Queer Cinema Project

4 May

Evaluation of the Queer Cinema Workshop

An international team has been organizing and running the “Queer Cinema Workshop“ at the Women’s cooperative Amargi and the LGBT-Association Lambda between November 2010 and February 2011.

So far the team selected in total 8 films related to queer topics to discuss the questions “What is queer?”, “How is queer presented in the films?” and “What does queer mean for our daily lives?”

After every film there was a discussion in English and Turkish with the audience (usually between 30 and 50 people) about the specific topics and the theoretical settings of the so called queer films.

According to the diversity of queer, first the organization team chose a selection of films which deal with many different subjects, for instance Trans*, intersexuality, feminist and lesbian activism, sexwork and the (social) construction of gender. In awareness of a postcolonial perspective the team screened films from different regions of the world. To inform the audience the team wrote and translated an article about queer activism and theory into German, English and Turkish.

After a theoretical debate within the team in the beginning of the year 2011 the group decided to go deeper into the subject of New Queer Cinema. For a theoretical contextualization the team discussed especially Michele Aaron’s anthology New Queer Cinema. A critical reader (2004). Directors of New Queer Cinema  were making their films in the early 1990s at a time when the gay community was facing new challenges from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the conservative political wave brought on by the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the United States and the government of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. The films haven’t necessarily the same topics, but they share more an attitude of defiance. Queer’s defiance is leveled both at mainstream homophobic society and at the ‘tasteful and tolerated’ gay culture inside of it. New Queer Cinema films give voice to marginalized groups not simply in terms of focusing on the lesbian and gay community. It shows also power relations related to gender, ethnic or class background. In contrast to mainstream films which deal today with similar topics, the main characters in New Queer Cinema are not portrayed as victims (whether of AIDS, or from being “discovered” as different from the norms).

In January and February 2011 the project continued to present queerness through film screenings and following discussions.

Summary of the discussions

First of all the discussions focused usually of the topics of the screened films. But there were some questions which came up almost every time:

  • Question of Location

Often people asked if the situation in the film is comparable with Turkish society. One person pointed out that in western societies people have more opportunities to live as marginalized people in general. But other people stressed that there is no gay paradise in the whole world.

Also people emphasized to keep cultural differences of norms always in mind.

  • Definition of queer

The idea of queer was often controversially discussed and especially the question if a definition of queer is needed or not.

For some people a definition is needed. They said if you don’t describe something, you can’t talk about it. According to them it’s natural that definitions are needed.

Other persons pointed out that the concept of queer is never fixed. There can be different moments, different contexts, different attitudes, and images of queerness. So, it’s almost impossible to give a definition what queer or a queer movie is. Instead of looking for a queer character people should for example look for a queer situation.

People asked if you can use queer as an identity (category).

For some people queer is not just about sexual orientation, because referring to Judith Butler everybody has an assigned gender. So, gender constructions are not just a problem for intersex* or Trans* people.

People asked what “normality” can mean. There was the question if it is already enough not to fit in the system to be called queer. A person’s attitude should be important, too.

A person postulate to question own gender/sex constructions. It was criticized that people tend to categorize everybody all the time.

  • Queer films

Some of the movies were criticized for their Hollywood-like plot. A person pointed out that nowadays even Hollywood films normalize gay partnerships.

According to the audience some of the films didn’t criticize the dominant discourses (capitalistic system, concept of family, etc.) at all.

A film can be queer in an aesthetic way, for example using unusual film shooting techniques [cinematic queerness].

The audience agreed that Queer movies should try to show minorities. Films should emphasize that there is no hierarchy of discrimination. Identities are very complex. Every form of discrimination is bad.

People who are faced with discrimination should talk for themselves.

The (queer) representation of whiteness, AIDS, body, class and gender can make a film queer.

Some persons agreed that a film cannot be queer in itself. So, according to them it’s kind of useless to search for a definition of a queer movie.

  • Personal Perception of films and discussions

If it’s a queer film it should be shocking and change a person’s thinking.

A person told that discussions are powerful, because we can exchange ideas. Another person added that we should keep in mind that we are all caught in the structures.

How can you change the whole system in total? What is the right way for activism? What is the consequence if you don’t fight for equal rights? How can we create a new language, a new dialogue?

First do it locally, then do it globally – otherwise you don’t change anything. Feminists should open a new discourse (not just only for the queer movement).

It should be always questioned where is my own identity position. Queerness or a so called queer film should force to question our own identity positions. A film can be queer without a queer character.

Queer as a political movement: they try to deconstruct identity positions.

“Who am I?”

Selected Films:

25/02 Dogtooth

11/02 Safe

28/01 101 Reykjavik

14/01 Mysterious Skin

12/12 Lola + Bilidikid

05/12 XXY

28/11 Itty Bitty Titty Commitee

21/11 Beautiful Boxer

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