Film is a queer’s saviour. Forget Hollywood’s dismal treatment of all minorities (I hear you Albinos), the continual perverted positioning of a gay character to appeal to a mainstream audience’s homophobia to fill out the required joke quota where a fart gag or two would usually suffice (Wild Hogs or Wedding Crashers anyone?), and ignore the fact that the idea of two women having a relationship outside of the pleasure of the male gaze seems fairly non-existent. There is a reason why the Outtakes Film Festival is second in size only to The International Film Festival in New Zealand and why there are more queer film festivals in the world than any other film festival: It’s because queers love film.
Film is escapism, and what better way to escape the closet of a small rural town or an all-boys school than to watch a happy ending set anywhere but there. Growing up queer, there is realisation of difference and the need to project “normality”; it is within this defence mechanism that a queer viewer can then learn how to project themselves onto the images of film and television when there are no queer faces in the frame. Whether projecting oneself onto the heterosexual man or woman, or noticing the cinematic loopholes provided by a platonic same-sex relationship like that between Batman and Robin, the ability to queer the screen through our own interpretation is achieved and the escape becomes that much sweeter.
The importance of seeing ourselves on screen then should never be understated. To tell our own stories, develop identities and be able to identify ourselves on screen is to be liberated. What we call Queer cinema today developed from small beginnings in experimental film, to finding a permanent healthy home within independent film, and has begun to trickle into the mainstream through genre films such as Brokeback Mountain and DEBS. One of the first queer filmmakers, Andy Warhol, openly explored sexuality and desire within his experimental films, and is the inspiration for more than one of the films at the upcoming 2007 Telecom New Zealand International Film Festival.
Amidst the much-publicised appointment of Richard King as guest programmer for this year’s festival, who began his career with friends by starting Outtakes and then went on to run the Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival, are six films of queer interest. A Walk into the Sea, Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, Four Minutes, Quinceañera, Three Films By Danny Williams, Tuli and The Witnesses. And this is without considering The Home Song Stories by queer filmmaker Tony Ayres and the short film Family Reunion.
Get saved. Programmes are littered across town, get one and go check out a film; even better, take a friend who isn’t queer. The benefits of our own community viewing queer stories and struggles are great, but the benefits of the wider community viewing them are even greater (keep an eye out for the Short Shorts film night during Pride Week as well).
After all, film is an open text waiting to be interpreted. Let’s get some shoes, let’s party.