SQIFF unveils 2020 programme

The mighty SQIFF – Scottish Queer International Film Festival for the uninitiated – returns with queer dystopia, stories of QTIPOC activism, LGBTQIA+ disruptions in sport and a queer horror icon setting the record straight

Article by Jamie Dunn | 09 Sep 2020

SQIFF is the latest Scottish film festival to embrace the brave new world of online film exhibition and events. The sixth edition of the much-loved festival is being beamed to your laptops at home, but as with previous editions of SQIFF, don’t expect it to necessarily be a solitary experience.

“As well as the chance to watch heaps of brilliant LGBTQIA+ feature films from across the world, we are offering a number of online watch parties, workshops, and other events to keep our communities connected,” says Helen Wright, SQIFF’s producer and programme coordinator.

Pride & Protest, Queer sci-fi

One such watch party will be centred around SQIFF’s opening night film Pride & Protest. It's certainly appropriate for this fierce documentary celebrating QTIPOC communities and activists, as it follows various queer people of colour taking on homophobia and racism in its myriad forms across the UK. Director Blaise Singh will join SQIFF for a live Q&A following the screening.

The mood of the nation is matched with the Every Utopia is a Dystopia strand, which dives into some rather funky sounding queer sci-fi worlds. Take Austrian cyberdyke flick Flaming Ears. Shot on Super 8 and blown up to grainy 16mm, it’s basically a dime-store Mad Max without toxic Mad Mel. We’re told this hilarious and wildly provocative lesbian adventure makes the most of its low budget, with claymation, stop-motion photography and cardboard cut-outs creatively deployed to tell its gonzo narrative. “Imagine the film that J.G. Ballard might have made if he'd been born an Austrian dyke,” is how one critic described it. Sound pretty good to us.

Elsewhere in the strand you’ll find documentaries Queering the Script, which tells the history of queer women on television, and Keyboard Fantasies: the Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, about the musician of the title who recorded a curious folk-electronica hybrid album back in the mid-80s, which has become an unexpected global hit three decades later. You can also visit digital exhibition Many Black Moons Ago, To Go…, featuring a selection of Afrofuturist films and writings curated by Scottish-Zimbabwean artist, researcher, and curator Natasha Thembiso Ruwona.

Shu Lea Cheang retrospective, environmental docs

There’s a sci-fi bent too to the work of Japanese multi-media artist Shu Lea Cheang. SQIFF’s Cheang retrospective, Cruising the Future, presents her 2017 feature Fluidø, set in a post-AIDS future of 2060, and 2000’s I.K.U., tantalisingly described by the festival as “a demented tale of seven sexy replicants, envisioned as a sequel to Blade Runner”. In addition, there’ll be a live viewing of Cheang’s earlier short films, followed by a Q&A with this visionary filmmaker.

The future of the planet will also be on your mind in the Queer Ecologies section of this year’s festival. Documentary Fire and Flood takes the point-of-view of the LGBTQIA+ communities on the ground in response to two overlapping climate-related disasters: Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the fires in Santa Rosa, California.

There’s also the chance to see Derek Jarman’s intimate Super 8 film The Garden, in which the great filmmaker captures the lush paradise he’s created in the back yard of his home in the shadow of Dungeness nuclear power station, and Water Makes Us Wet: An Ecosexual Adventure, a treatise on the pleasures and politics of H2O from artist and former sex worker Annie Sprinkle. A live watch party will be put on for the latter.

Horror, sport and art

Horror fans should be drawn towards Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, which probes the legacy of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Overflowing with homoerotic subtext, this slasher sequel was dubbed the "gayest horror film ever" and gained a cult following. Yet its lead actor, Mark Patton – who was closeted at the time of its release – found himself ostracised from homophobic 80s Hollywood. Here, Patton gets the chance to set the record straight, so to speak.

If sport is more your bag there’s Game on: queer disruptions in sport. The documentary follows gay runners from Hungary, a Scottish lesbian boxer, an intersex rower from Bulgaria and a German trans woman footballer, with these specific stories bringing up themes faced universally by LGBTQIA+ athletes. There's also the opportunity to see Marlon Riggs’ groundbreaking Tongues Untied, a poetic documentary grappling with, among other issues, black-on-black homophobia, the seduction offered by white gay culture and the lived experience of AIDS among gay black men.

The focus of writer-director-star Isabel Sandoval’s Lingua Franca is the romantic machinations and deportation worries of a trans Filipina living in Brooklyn. Blindsided, meanwhile, follows artist Patricia Livingstone over a 15 year period, where she endured a destructive relationship while also dealing with progressive blindness and hearing loss.

This is just a taster of what’s on offer in SQIFF’s thoughtfully curated programme, which also includes a pub quiz, workshops, and virtual parties that promise to be "big, sweaty and super social". As ever, SQIFF strives for all this to be welcoming and inclusive. “We are also working hard to make the online festival as accessible as possible with various access measures and free tickets and assistance with internet access for people based within Scotland," says Wright. All tickets are free or on a sliding scale based on what you can afford.

Scottish Queer International Film Festival runs online, 5-18 Oct