Something to SHOUT about: A look at the Birmingham LGBTQ festival’s film line-up!

From the 9th to the 19th of November, Birmingham held the SHOUT! festival, a celebration of LGBT+ culture. Including art, music and theatre, the festival displayed a large collection of LGBT+ creations – including film! Over the ten days, a selection of LGBT films were screened as part of a small film festival across a handful of venues.

What was on?

Tom of Finland: A genuinely moving biopic about Finnish homoerotic artist Touko Laaksonen (aka, Tom of Finland) and his struggle to find his own freedom, and freedom for his art.

The Pass: After kissing in a shared hotel room the night before a big game, two footballers feel the ramifications for the next decade of fame, image and secrecy. Stars Being Human’s Russell Tovey (and it may just be the best performance that he’s ever given).

Pink Flamingos: To say too much about this film would be a crime (watch the original trailer for it and you’ll understand why). Directed by John Waters (who also directed the original Hairspray! which also showed at SHOUT!), Pink Flamingos stars the legendary drag queen Divine. Living in a caravan with her hippie son and 250-pound mother, she and her family retain the name “the filthiest people alive” until she is challenged by Connie and Raymond Marble, who sell heroin to children and babies to lesbian couples, for the title. It’s madder, badder and grosser than it sounds. Everything you’ve heard is both true, and not true enough.

Kiki: In the same vein as Paris is Burning, Kiki follows 4 years of the “Kiki scene” – an LGBTQ dance community centred around safe spaces and celebration of LGBTQ culture. Based around the lives of seven members, this documentary is a vibrant and impassioned look at the lives of “Kiki” dancers.

Hairspray: Not the remake with John Travolta, the original! A fabulous 60s musical based on race, fitting in, and dancing! Tracy Turnblad, an overweight Baltimore teen, auditions for a place in a popular TV dance show, winning over her rival’s boyfriend in the process, but faces difficulty when she meets a group of black teenagers who want to be included in the show. Teaming up with them, Tracy gets to work on changing the show, and the 60s, for the better! This is the second John Waters movie to have featured at the festival.

Drag Becomes Him: An in-depth and passionate documentary about drag performer Jinkx Monsoon (who also performed at this year’s festival). A down to earth, raw and compassionate movie about identity and gender performance.  Things to SHOUT! about

 

Festival Review

The films at SHOUT! were a colourful, vibrant selection of films, celebrating the most flamboyant and creative aspects of gay culture. With risky themes of drag, pornography, and taboo, SHOUT! lived up to its namesake and curated a loud, bright selection of features. Stand-out movies particularly included John Water’s outrageous Pink Flamingos (including a unique and exciting food experience at the UK’s oldest working cinema, The Electric) and the moving Finnish film, Tom of Finland.

All of the screenings were well attended, with particular films like Pink Flamingos selling out very quickly. Spread across venues like the smaller, older Electric Cinema and the new shiny MAC art centre in Birmingham, there was a feeling of real involvement across the city’s arts spaces and the screenings themselves were vibrant, exciting events.

The films at SHOUT! were a colourful, vibrant selection of films, celebrating the most flamboyant and creative aspects of gay culture

Unfortunately however, SHOUT! didn’t live up to its LGBTQ name in its curation of films this year. Groups that have been marginalised even within the LGBTQ community were woefully under-represented, including a total lack of lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, ace and transsexual movies.

It was unfortunate to see so many parts of the LGBTQ community being neglected and, to some extent, to see that the majority of films shown this year were disproportionately centred on a depiction of gay culture as flamboyant and feminised. Drag queens have certainly been popularised by shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race, but SHOUT! took this one step further and synonymised them with the “G” of “LGBTQ”. While this may be an aspect of gay culture, it’s disappointing to see it portrayed as the focal point of an LGBT festival (particularly since straight men also engage in cross-dressing).

Groups that have been marginalised even within the LGBTQ community were woefully under-represented

For a festival claiming to be bringing “the best in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Arts and Culture”, it’s a shame that, bar perhaps two movies this year, the real issues and diversity within the LGBTQ community weren’t addressed and the range of movies were highly limited. While enjoyable, SHOUT! needs to fine-tune their film curation for next year, if they are to keep in line with their other range of events and workshops.

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