1. I wish to thank those who provide critical comments at my presentation of some of this article at the NECS Conference at Lund University, Sweden, in 2009. Earlier versions stem from my dissertation (Zielinski 2009). I also wish to thank Professor Chris Straayer for generously hosting me as a FQRSC postdoctoral research fellow at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, where I was able to present parts of this text to her astute graduate students, and Professor Jane Gaines who graciously invited me to speak to her wonderful graduate class at Columbia University in 2010. I also thank the Jump Cut editors and reviewers for their generous constructive criticism that has helped me to improve the text.
2. See (Zielinski 2012) on the development of festival activism in the LGBT movement.
3. Patricia White’s dossier in GLQ stands as an important pioneering collection of texts on the study and relevance of LGBT film festivals (1999).
4. Cf. Ruby Rich’s 1992 article that lays out the groundwork for the idea of the New Queer Cinema.
5. Ragan Rhyne’s political economy of the festivals and periodization concerns this and more (Rhyne 2007). Moreover, To be sure, lesbian- and gay-themed feature films have been a staple of international film festivals from the start. Similar to films from distant, foreign countries, they provide both increased diversity, adventure and perhaps some novel spice to any such festival. They appeal to both interested cinephiles but also attract its own appreciative “queer diasporic” audience. These festivals have in general provided a safe space of sorts for such programming. Richard Dyer addresses certain early gay stereotypes that circulated within popular culture, such as the sad young man, vampire, noir, etc., in his well known book (2001, 129 f.). In a quite different respect, some of the A-list festivals (or equivalent), such as Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, or Toronto, have been the preferred sites for world premieres of lesbian and gay films, with the promise of larger distribution deals and greater media exposure. Normally, a filmmaker seeks out the festival that will further her or his film and career the most, e.g. with Gregg Araki it would be Sundance or Cannes, and even the “reluctant pornographer” queercore badboy Bruce LaBruce premieres now at the Toronto International Film Festival. The community festivals typically provide local city premieres for the film, depending on the city, but almost never a world premiere. (I am currently editing a collection of articles on the question of value in film festivals, specifically in relation to the theory of Pierre Bourdieu; my chapter “On the Play of Distinction in LGBT Film and Video Festivals” (Zielinski 2009, 260 f.) considers these issues in greater detail.)
6. The theorist of geography Edward Soja (1995) develops Foucault’s heterotopia into postmodern heterotopologies relying on the work of Jean Baudrillard, et al. For criticism of his approach, see (Gregory 1994).
7. See More’s 1516 book in Latin De Optimo republicae statu deque nova insula Utopia.
8. If anything, Foucault’s extended commentaries stand as uncompromising critiques of modern psychoanalysis in its many variants, particularly his History of Sexuality (1976).
9. The word deviance here stems from the early social-scientistic discourse of the sociology of deviance, which attempts to describe and account for the behavior of those who break social norms and become “deviants.”
10. The word ‘queer’ in this technical sense is a classic reappropriation of a pejorative term, but also celebrates sexual and other differences (e.g. Zielinski 2007).
11. See especially (Bakhtin 1984; cf. Stallybrass 1986).
12. Greyson’s film is available at http://vimeo.com/6308870 due to his protest against the Toronto International Film Festival’s inclusion of the Israeli showcase in 2009, which is another festival controversy worth some attention.
13. Basil Tsiokos’ account of his experience as a guest programmer of the festival is remarkable (2008). [return to page 2]
14. Q! Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, is notable in this case and has become a very successful touring festival in its country in spite of the verbal death threats made against its organizers. According to its co-founder John Badalu, it is the sole queer film festival in the Muslim world (2011).
15. For example, Joseph Massad’s article “Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World” addresses issues concerning (western) homosexuality in the Muslim Arab world.
16. Somewhat similar issues arose in the case of the early erotic film festivals, as they were called in the early 1970's. Elena Gorfinkel has published an insightful study of the main three, in San Francisco, New York and Amsterdam (2006). As the pornography laws changed in the United States in the late 1960's, new types of narrative feature-length pornographic films became common and even fashionable to a younger, college-age demographic during a period of heightened sexual experimentation. However, not every city was so welcoming to these festivals. However, the San Francisco one was strongly contested by members of the city council and brought to trial several times, and none of the festivals lasted beyond 1972 (see also, Zielinski 2009, 86 f.). A more recent incarnation of the erotic film festival is the annual CineKink in New York City, founded by Lisa Vandever; it builds on the sex-positive ethos of the early festivals, and also travels to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and Washington D.C. These festivals have not experienced any antagonism in their respective cities. According to the executive director, they choose their cities very carefully within the United States and rarely put on screenings outside of the country (Vandever 2012).
17. For more on the relationship between globalization, sexuality and sexual identities, see the work of Dennis Young and critical responses by others. See also my article with Skadi Loist on LGBT media activism (2012), furthermore (Bao 2010; Yang 2010) on the situation in China.
18. I am currently working on a paper that explores the concept of festivality which includes the nature and qualities of being a festival, but exceeds the pejorative notion of the festivalization of culture as a denigration or the turning of culture into a series of mere spectacles.
19. Consider the recent controversy over Gendercator (2007) at the San Francisco festival. More recently, similar controversies have arisen in 2007 over Catherine Crouch’s short video. After criticism of the film from transgender activists San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival canceled the film’s screening over fears that it might insult members of the transgender community. This prompted discussions between conflicting transgender and lesbian viewpoints, and members of the latter counter-charged that it was an act of censorship (Bajko 2007). One transgender blogger writes, “So WHY IS FRAMELINE SHOWING AN ANTI-TRANS FILM at the LGBT FILM FESTIVAL THIS YEAR??? Showing at the SF International LGBT Film Festival on June 15th at 10:30 p.m. is The Gendercator, an ignorant, transphobic film by midwest lesbian director Catherine Crouch that depicts a 1970s “feminist” tomboy who awakens in the 21st Century to find that some of her friends have become men. ‘They made me do it. They’ll make you too,’ a transman (referred to by Crouch as an ‘altered lesbian’) tells his friend. Transsexuality is portrayed as the evil that has taken over the world, and as a way to enforce heteronormativity. A ‘butch rescue squad’ helps the lesbian escape the horror” (emphasis in the original text). In the end, the festival was charged, on the one hand, for being insensitive to one of its communities and, on the other, for practicing undue censorship. Naturally, with such vociferous commentary circulating about the film, interest from all sides was perked.
20. Remarkably, every LGBT archive that I have consulted in North America appears to possess documents from the campaign against the release of the film, including posters, fliers, and announcements of meetings and discussions. See (Wilson 1981) for a thoughtful analysis of the context leading up to the film’s release, and a more recent (Rendall 2008, 34). While the outcry against the film at the time of its making and exhibition was strong, it was also ambivalent, and may echo recent attempts to re-address the film as a document of a historical underground scene just before AIDS fundamentally altered such sexual spaces and their practices. As Thomas Waugh notes in passing, “[…] in the epicenter of the pandemic, my queer film class watched Cruising with uncritical awe; for them it was an ethnographic account of a distant culture that had gone with the wind.” (Waugh 2000, x)
21. Marijke de Valck writes on the value-added elements at international film festivals (2006)
22. See (Siegel 1997) and (Rich 1999), two different approaches to the same différend.
23. ‘Frameline’ is the common short form for the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and includes a film distribution company.
24. See (Rastegar 2009), a study of the Los Angeles LGBT festival’s attempt with its Fusion Festival.
25. The large weekend-long (or longer) parties take place at convenient holidays in large cities or vacation destinations across the calendar year, while most research centers on drug addiction, substance abuse and other health issues, see (Carrington 2005) for an ethnographical study of the circuit scenes.
26. A good example of this tension at work is from few years ago when Montreal’s pride week split into two factions. On the one side, there is Divers/Cité, the party-oriented series of events, and on the other side, there is now Fièreté, the community-oriented displays, and events, including the parade.
27. See, for example, (Sender 2004) for a history and explanation of this development.
28. For further studies on this, see (Jenkins 1998) or (Richardson 2005).
29. I write about shame and architecture, specifically as manifested in the facades of gay bars and strip clubs (Zielinski 2003).
30. Bociurkiw describes the parallel queues at a Toronto megaplex: on the one side, keen Star Wars fans prepped for another rerelease, and on the other, ticket-holders for the Inside/Out LGBT Film Festival (2002). Another intriguing example concerns the change of venue in sunny Los Angeles and the sting that accompanies (Brooke 1998).
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