Still from The Summer of Sangaile
Still from The Summer of Sangaile

Brisbane Queer Film Festival (BQFF) returns for its 17year with a strong focus on women.

Shannon King spoke with LOTL about the festival and the programming decision behind ‘The Butch Duo.’

Queer film festivals mean a lot to Shannon King, who has been involved in Brisbane Queer Film Festival for a few years.

She says it’s about celebrating the word ‘queer.’ King believes its power comes from the fact “that we can publicly acknowledge ourselves under this umbrella term and come together to see our stories on screen and share the experience. That we can show films made for, by, and about LGBTIQ lives, loves and issues.”

Curating a festival of this size is always a big task, and King says inclusion is key. “We aim to show as much diversity to our audience as possible. I want to show that we are not pigeonholed into any one way of living or thinking or seeing ourselves on screen.”

King says the strength in the festival lies at the heart of its dedication to its genre and storytelling, independent from the stigma of straight media. “BQFF brings to its audience films that would not be typically be shown in regular multiplex cinemas. The cinema is transformed into a place for LGBTIQ people to claim as their own within the dominating heterosexual society, media and cinema landscape.”

When it comes to the representation of women in the festival, King says one of her key processes behind choosing a film is her desire to showcase films by female directors. Films she’s most proud of programming are the Swedish film Girls Lost by Alexandra-Therese Keining (Kiss Me, BQFF 2012) and The Summer of Sangaile by Alanté Kavaïté (winner of a Sundance Best Director Award 2015).

Girls Lost focuses on three bullied teenage girls and the consequences they face after finding a magical plant that can transform them into boys.“It’s a self-proclaimed gender-fluid film, with a female lens,” says King. It’s a rare treat to see such sensitivity on the subject.”

Also on the program is The Butch Duo, a two-film package that celebrates butch lesbian identity and its many romances with The Royal Road and Feelings Are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer.

“This is a love poem to the lesbians,” King says of the duo. “The Butch Duo is for fans of voices such as Dorothy Porter, Eileen Myles, Jill Soloway, Transparent, and web-series Fto7th, Feminin/Feminin and the like. This was a chance to show side-by-side two culturally rich and historical portraits of women-loving women.

“These two documentaries are poetic and satisfying for the film lover, or the female lover in your life. The Royal Road by Jenni Olson is a journey of butch tenderness, heartache and desire told as an ode to past lovers along a road trip. Feelings Are Facts is a portrait of legendary choreographer and artist, Yvonne Rainer, who paved the way with her ‘recalcitrant un-dancerly body.’ They both offer the viewer a chance to explore butch identity in ways we may not always attribute; as tenderly and feminine.”

King’s other festival picks are the transgender documentary The New Man; from Kenya Stories of our Lives; and of course, Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin.

For Shannon, seeing the festival into its seventeenth year is an honour. “I love that unity that occurs in a cinema full of people, united by watching their stories on the big screen.”