We Are Family

Posted on Wed 02 Nov by AlexK / transgender, Brazil, QTIPOC, Trans, Film, Event, Gay, Lesbian, Family, Academy Awards, Documentary

Whether it is the struggles and triumphs with our biological families or those that we chose and make ourselves, the family has emerged as a dominant theme in this year’s programme. Opening film Viva - Ireland’s entry for the Foreign Language Oscar (in Spanish!) - brings us into the life of a young Cuban hairdresser, initiated into Havana’s drag scene while trying to reinvigorate a relationship with his estranged father. Chosen families also shine through in stories of a Hijra family in India, vogueing houses in the US, and an inseparable band of Brazilian misfit punk queers. We invite you to join us for a Queer Family Sunday Brunch and short film programme all about the ties that bind.

Opening Film: Viva - Tuesday 15 November, Rio Cinema
Dir Paddy Breathnach / Ireland 2015 / 100min

Jesus, a young hairdresser, works at a Havana drag cabaret club to make ends meet. He dreams of one day becoming a perfomer himself. Encouraged by his mentor, Mama, Jesus finally gets his chance to take the stage. But when his estranged father Angel abruptly reenters his life, his world is quickly turned upside down. As father and son clash over their opposing expectations of each other, VIVA develops into a love story as they struggle to understand one another and reconcile as a family. 

VIVA is a moving drama that packs an emotional punch with its portrayal of families, from those we adopt to those we are born into while illustrating the every day struggles of ordinary Cubans and the transformative power of drag.

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A Little Lust - Wednesday 16 November - Genesis Cinema
Dir. Veronica Pivetti / Italy / 2015 / 104min 

16 year old Rocco's two aims in life are to get laid and to see his favourite pop star in concert with his best friends, sassy and tomboyish Maria and nerdy and quiet Mauri. When a  bullying incident at school forces Rocco to come out to his divorced middle-class parents their liberal leanings are severely tested. Luckily his two friends stand by him and join him in running away from home (in his parents stolen car) to see their favourite singer in concert, followed hot on their heels by his neurotic mother and eccentric gran to hilarious effect.

Presented in partnership with CinemaItaliaUK

Check It - Thursday 17 November - The Institute of Light
Dir-Prod Dana Flor & Toby Oppenheimer / USA 2016 / 91min

In this spirited and raw documentary, Washington D.C street gang Check It (claimed as the only documented queer gang in the world) are thrown onto the world stage as they struggle to survive and claw their way out of gang life through an unlikely avenue: fashion.

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The Nest - Friday 18 November - Hackney Showroom
Dir Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon / Brazil 2016 / 115min

Handsome young soldier Bruno deserts from the Brazilian army to go on a search for his long-lost brother in Porto Alegre. While his brother remains elusive Bruno quickly falls in with a gang of genderqueer bohemians and befriends Stella, one of his brother’s acquaintances. Through these unconventional new friendships Bruno begins to discover himself and explore his sexuality.

Guru: A Hijra Story - Saturday 19 November - Hackney Showroom
Dir Laurie Colson & Axelle Le Dauphin / Belgium/India 2016 / 75min

This moving portrait gives an insightful glance into the daily life of a family of transgender women in India - the hijras, more commonly referred to as ‘the third gender’. The film paints a fascinating portrait of their history, mythology, rituals and place in contemporary indian society, where they are revered in the country’s religious history yet ostracised by society and commonly rejected by their families.

Presented in partnership with Open City Documentary Festival

A Womb of their Own - Saturday 19 November - Hackney Showroom
Dir Cyn Lubow / USA 2016 / 85min

What can a diverse group of masculine-identified, pregnant people teach the world about gender? This touching and optimistic documentary follows queer transmasculine people experiencing pregnancy in the space between gender binaries, with identities in flux. This speaks to the experience of many genderqueer and trans people whose lives are omitted from the societally proposed binary. Fundamental, resistant and evocative, A Womb of Their Own explores the obstacles to self definition that are transcribed both within the body and onto the family by the state.

You’ll Never Be Alone - Sunday 20 November - Rio Cinema
Dir Alex Anwandter / Chile 2016 / 82min

Dance student Pablo lives with his father Juan, a manager at a mannequin factory, in their drab, homophobic suburb of Santiago. He has a secret affair with a member of the neighbourhood's street gang and dreams of starring in his favourite reality TV show with his best friend Mari, while his father struggles to become partner in the company he worked at for the last 25 years. One night, Juan and Pablo's lives change forever, and for the first time, Juan faces the harsh reality his son experiences on a daily basis.

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Shorts: A Queer Family Portrait + Family Brunch - Sunday 20 November - The Institute of Light

Joyful, emotional, hilarious and provocative, these films explore the bonds we share with the ones we love. Come join Fringe! for a big queer family brunch from 13:00 at Helio’s Cantina at The Institute of Light (a la carte), have your own queer family portrait taken, and stay for a cracking programme of short films redefining ways of thinking about family.

Brunch reservations recommended, screening tickets free but separate.

Literary ladies (and gentlemen)

Posted on Fri 20 Nov by AlexK / Performance, Documentary, Event, Film, gender, literature, JT Leroy

by MK Margetson

Sekiya Dorsett’s Women and the Word: The Revival (2015) has its European premiere alongside a second screening over the weekend of Fringe! 15. This documentary captures a resurgence in the visibility of the black feminist voice on the spoken word scene in the United States, by following the community making an effort to produce the events, which prove to be an invaluable platform for both art and community. Spoken word fans will be overjoyed to see the US scene blooming alongside our concurrent scene in London’s spoken word nights: Jawdance and Queer’say by Apples and Snakes, and Lyrically Challenged at Passing Clouds, amongst many others.

The American writers and artists that feature, however, seem to experience a more difficult climate, both financially and societally, than their Brit counterparts. The women are shown to overcome overt homophobia and racism with more regularity than black women in London’s (DIY) poetry scene, and their experience of this is shown powerfully in Women and the Word. In keeping this light-hearted road-movie style documentary light, director Dorsett lets us journey with them as they craft their personal experiences into the written, and then spoken, word, whilst their friendships become evident. The director and many stars of this dynamic document will be present for a Q&A session on Sunday’s screening at the Rose Lipman building. Featuring some of the United States’ rawest poets, this is a show that’s not to be missed!

Marjorie Sturm’s The Cult of JT Leroy (2014) is sure to captivate Fringe! attendees on our busy Saturday in the Fringe! HQ. It explores the curious case of the most popular writer that never really was, and the biggest, most intriguing hoax in literary history. The story of JT/Laura Albert/Savanna Knoop, and the decade-long evasion of their reality from public knowledge is a curiosity impossible by today’s demands, and allows us to view the height of the craze of celebrity during the 1990s. The film simultaneously provokes questions of narrative honesty, deceit, and what it is that an artist really owes to society. With this story one can’t help but consider the different ways in which art is received from different authors, and the ad hominem judgement different authors can receive, which inform criticism of their work.

Situated within the literary pop intelligensia of 1990s USA into 2005/6 when JT’s ‘reality’ was discovered, this fascinating story illuminates the conditions of the era of celebrity at the brink of the age of information. Respected notables such as Joel Rose and Dennis Cooper feature prominently, demonstrating the scale of the intricate reality and character created by Laura Albert, in this almost mystical tale of identity and reality.

Dr Sharon Husband and The Duchess of Pork’s Naked Boys Reading combines two favoured queer themes: literature and the nude form, in a regular night that offers a unique activity in the queer scene. Describing themselves as, ‘Live, nude, and personable’, Naked Boys Reading is a high and low culture mash up. Before the weekend is even underway, Ace Hotel sees a special NBR from the boys curated by performer La JohnJoseph (who also brings his new work-in-progress The Last Night in the Life of Alexander Geist to this year’s Fringe!) on the theme of ‘personality’. Deconstructing the notion, to be precise, as they ask, ‘Who would Norma Jean be without Marilyn?’ Attend and see these boys, and their bodies, reveal the answer.

Women and the Word: The Revival screen on Sat 28th November at the Bernie Grants Arts Centre and on Sun 29th November at the Rose Lipman Building. 
The Cult of JT Leroy screens on Sat 28th November at the Rose Lipman Building. 
Naked Boys Reading: Character Studies takes place on the 26th November at the ACE Hotel. 



Exploring the stories of queer Muslims

Posted on Thu 05 Nov by AlexK / Documentary, Film, Event, Open Discussion

by MK Margetson

This month, Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest brings three powerful films to East London that explore the obstacles and prejudices overcome by LGBTQI Muslims, both on European shores and across the pond. These titles – one fiction feature, and two documentaries - show the strength of their queer Muslim protagonists, and their ability to thrive in challenging communities, whilst navigating the complexities of identity and persecution.

The subject of homosexuality and Islam in television shows recently, such as BBC3’s How Gay is Pakistan? and Channel 4’s Muslim Drag Queens, has galvanised mainstream discourse on the subject. The films selected for screening at Fringe! offer a more contemplative look at the diverse stories and lives of queer Muslims.

Acclaimed director of I Am Gay and Muslim (2012), Chris Belloni, will deliver The Turkish Boat, which tells the story of Dutch-Turkish LGBT+ activists who sailed around the Dutch Canal Parade representing the queer communities of Turkey. The spirited Done and her cautious friend Serdar share their hopes and concerns whilst navigating their image to the press, the public, and themselves. They are questioned in each sphere: for their racial and cultural identities, and for their homosexuality.  

Malachi Leopold’s Alex & Ali is a heartbreaking documentary about American Peace Corps worker Alex’s journey to find his great love, Ali, who remained in Iran after the two were separated in 1977 due to the Islamic Revolution, having lived together for a decade. Detailing the restrictions placed on their correspondence throughout 35 years, the film displays the incredible effort of a love crafted through communicated segments of hope; all of which could neither mention the situation dividing them, nor homosexuality.

The tragic events that unfold illuminate the space between individuals, as well as the effect that political conflict can have on the quality of human lives. It displays the harrowing effects of societal beliefs about homosexuality, and the wounds of human rights abuses, on the human spirit. The circumstances of their story are told best in this moving film.

Finally, Naz and Maalik, the first feature from Jay Dockendorf, portrays its main characters’ secret affection against the claustrophobic backdrop of post-9/11 New York City. This sweet coming-of-age story, notably the first to present queer love between practicing Muslims, will resonate with those who grew up, and sought to find connection, in an unforgiving environment.

The film’s sweeter, more subtle moments, however, defy stereotypes of Muslim life in America. For those currently embarking on an exploration of themselves, Naz and Maalik provides a hopeful, tender portrait of the beauty that can be attained away from public view. It deftly illuminates the ‘double jeopardy’ position occupied by queer African-American males in America, situating the state - represented by two dodgy white CIA agents - as the villains.

Its understated shots produce beauty and light, illuminating the connection between the two young leads. Reminiscent of Andrew Haigh’s BFI Flare hit, Weekend, yet told from an under-represented perspective, Naz and Maalik is a rare gem.

Alex & Ali screens on Sat 28th November in Genesis Cinema.
The Turkish Boat screens on Sat 28th November in Rio Cinema, followed by a Q&A. 
Naz & Maalik screens on Sun 29th November in Rio Cinema.


Fringe! sexual health strand opens the festival tonight!

Posted on Mon 03 Nov by VirginieR / Sexual Health, Event, Open Discussion

Fringe! opens the discussion tonight with the very first event of its 4th edition, Let's Talk About LGBT Sex and DrugsJoin us at 7pm at The Joiners Arms in Shoreditch and share your point of view on sex and drug use amongst the LGBT community in London. 

The event is organised as part of our sexual health strand that takes place throughout the length of the festival. Mélange of forum of discussion, film, podcast, and debate, Fringe! sexual health strand provides an open space for everyone to reflect and share their point of view on current LGBT issues. Among the events you need to have your eyes on are Terrence Higgins Trust's Luber starting tomorrow, Bottom's Hour podcast (7th-9th November), No Magic Bullet / We are Positive (8th November) and Act Up: Pills, Politics and Promiscuity (9th November). 

See you tonight!