent.

And finally, forget the movies for a moment, the parties look great too!
I can't believe we have Bar Wotever coming up from London to host our Friday night party! They put on such a fun and inclusive but also boundary-pushing night. Adam All from Wotever's drag king act is a must-see. Surprises maybe come in the form of his well-crafted bulges. I hope he does his Baywatch routine – it's one of my favourite drag performances I've seen in recent years.

SQIFF, various venues, 29 Sep–2 Oct.

Scottish Queer International Film Festival

Scotland’s annual celebration of queer cinema heads online in 2020. The film programme is available on Vimeo on Demand throughout the festival, plus virtual events include online watch parties, workshops, Q&A sessions, discussions, parties and a closing night quiz.