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Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) 2023

SQIFF made a triumphant comeback last week after a year’s hiatus, with an all-new team, sexy merch and the expertly curated programme that speaks to each letter in the ever-growing LGBTQIA+ acronym. SQIFF have not been lying low since their last festival, however, but have been travelling the country to bring queer film to communities outwith the central belt, and have plans to continue doing so. 

In classic SQIFF tradition, the festival was kicked off with a sold-out showing of a selection of queer Scottish shorts. Starting with Cora Bissett’s The Singer, following the connection made between Deaf singer-songwriter, Joe, and busker, Andy (whose lyrics, Joe confirms, are shite). It was a great curatorial choice to begin with this one; the warmth of the storytelling and Jamie Rea’s charismatic performance as Joe eased the audience into the evening. 

Kitchen Sink Fantasy

Leyla Coll-O’Reilly’s Groom marked a shift in tone, all post-horror and pink plastic roses (check out our review of Groom here). Sophie Suliman’s Selkie was next, exploring the connection between wild swimming, queerness, mental health, and Celtic folklore. The shots of Sophie dancing on the loch shore in a seal mask were hauntingly beautiful, and the traditional Gaelic singing awe-inspiring, but the film did seem to be grappling with too many themes to be as impactful as desired. 

DIG (G J Hewitt) explored the loss our community continues to suffer due to rampant transphobia, featuring some excellent make-up/prosthetics to create the illusion of welts on the hand of the grief-stricken digger. Kitchen Sink Fantasy by Heath Vigroe is a kitsch technicolour choose your own gender bender adventure (this may have been my favourite series of words to write, ever) starring Maungo Pelekekae who shines as Charlie. Pixie (Beth Johnston) is a glimpse into the playboy bunny studded life of trans femme legend of the Glasgow queer scene, Pixie, which of course features TAAHLIAH’s Transdimentional on the score

Once Upon a Time in Easterhouse

The programme ended with Once Upon a Time in Easterhouse (Paul Cochrane), which, at first with its gay teen love story combined with whiffs of performative masculinity and a volatile father figure, seemed like a story we’ve seen all too often, many of us in our own homes as well as onscreen. The queer kid comes out to his dad, and his dad loses it. All these classic tropes are set up, only to be knocked down at the end, where Tam’s dad says ‘Poofs can be footballers too’ (or something along those lines). Looking around, us queers were all clutching our pearls with joy, which is exactly how you want to end an opening night.

Moving on to the closing night (this writer consumed only the bread of the festival – it’s a metaphor, the middle events are the meat, or vegan meat, right? – but what filling bread it was). The Scottish premiere of Mutt directed, written and produced (?!) by Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, was, for lack of a better word, beautiful. We follow Feña (Lío Mehiel), a fairly recently transitioned trans man who experiences multiple challenges to his identity from his ex, his father, and even a lady at the bank. The film begins with Feña in the dark of the street, at a club, the contours of his face accented by strips of light, and as the feature progresses, the passages of light that Feña exists within get larger and larger; this poetic use of chiaroscuro is a remarkable visual metaphor for becoming his true self. 

Mutt

In our post-film debrief, each one of my peers had something they related to in Feña’s story. Whether it be heartbreak at watching Feña’s estranged father sitting on his bed, looking around his room, getting to know his son again, knowing that no such happy ending lies in wait for you; eating pizza with a sibling and dreaming of a better future; being on the receiving end of an excellent pep talk by a mate while (literally or metaphorically) bleeding; or simply the fallout of sleeping with an ex. 

On finding out that this was Vuk’s debut, to say we’re excited to see what he does next is an understatement, but is a statement that also applies to the future of SQIFF, and the righteous work they’re doing to platform queer cinematic excellence.


More from SQIFF here

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