Ger Zielinski, Ph.D. (ABD)
Department of Art History and Communication Studies
Seeking Queer Alliances: Resisting Dominant Discourses and Institutions
Conference at the Gender Studies Center & American Studies Center
Warsaw University, Poland
29-30 August 2006
Exhibition & Community around the Queer Film Festival
This paper investigates the phenomenon of lesbian and gay film festivals as they quickly constitute a transnational global network. More specifically, I argue that the festivals echo, in ethos and structure, a tension found in the debates between proponents of the ethnic model of sexual identity and those of anti-essentialist queer theory (e.g. Gamson). To discuss lesbian and gay film festivals is a challenging linguistic task. There have been several distinct phases in their historical development that require some attention and reveal the cultural politics of their times. Not only have their names changed, but also the meaning of the words comprising them. In the 1970s they began as gay film festivals, run mainly by gay men with very little lesbian content. As women became more present and vocal within the organization and the audience of the festivals, demands for greater lesbian representation increased. Consequently, the name shifted to ‘gay and lesbian film festival’ and then to ‘lesbian and gay film festival.’ The politics of community access and cable television production opened some festivals to video submissions, which followed with the ungainly name change to ‘lesbian and gay film and video festivals.’ This change brought into the festivals a curious mixture of professional and amateur discourses, for example, feature films were programmed alongside video art, documentary films alongside amateur short films or videos, and so on. Similarly, the politics of inclusion has continued up to the current ‘LGBTT and sometimes Q film and video festival,’ which for brevity is sometimes called ‘queer film festival.’ While these festivals work hard to accommodate each of the sexual identities represented in their titles, specialized festivals also exist for each category.