Film Review: Opening Night Shorts in association with the Scottish Queer International Film Festival

Since 2015, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) has been showcasing a range of queer content, exposing the stories and passions of those who have often felt alienated or disadvantaged in the art world. This year’s festival opened by screening a variety of short films which embraced the theme of LGBTQ+ community and activism.

The first short of the night, Bodies Like Oceans, was an artistic and taboo-bending documentary exploring the relationship and interconnectedness of fat bodies and nature. Directed by Shoog McDaniel, a self-described “queer fat freak,” the film follows McDaniel and their group of friends and models as they are captured in the nude, either swimming in bodies of water or merging into the woodland around them. This piece challenges ideas of what it is have a ‘queer body’ and allowed for an uplifting display of beauty.

Secondly, the audience got to witness the work of the students from the Documentary Production course at Stirling University, which followed the gay rugby team, the Glasgow Alphas. Entitled Adam and the Alphas, this piece documents the life of Adam, a young man from Carlisle who found that coming out as gay had an isolating effect on his passion for rugby, and travels with him to Glasgow to form the Glasgow Alphas. The film shows us the touching affinity between Adam and his fellow queer teammates as they all bond over their love of the sport, and their pride in living as LGBTQ+ individuals.

The third short provides a more staccato style of documentary as it combines multimedia platforms to garner the spirit of Queer, Trans, and Gender Non Conforming People of Colour in the Bronx. I AM! We Are Here! introduces us to people of different generations and backgrounds, all of whom confidently document their identities and assert their bravery in everyday life. This short is energetic and displays an unapologetically profound solidarity with the Trans Lives Matter movement.

Unspoken, directed by Patrick G. Lee, is the longest film of the night, but this was compassionately welcomed. This piece is a more traditional interview-style documentary and introduces us to six queer and trans Asian-Americans who open up about their struggles with coming out and their journey to family acceptance, with each individual representing a different part of that journey. The interviewees are reduced to tears which undeniably translates into a close sympathy from the audience. The piece combines retrospective tellings of coming out, reading letters to parents as a means of coming out, and a beautifully soulful drag performance.

Following on from this, We Are Here looks at the Manchester House of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a “charity, protest, and street performance organisation that uses drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance and satirises issues of gender and morality”. This documentary has a more radical tone in its depiction of the fight against homophobia and transphobia and is a welcome contrast to the more soft microcosmic protests in the other shorts.

Finally, Button OUT! Is a fast-paced, loud, animated exhibition of over 1200 buttons (or badges) housed at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto. This 4-minute piece finishes the night with excitement and enthusiasm and encompasses how compactly the LGBTQ+ community can use and display their activism in everyday life.

[Ellen Magee – she/her – @mondaymagee]

[Photo credit: Tiu Makkonen]

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