[Written by Julia Hegele]
[Image Credits: Stills from SQIFF Shorts: Intimacies]
An ache, a reverberation, an emptiness. Intimacy and its absence can manifest their corporeal form in many ways. In a world muted by instant gratification and lulled into complacency by encouraged emotional suppression, physical manifestations are becoming harder and harder to express, especially for those whose intimacy is viewed as institutionally irregular.
Queer sex has been fetishized into the mainstream. Queer love has blossomed into the public eye thanks to astounding transgressives in both art and politics, but queer intimacy — the simple act of communion and connection — is visibly absent in our culture. Unless you know where to look.
The Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF), is an immersive and diverse collection of queer media that exhibits every year at the CCA. From blockbusters to independent shorts, this festival highlights the best films in groundbreaking and binary-breaking cinema. SQIFF’s 5th lineup delivered a stunning array of six works that demonstrate queer intimacy across the boundaries of race, age, and existence. The pieces varied from a highly fragmented technological tirade to a classically naturalist pre-love story, sometimes grasping only half an hour into a subject’s day or focusing on the end of a lifetime. However, the beauty of the collection’s focus on intimacy was that no emotional evocation felt forced. Rather than a montage of rain-soaked youths running into a passionate kiss or a series of inspirational coming out moments (both of which can be valid scenes in their own right), the shorts choose simplicity. The unabashed intimacy of two femme lovers brushing each other’s hair for an unbroken minute provoked sighs of contentment, just as a sweep of rouge, a smudge of lipstick, and a moment of recognition between two playmates prompted tears of joy.
In viewing moments of simple connection between queer individuals, the audience is able to reject the modern tropes of mainstream queer representation in the media: the idea that the idividuals must be in turmoil or that their narrative must relate entirely around their queerness in order to be worth being represented. These were not individuals coping with queerness, they were queer individuals offered the chance to exist on screen. They were children, lovers, grandparents, and strangers. They were bored, flirtatious, devastated, wise and, exactly because of all these things, revolutionary. The films shattered the expectations of a “queer” film by exploring tangible moments of existence instead of fetishizing an identity.
For years queer presence in mainstream cinema has tried and failed to squeeze into the typical mould of practice, engineered by and for white, cis men (a moment of silence for our failed rom-coms and action films like Jenny’s Wedding and Chasing Amy). Of course in the world of independent film there are hundreds of unabashedly LGBT films — please note the prominent absence of a Q. These usually revolve around a sexual awakening, filled with plenty of brooding, and place the protagonist between two binaries, ending only when they conscribe to one (see La Vie d’Adèle, Beachrats, Of Girls and Horses).
By showing a diverse, timeless compilation of queer beings existing in space, SQIFF’s selection transcended these tropes and set a new requisite for those wishing to consume or create queer cinema. To preserve validity and to ensure that queer individuals can witness themselves accurately on screen, we must represent both the beauty and the simplicity of their existence. For queer individuals the tenants of intimacy are uncharted territory, rarely portrayed accurately or with the same emotional reverence with which straight intimacy has been viewed for years. It is up to filmmakers to continue this essential exploration into the delicateness of queer connection and to queer individuals to recognize the momentous nature of this era in film. With each glimmer of recognition or moment of inner reflection felt while indulging in this media, the decades void of queer intimacy are drawn closer towards being a mere epoch of inequity in what has the potential to be the rich history of queer cinema.