Festival gem: Queer Screen Activism

A panel of invited speakers explore film’s potential as a powerful tool of political activism.

Alex Davidson , Noel Goodwin

What is it?

At the BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival we run a number of events, many of which are aimed at younger people. As a new generation of LGBTQ youth finds its voice onscreen, one of the highlights of this year’s Festival considers film’s power to protest and inspire action.

Who’s going to be there?

Our special panel of guests includes: Robin Reilly, co-lead of Accenture’s LGBT Network; Andrea Holley, director of the Human Rights Film Festival; Anna Leach, who runs the popular lesbian blog The Most Cake; and Laurie Oliva, youth engagement officer at Stonewall.

What’s special about it?

Activist cinema has a crucial role in queer film history. At this year’s Festival alone we have films about protest groups such as ACT UP (United in Anger: A History of ACT UP) and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Joy!), from the young (Re/Framed Youth) to the old (Les Invisibles). Protest films aren’t restricted to documentary – many believe that the sympathetic portrayal of gay characters in the groundbreaking British film Victim (1961), starring Dirk Bogarde, helped change the law (male homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967).

The best protest films made today show there’s still plenty to get angry about. Soon we’ll be announcing the winner of the Derek Oyston Campaign for Homosexual Equality Film Prize, which offers awards to the films which fight for social justice. Among the contenders are films highlighting disgraceful legal decisions about the custody of children born to a gay parent (Unfit: Ward vs Ward) and the widespread homophobia in Jamaica (Taboo Yardies).

What will be the subjects of films at next year’s Festival? There’s a lot to fight for. In Britain, it doesn’t take much for prejudice to rear its head – see the inarticulate homophobia generated by politicians when David Cameron defended gay marriage, or the recent transphobic rantings of a household name columnist. In a world where Pussy Riot (whose pro-gay stance increased their controversy) are jailed in Russia, left-wing hero Lech Walesa flirts with hate-speech in Poland, and American gay marriage is delayed and delayed and delayed, we need film more than ever to rally communities and fight inequality.

What our programmer says

Noel Goodwin:

Our fantastic panel will offer an engaging insight into the various ways a camera can be wielded in the battle to challenge the status quo, raise awareness and introduce new forms of (self) representation onto the screen. Come along and find out how you can get your voice heard through the power of film.

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