Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2023 preview

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival returns with a programme of films old and new, as well as two exhibitions and a series of workshops and events, including an end-of-festival party at Bonjour

Preview by Jamie Dunn | 14 Sep 2023

The Scottish film festival with the niftiest acronym – SQIFF – is back this September after a break last year, and it’s been much missed.

The festival returns with a brand new creative team, headed by director Indigo Korres. “We're so excited for SQIFF to come back!” said Korres on announcing the programme. “We’ve been doing year-round projects focused on community-building events across Scotland, and we’re really excited to present SQIFF 2023 all in person at CCA, Glasgow. Our audience can expect incredible collaborative screenings, workshops as well as new types of events, with installations and a massage space during the festival.”

Opening and Closing films

SQIFF kicks off on 26 September with a night of Scottish short film – Cora Bissett’s The Singer, Sophie Suliman’s Selkie and Leyla Coll-O’Reilly’s brilliant Groom are among the lineup (read our interview with Coll-O’Reilly here). The closing film is Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s buzzy Mutt, which follows a chaotic 24 hours in the life of a trans man as he navigates uneasy relationships with his father, his 13-year-old sister and his straight ex-boyfriend. Following Mutt's screening on 30 September, the festival comes to what should be a memorable close with an end-of-festival shindig at the essential Glasgow nightclub and community space Bonjour

Queer Classics

Elsewhere in SQIFF's programme you’ll find a blend of classics, fresh new titles and more shorts programmes. Among the older films to look out for is Gregg Araki’s 90s queer touchstone Nowhere, a heady mix of partying, sexual experimentation and alien abduction that unfolds over one surreal day in the life of some LA teens (27 Sep).

Don’t miss the chance to see Robert Altman’s Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, starring Sandy Dennis, Karen Black, Sudie Bond, Kathy Bates and Cher. Altman’s treatment of trans issues is clumsy and dated, but there’s a real tenderness to this story of female friendship, and the great cast is in fine form (29 Sep). Also from the archive comes Sex Change – Shock! Horror! Probe!, a television investigation from 1989 exploring the lives of several trans people pushing back against the barriers put up against them leading their lives in Thatcherite Britain (28 Sep).

New Queer Cinema

Newer titles concerned with trans lives include the striking black-and-white documentary Kokomo City (28 Sep), which follows four Black transgender sex workers in New York and Georgia (read our review of Kokomo City). There's also the great-looking Korean drama Peafowl (29 Sep), in which a transgender woman goes on a journey of two dances: one is a waacking competition – a form of voguing – and the other is a traditional drum dance she’s compelled to perform after the death of her estranged father. We're also intrigued by experimental Chinese work (Tending) (To) (Ta), which is described as an interdimensional correspondence between two beings sharing a queer kinship (27 Sep).

Exhibitions and Workshops

The festival breaks out of the cinema space with two art exhibitions: the first is a group show by Eden Court’s Queer Youth Arts Collective (26-30 Sep), made up of a group of young queer people from across the Highlands. The second is Phreaking Gender (26-28 Sep), a multi-sensory show exploring radical trans-sensuality, eroticism and autonomy, centred around a new documentary of the same name by Nicole O'Reilly about DIY hormones. Among the workshops on offer is Cameraless Filmmaking, a session where participants create films by working directly on celluloid to create their own short 8mm film loops, which will be screened to the public after the workshop. 

The key to SQIFF’s community effort is its accessibility. It was one of the first festivals in Scotland to introduce pay-what-you-can ticket pricing and to present much of the programme with audio description, captioning and BSL interpretation, and many other festivals across Scotland have since adopted these practices; it's a festival where no one is left behind. So head along and watch, talk about, and perhaps be inspired to make some queer films.

Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2023 runs 26–30 Sep at CCA, Glasgow; screenings priced on a pay-what-you-can basis from £0 to £10, exhibitions free and unticketed