Samar Ziadat discusses SQIFF programme strand, You Gotta Have Faith

SQIFF programmer Samar Ziadat discusses her work and her Festival strand on religion and queerness, You Gotta Have Faith.

Tell us a bit about your role at SQIFF and how it fits in with the other projects you do in Glasgow.

I’m a programmer at SQIFF, which means that part of my job is to work with the team to select the films shown at the Festival. This role at SQIFF is part of my wider work as a Glasgow-based freelance curator, programmer, and educator. Apart from working at SQIFF, I’m also a programmer for Glasgow Zine Library; a Library of self-published work that also runs year-round events focused on punk and DIY culture. Another project I work on is Dardishi Festival, which I co-founded and now run. Dardishi is a festival of Arab and North African womxn’s* art that takes place at CCA annually. All of these projects tie together in that they are all run by and for underserved communities such as working class people, women, disabled people, queer people, and people of colour.

*Inclusive of trans women, and non-binary and intersex people.

Why did it feel important to you to include a strand on queerness and religion in the SQIFF programme this year?

To be devout and queer is a complicated and heavily nuanced existence for many in our community, especially for those whose religion has strong ties to their culture, nationality, and/or race. Our religious strand, You Gotta Have Faith, is an international and intersectional tribute to those who are in the process of reclaiming, redefining, or renouncing their religion in the context of their queerness. This strand feels especially pertinent in today’s world, where many societies and cultures would like us to believe that religious devotion/spiritually and queerness are mutually exclusive.

How do you research and find the films you want to programme?

This year SQIFF accepted submissions via FilmFreeway for the first time, which is a film submission site that many festivals use to discover filmmakers and their work. Another great resource in terms of programming research is going to other festivals. This is a great way to watch new things you haven’t seen before and meet other people working in your field (including the filmmakers themselves sometimes). If you can’t make it to other festivals for whatever reason, many of them share their programming on their social media and websites – which can spark ideas and expose you to new or under-programmed work. Lots of programmers are also happy to chat and share ideas if you pop them an email or give them a call.

You’ve programmed a selection of more challenging shorts which address difficult topics, and more humorous films. Is this range important to you when talking about queerness and religion?

I think that it was important to strike a balance between darker films and films that are more light-hearted for several reasons. I think the most interesting reason is that I see political power in both tones and modes of addressing difficult issues. Queerness is not only an identity or a subculture, it’s a politics that’s rooted in rebellion and resistance, and this politics runs through all of the films that we’ve programmed for SQIFF’s religious strand this year. There is a popular assumption that darker, or more serious films, are more likely to challenge our perceptions of the world in comparison to films that are lighter. Just because some of our lighter programming may be easier to watch (it isn’t always!), it doesn’t mean it’s any less radical or politically important.

You Gotta Have Faith strand is part of SQIFF 2019. Click here for a link to all screenings in the strand.