SQIFF programmer Harvey Dimond discusses their picks for SQIFF 2020, colonial queerphobia, and the challenges of documentary formats.
Can you tell us a little about how you came to be on the programming team at SQIFF 2020 and how you’ve found the experience?
I joined SQIFF as part of the New Promoters Scheme, which aims to open up access to film programming and film festivals in Scotland. I’ve been attending SQIFF events since I moved to Glasgow in 2015 and it’s incredible to get the opportunity and freedom to program some events for the festival this year! I didn’t understand the breadth and volume of work that goes into making the festival happen, and I’m in awe of all the hard work that goes into the festival every year.
Most of the films you have programmed are documentaries of various sorts. Is this format important to you?
I’ve always found documentaries captivating, and what I love about some of the documentaries is that the cinematography and the storytelling is so compelling. It’s really nice to use the documentary format to contextualise the themes and narratives of some of the fictional works.
Several of the films you have programmed have a geographically specific focus – from Queer histories in South Africa to gender variance within specific island communities. What effects are you hoping that screening them in a UK context will have?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about queer and trans identity in the diaspora, and how the UK as a colonial power historically forced homophobic and transphobic ideas on indigenous communities, using religion as a tool to do this. As a result, we continue to see violent queerphobia in many of Britain’s former colonies, which is enshrined in colonial-era laws. I think its important that people in the UK are aware of this, and that addressing queerphobia is seen as a crucial aspect of reparative justice.
It’s interesting to see countries like Barbados beginning to distance itself from the UK, and how they are pushing to dismantle the colonial-era laws that Britain introduced. I also think that the experiences of queer people in the global south, particularly Africa and the Caribbean are often flattened or made one-dimensional by people in the West, when in fact the reality is far more complex.
Some of the films you have programmed are provocative, such as Marlon Riggs’ challenging and captivating work Tongues Untied. What sort of conversations are you hoping to start?
Tongues Untied is fascinating and at the same time problematic. The focus on black gay masculinity with little voice given to femme/trans identities is part of this problem, and still very much speaks to issues in queer communities in the UK, chiefly femmephobia and anti-Black racism. Trans representation continues to be problematic, a recent example being the representation of a trans man in I May Destroy You. While I think Michaela Coel’s series was groundbreaking in some ways, I think recognising problematics alongside positives is important, and understanding that duality is almost always present.
You can watch the films Harvey curated in programme strand Islands and Oceans on Vimeo on Demand from 5th to 18th October, and as live watch parties throughout the Festival. Click here to book tickets for live events.
Image: from Tchindas dir. Pablo García Pérez de Lara and Marc Serena.