GLITCH: the film festival seizing space for queer people of colour

by Rosie Lewis

From homophobic and state violence, to the relentless attacks of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy and questions of how these threats can be resolved; GLITCH is a film festival that addresses some of the most pressing issues in society. Returning to Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) this year, it promises to showcase an array of LGBTIQA+ films by people of colour.

After the immense success of GLITCH’s 2015 festival which saw well over 1,000 attendees, 2017 will see another programme full of works from around the world screening for even bigger audiences. This time the small volunteer-led team has carefully curated a mixture of beautifully restored classic films and cutting edge rarities which they’ll be showing for free, alongside live performances, social events and panel discussions.

Festival Director Nosheen Khwaja who founded the event alongside Cloudberry MacLean explains that the aim was to “create a space that centres the multiplicity of experiences, ideas and visions of LGBTIQA+ people of colour.” She also sees it as a “punk kick back” motivated by “frustration at the spectacular level of under-representation of people of colour and specifically queer people of colour in film and artists moving image”.

Even with some pretty heavy themes, the festival isn’t just heavy going. Khwaja also includes sex and community as topics that feature strongly in the programming.

“How do we create [community] for ourselves, how do our families that raise us meet and merge or diverge with new deep connections that we forge as adults. Queers have often brought an expansiveness and honesty to the forming of new bonds so deep we call them family”.

Touches like a self-defence class show that the curators don’t want to leave attendees feeling disempowered by some of the difficult storytelling taking place.

Big Father Small Father

This year’s GLITCH will feature exclusive film firsts, such as the Scottish premiere of Cheryl Dunye’s recently restored The Watermelon Woman, a retrospective of the16mm films of Jack Waters alongside better-known films that have gained mainstream recognition (and notoriety) like Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight. Other highlights include an exclusive performance from musician and artist M. Lamar, internationally renowned Roma artist, researcher and curator Daniel Baker – exhibiting his work at the CCA for the first time – and Emmy-nominated actor and director Fawzia Mirza premiering her solo show.

With a first come first served door policy, GLITCH sets itself apart from other Art-house cinema festivals which the team feel often exclude diverse audiences by creating an elitist atmosphere and charging high door prices for the privilege. Khwaja observes, “there are a number of projects that give disenfranchised social groups ‘experiences’ but don’t entail power passing into different hands – our aims are always more radical than that.”

“We have a unique programming focus on either film and artist moving image on any subject created by LGBTIQA+ people of colour or films by directors of any identity that feature or document LGBTIQA+ people of colour.  So we give space to the concerns, visions and passions – the fuller worlds – of queer people of colour. That said there is always a hunger from queer audiences to see themselves reflected on screen and we consider that in terms of curatorial decisions”.

With over 20 years’ experience of organising DIY and community events in Scotland and Europe, Khwaja also runs Digital Desperados, a charity dedicated to empowering the participation of people of colour in both film production and exhibition. The organisation is committedly community-centric, with an emphasis on nurturing new talent, valuing difference, and fostering experimentation.

GLITCH prides itself on delivering high-quality programmes that traverse the borders of disparate styles and subject matters without compromising their core values. Carefully collated international film shorts come together with full-length works in a celebration that promises to prioritise creativity over commercialism.

Tchidra Carnaval

This year sees GLITCH hosting international film directors, activists and researchers to share their ideas with new audiences. Highlights will include the UK Premiere of Sex, Spirit, Strength with Mohawk by filmmaker Courtney Montour, and the Scottish Premiere of Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things directed by Mark Woods & Michael Yerxa the first documentary to explore lives of LGBT Inuit people. GLITCH’s organisers are also particularly excited about the first UK screening of the film The Younger directed by Chen Hao, and yet another first, the screening of Poshida directed by Faizan Fiaz, a short film that focuses on contemporary queer lives in Pakistan.

Rather than being reactive to the mainstream, GLITCH is important in that it centres narratives from queer people of colour and Khwaja hopes to move further in this direction.

“[We] would like to move the festival into an even more global and less western perspective. We select films on the basis of quality; aesthetics, cinematography, skill levels of actors, dynamic quality, political insight, capacity to move an audience etcetera, not on identity of the subjects of filmmakers”.

Another point of distinction is that the festival celebrates generations of LGBIQA+ and Trans filmmakers whose work has been neglected, their films often left to physically deteriorate. The festival tackles the issues faced by these groups by creating opportunities such as the inaugural meeting of the Global LGBTIQA+ People of Colour Film Festival Network. Khwaja describes this as a way to “truly embed change, create networks for artists of colour and build on the legacy of every festival we organise”. Art and activism are deeply entwined, especially when the creators come from highly-politicised sectors of society, and this network will serve to support that connection.

The passionate team, and their commitment to both craft and social change makes this a distinct event, and certainly a leader as movements to reclaim spaces across arts and culture abound, with initiatives such as the Jhalak Book Prize and Bare Lit Festival.

The GLITCH film festival is taking place 24th March – 1st April 2017 at the Contemporary Centre for Art (CCA), 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3JD. All screenings and associated events are free, tickets are given on the day on a first come first served basis. For further information please contact the organisers by via email: glitch@digitaldesperados.org


Practising artist & musician, Rosie is the Deputy Director of the Angelou Centre (a black and minority ethnic women’s centre) – a specialist Black & Minority Women’s Independent Domestic Violence Advocate and BAM! Sistahood! Project Co-ordinator. She has an extensive background in advocacy work with women seeking asylum and vulnerable children and young people having worked in both strategic and frontline roles in the domestic abuse sector. Rosie has been involved in social justice and feminist activism for over 20 years.

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