Fingernails and Plaid Shirts

Ciara Maguire previews SQIFF’s Queer Women in Love season.

If, like me, you’ve been in a post-SQIFF comedown haze for the past month or so, you’ll be pretty pleased to hear about the Queer Women in Love season they have lined up this month. Throughout November, we’ll have the chance to see an amazingly diverse selection of films revolving around women, sex, and romance, which is exciting not just because it means more queer film in Glasgow but because it’s pretty rare to see loads of great LGBTQ women-centric films across a range of genres and experiences! As a Professional Lesbian, I am very invested in the Queer Women in Love programme, so here’s my rundown on what you should definitely go and see.

The first screening will feature the classic Desert Hearts, alongside Barbara Hammer’s Dyketactics. If you haven’t seen Desert Hearts (seriously, though, why haven’t you???), then you need to know that it’s probably one of the gayest films ever. Plaid and cowboy shirts galore? TICK. Ambiguous gal pal bathing scenes? TICK. People saying ‘girdle’ completely seriously? IT’S GOT IT ALL. Really, though, this film is great – it follows Vivian, a newly divorced professor who travels to Reno to get her divorce processed and strikes up a friendship with Cay, a free-spirited, out and proud lesbian in cowboy boots (obviously). The whole thing is a beautiful, angsty love story set against the moody Nevada desert and if by the end you’ve not fallen in love with either Vivian or Cay, then you have a cold dead heart. Just kidding! (But not really.)

Dyketactics is also worth getting excited about, being one of the first avant-garde lesbian films made in the 70s, and also the first film about lesbian sexuality made by a lesbian (sadly still rare in the films that make it onto cinema screens today). It was incredibly revolutionary when it was first released (at one early screening, a man in the audience screamed when a vagina appeared on screen) and has inspired many other lesbian filmmakers, including Rose Troche who went onto make Go Fish.

The latter film will be part of Queer Women in Love and as it’s a personal favourite of mine, I’m ridiculously excited to see it on a big screen. Go Fish is also pretty revolutionary in that it was one of the few women-focused feature films of the New Queer Cinema (NQC), a term coined by critic Ruby B. Rich to describe a new wave of queer independent filmmaking in the 90s. Most of the more well-known and readily available NQC films were directed by men and primarily about men but Go Fish broke the mould and told the story of two lesbians and their friends in Chicago. The girl meets girl drama covers a wide range of issues, from biphobia in the lesbian community to butch/femme dynamics and the pressure to conform to a heteronormative lifestyle. There’s also a discussion on the politics of fingernail length, so really, how could you miss that?

Stud Life by the brilliant Campbell X (who you may remember from their filmmaking workshop at SQIFF back in September) is also one not to miss. The London-set narrative follows JJ, a black lesbian ‘stud,’ as she navigates her friendship with Seb, a white gay man, and a complicated new relationship with the very femme Elle. It’s an unconventional and honest look at the politics of dating and the nature of queer relationships themselves, whether romantic or platonic, and also manages to be incredibly funny. The rapport between JJ and Seb in particular is sweet and familiar: it’s unique to see queer friendships onscreen and more unique still to see films featuring a masculine of centre lead, which is part of what makes Stud Life so compelling.

Also of note are The Wedding Song, a moving and complex exploration of intimacy between two friends in North Africa during WW2, Virgin Machine, a joyous celebration of sexuality and experimentation, and short Goodnight My Love, a lesbian zombie apocalypse film, screening in front of break-up drama, Break My Fall.

So, look out your best plaid shirt and go see all the things! It’s a great opportunity to see some queer classics alongside some lesser known, but equally revolutionary, women on women-themed films.

Ciara Maguire is a renowned expert in trashy lesbian films and can quote entire episodes of The Real L Word off by heart. She occasionally writes about feminism, film, and queer stuff and is also one third of feminist powerhouse PUSH IT. Ciara currently lives alone with her cat. Queer Women in Love runs from 2nd November to 31st December with screenings in Glasgow and the rest of the UK. For full programme details and to book tickets, visit

Scroll to Top