SQIFF Shorts: Defiant Dykes

Written by: Amy Shimmin – @amylfc

Back for its third year, Scottish Queer International Film Festival is renowned for its diverse programming. From following pregnancy while trans to a queer anarchist punk musical, to workshops on LGBT working class cinema wrapped up with late-night parties, the Festival promises a scream of a line-up every autumn. SQIFF Shorts: Defiant Dykes presents a collection of six short films, focusing mainly on lesbian identity, in the UK and overseas.

The evening opened with ‘Oh-Be-Joyful’ which centres on the story of a young woman and her grandmother. The young woman, who seems to also be the main caregiver, is serious and sticks to the rules; her grandmother, Rita, tries her best to encourage her granddaughter to come out before she dies. Rita, whose wild past includes petty theft and an affair with a woman, talks brazenly and openly about death, life, and making the most of life before death. 

‘My Aunt Mame’ is a short film conducted solely through Fischer-Price toys. Time is woven between various pasts and the present: the present is a woman sitting at her ailing mother’s bedside; the past experiences of growing up queer in the 1970s and 1980s. Mame exists solely in flashbacks as a forgotten lesbian aunt, ostracized from her family for being queer. Each visit marks a different holiday and a different girlfriend to introduce to the family. The film’s playfulness in its composition juxtaposes its seriousness in content, mirroring the director’s experience of caring for a family member while filming the piece.

The evening’s third offering, ‘Honeymoon’, explores the intersection of Deafness, gender and sexuality. Lucy and Johanna, a newly married couple, are both Deaf and communicate via sign language and lip-reading. By not using verbal communication, they are able to heatedly argue in public over perceived homophobia on their trip. The film explores communication beyond speaking aloud: the characters reconcile through touch and stillness, contrasting to the ‘loud’ argument expressed through sign language.

‘Pony Tale’ is the only offering filmed outside of the UK: it explores the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through the lens of a young settler in the West Bank. Adva is a teenager living in an Israeli settlement and seeks to meet a woman in Tel Aviv. Her characteristically long ponytail is pulled into a bun as she heads to the city – a contrast to her feminine presentation in her settlement – where she meets an older, seemingly Palestinian photojournalist in a bar. One of the few moments of dialogue in the film is a moment where they head together to the bathroom: Adva is physically forceful in her attempts to woo the woman, who shouts ‘occupied’ to someone attempting to open the door.

‘Everything That I’m Not’ focuses entirely on the domestic sphere in its storytelling. Short scenes – no more than ten seconds each – depict something relevant to the six women speaking over the footage, which range from geographic settings of their hometown, to clothes, to their homes. Three couples that identify in Butch/Femme or Stud/Femme dynamics recall their experiences of being Butch, Femme, or Stud, coming out, and experiences of class and racism – their narratives accompanied by non-identifying images of their everyday lives.

Finally, the last piece, ‘Breaking Down My Translation’ weaves poetry, breakdance, and cinematography. The poet is also the subject of the film, and rap plays over continuous breakdance, bringing attention to the dancer’s physicality and presence on screen. ‘Breaking Down My Translation’ explores the alienation of being working class in queer spaces, as well as musings upon lesbian and female identity as a whole.

 

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