Interview with Nosheen Khwaja of GLITCH, Queer, Trans, Intersex People of Colour – Film Festival

Prior to the upcoming QTIPoC – Queer, Trans, Intersex People of Colour – Film Festival GLITCH , Raju Rage, a visual artist, of Collective Creativity Arts Collective, met up with Nosheen Khwaja, chairperson of the GLITCH organising group Digital Desperados, over Skype.

You can see the full programme and book tickets here

GLITCH runs 19-28 March in Glasgow at the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) in Glasgow.

Nosheen Khwaja

Nosheen Khwaja

Nosheen is a Glasgow School of Art graduate and practising multimedia artist. They have curated cabaret nights, organised film screenings, given workshops, shown work & performed in Hamburg, Berlin, Amsterdam, Montreal, New York and the UK, in galleries, gardens, squats & social centres.

Raju: Why are you organising Glitch?

Nosheen: I guess when we started Digital Desperados, seven years ago, one of the longer term aims was always to have a film festival and then the specific focus of GLITCH on QTIPoCs happened because in those terms Scotland’s just been a total desert.

R: What are the aims of the festival?

 

N: I want to bring QTIPOC films out into spaces where lots of folk can see them – to make an international platform for film and art created by QTIPOCs.

R: Do you think it breaks a cycle where people don’t see that there are platforms for their films to be shown so it discourages them from making films?

N: Sadly something I hear when I say we’re organising a QTIPoC Film Festival is people saying, oh, that’s going to be really hard, where are you going to find the film? Numerically people of colour are not the minority; we’re the majority of people on the planet, and amongst us many people identify as queer. We’ve been swimming in films made by queer people of colour, which is a great sensation! To be really clear, we’re not selecting people’s films simply based on their identity as QTIPoC – the work that we’ve chosen is strong in its own right. The programme is ‘all killers, no fillers’, as a friend said! There’s some shocking things said, basically saying that the quality of people of colour’s, especially women of colour’s, work is bad…

Mitraa. DIR Ravi JadhavR: There’s usually a really problematic comment by a white person about PoCs’ work, at any panel, discussion or presentation I’ve gone to. 

N: Yeah, yeah.

R: Why this specific artistic programming focus on QTIPoC?

N: For many years I’ve moved and organised in queer circles but previous to Digital Desperados and GLITCH I’d just been involved with showing mainly white people’s work, white artists’ work. That was part of the beginnings of Digital Desperados – being frustrated at not seeing any people of colour’s work being screened and folk saying we don’t know any BME filmmakers, that kind of thing… It’s certainly true that people of colour both in the UK and globally face many more obstacles and barriers when it comes to expressing themselves in the medium of film. Our society is constantly crushing so much human possibility. But there is a wealth of incredible films made by QTIPoCs that deserves to be shared. In addition we are screening films made by white directors that document or feature QTIPoCS in a respectful way – that decision is in part a response to the reality that many people of colour are disenfranchised from making film.

R: Can you say more about the aims?

N: We aim to be welcoming to everyone. GLITCH is a very multi-faceted event. I’m hoping that it does give a special solidarity and energy to QTIPoCs and also to all LGBTIQ people, but also draws in people from all backgrounds to see great films.

R: How does GLITCH interconnect with other people of colour and QTIPoC creative practices?

jeepneys 4 copyIt has attracted or generated a gathering of visual artists. Including video art means the shorts programme is really strong and unique – there’s nowhere else in the UK it would be possible to see this combination of films. Our programming focus inherently opens up really important conversations around contemporary colonialism and diasporas. You don’t hear the term gay liberation much nowadays (obviously we’ve moved beyond the limitations of the solo use of the word gay) but the problems of what it means for LGBTIQ people living in the west to support the struggles of non-western queer people remain. We don’t need no white saviours.

R: You are including panels, Q & A and discussions and I really love that it includes that – but I wondered why the importance to include those things in the festival?

N: I think it’s good to get people talking…There are situations which are collective like going on a demo, or sitting in the cinema in the dark surrounded by other people where you can be almost alone. Sometimes after you leave you are left at home with all the emotions. There is a lot of isolation to push back against in society in general and also specifically as queer people and as people of colour. Panels and Q & A give people the opportunity to learn more, to think more and reflect on the thoughts of people with a lot of relevant experience. Art in general has the potential to expand the often all too narrow bandwidth of communication; it can encourage a kind of political discussion that doesn’t exclude emotional and personal resonance. Having just shared an experience via film can help to interweave discussions, even when people are coming from very different perspectives.

R: Are many of the filmmakers going to be attending?

N: There’s 14 or 16 coming…I won’t list them all but randomly some of them are: Vivek Shraya, Wayne Yung, Joshua Vettivelu, Ms. Vaginal Davis, Saadat Munir and Jamika Ajalon.

R: I’ve just recently been reading a book called ‘How to be an Artist and Revolutionise the World: The Little Book of Big Visions’ by Sandrine Micossé-Aikins and Sharon Dodua Otoo and Jamika Ajalon has written an article in it that’s amazing, its really good…I’m following her work right now, I only knew her as a musician but I haven’t seen her films so I’m looking forward…How did you find these filmmakers?

N: Digital Desperados and Glitch is also a continuous process of re-education for myself. We had a call out for submissions and also approached filmmakers ourselves. I barely got to hear about PoC artist and filmmakers in art school; if you wanted to know more you had to dig. The internet has made that infinitely easier but a lot of material is hidden away in academic institutions. Information and art should always be free and accessible.

R: I can relate about not being taught about PoC artists at art school – that is the foundation of why Collective Creativity was set up!

So I like your slogan – can you say something about how that came about?

‘We are a glitch in the system

Our lives deny the lies

Our complexity is dissent

We fight for love’

N: I’m interested in glitch art and of course as an individual you can feel forced to be a cog in a machine you don’t want to be part of…

R: Since I’ve organised events including a film festival, I know that it takes a lot – what does it take to organise this kind of festival?

N: Oh god.

R: We talked a little bit off the record but whatever you want to say on the record!

N: On the record it’s been a really punishing schedule, physically I’ve not been able to do any of my own creative work …it’s been really long hours since July last year. It’s been taking a toll on my physical health and stress, that’s for sure…Longer term it’s definitely not repeatable unless we’re supported with funding that enables our efforts to be paid. Taking breaks is just totally out the window!! But the end the result drives you on! And you just get really excited by it, going oh god, it’s so amazing I must keep doing it!

R: I think that was the only thing keeping me hanging on when I was organising the London Transgender Film Festival in 2008. At some points I felt ready to give it up but then I would think ‘I’ve put this much work into it!’ and I’m glad I stuck in because the end result was really, really worth it.

Lupe copyN: People have said a lot of positive things about GLITCH so far and are excited about it so that’s sustaining to us.

R: It’s great that even if you have to travel and spend money getting to GLITCH that at least you know you’ll be able to see lots of films as they’re all free! – that brings me to another question – what is the work involved in making the festival accessible in multiple ways?

N: Well, it just wouldn’t be possible without our funders and supporters and everyone who is volunteering. Also we’re organising for free and specifically we’re subtitling the films ourselves. We’re really committed to having the festival be accessible to people on low incomes and in poverty – which these days is an ever increasing amount of us. There’s still a tendency to portray art as something luxurious or simply as entertainment but I see it as something much more vital than that.

R: What are your personal highlights, what are you looking forward to?

N: Mittraa, by Ravi Jadhav. I haven’t actually watched it the whole way through on purpose… it took me months and months to get hold of it and in the end it just happened by random chance. It’s black and white and just sumptuous; it’s gorgeously shot and is about a dyke in pre-partition India. And Lupe by Jose Rodriguez Soltero. He was working the same time as Andy Warhol but I’d never heard of him. This film looks like the QPoC James Bidgood who did Pink Narcissius; so I’m very, very excited about that and all the discussions and connections that are going to happen as a result of GLITCH.

R: I’m really excited about it – it’s the QTIPoC event of the year!

N: Great! That’s exactly what we want to hear!

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