Gay and Lesbian film review, surprisingly normal

2013-10-28 10:14

I recently watched a few films. Now the title of this blog post might give it away, but stay with me on this one. These films were well written, beautifully shot and featured tales of love, romance, conflict, politics and other issues that affects human beings. Only difference is they were gay and lesbian themed at the Out in Africa festival from 18 – 27 October. My issue with gay and lesbian films is that they are unfortunately (and to me, incorrectly) boxed into the “gay niche/arthouse” category with barely a thought otherwise, simply because they are LGBTI themed. I am pleased that Blue is the Warmest Colour, as well as Out in the Dark on the final night, were packed.

I have attended this festival for the past five years and as the only LGBTI film festival in the country, organisers Sharon Jackson and Nodi Murphy and their team have done a fantastic job.

My first film came anachronistically after my first burlesque show. I was invited by the British Council to watch Louis(e) de Ville perform at Truth on 23 October. The show was incredible. I was not as impressed by the dancing of the local opening acts, however the singing was fantastic. I could appreciate the diversity in body shapes, however the performers were all white. It was what I expected from burlesque, with coy Betty Boop-like hand-on-mouth expressions and, of course, pasties. There was also lots and lots of ass jiggling.

The main attraction, Louis became Louise before our very eyes. The binary between male and female was subverted in such a fun way as this “man” stripped down and even revealed a strap-on dildo which lit up and shot sparks.

I could think of no better way to “stick it to the man” and show that gender should mean nothing.

I watched the documentary, Portrait of a Bad Girl, about Louise the next day, which was short yet insightful. Louise spoke to the audience after the screening and was chatty and charming. Growing up as an aspiring diplomat, she told us that she enjoys straddling the lines of what it means to be queer. Her drag king persona and burlesque work is, first and foremost, about body acceptance. You have to know who you are to change, and expose yourself in this way. It was important for her to not stick to normative views of sexuality so that she could eventually subvert them. She also spoke about how “natural” masculinity is in the world, hence the firework strap-on gag to, almost literally, send the idea of the penis floating away like a rocket.

The accompanying doccie feature was In Their Room: London which got people talking for similar reasons. This film also attempts to break divides by showcasing men (this time) in their rooms simply talking to the camera. In the 32 minutes I saw more penises than I would have liked, however it was interesting feeling like more of a voyeur than one usually does when watching a film.

Despite the nudity, it did not detract from beautiful stories and proving, once again labouring my point, that a story is a story, and love is love. These men had the same fears, insecurities, hopes and dreams of anyone else. I admired how brave they were to share these stories in this way. It also made me think, Why are we so uncomfortable with seeing a penis on the big screen?

I watched the final two films of the festival and they were quite the send-off. Lose Your Head and Out in the Dark were sombre films, yet really good examples of the craft. Set respectively in Berlin and Israel/Palestine, these stories of love and the acquisition of self. I especially enjoyed Out in the Dark which told of the struggle of finding love and being with the one you love in a politically turbulent country.

I hope that despite the seemingly endless struggle to keep the festival afloat, that more people will support it, assist with funding where possible and encourage others to attend. I’d hate for good cinema to go to waste.

Thank you to Out in Africa and the British Council for hosting me at these events.

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