Cinema E Cultura Queer
António Fernando Cascais & João Ferreira (eds.)
630 pages • Queer Lisboa • September 13, 2014
Michael Langan reviews
To celebrate its 18th year, Queer Lisboa has produced the book Queer Film and Culture. Edited by the festival’s Artistic Director, João Ferreira, alongside António Fernando Cascais, the book brings together catalogue essays, interviews, plot summaries and images, as well as new material, to create a brilliantly informative compendium. It’s not so much a book about Queer Lisboa, but rather it uses the festival as a lens through which to view how queer cinema has evolved and developed as the festival has grown up. It’s a genuinely impressive survey that introduces the reader to films they may not have come across before, as well as offering overviews and analyses of major LGBT filmmakers.
The book also places queer cinema in a wider context of culture generally, whilst acknowledging the role that festivals like Queer Lisboa play in the development of both. As the Foreword states, ‘…the festival’s participation in queer culture also explains our focus on what might make the basis for the specificity of a queer culture, which is at the same time an exercise in self-analysis by the Festival, in order to shed light on the meaning of its own history.’ So Queer Lisboa is not only a lens, it is a prism that allows for a detailed examination and enquiry into the nature of queer cinema, its influences and experiments and the conversations and controversies it sparks.
Furthermore, the book seeks to open out for many people their experience of queer film by highlighting an international queer cinema, which, let’s face it, still refers these days to non-English language movies, and films made outside of the US and UK. Anyone who attends a major LGBT film festival can, and should, be exposed to narratives and representations from all over the world, indeed is often reminded that the truly independent nature of many such films frees them from the commercial and cultural constraints that tend to neuter those representations, making them more ‘palatable’ to a mainstream audience.
With examinations of queer desire on film, the queering of cinema, the relation between colonialism and the queer, the transgressive, queer pop, queer performance and video art, Queer Film and Culture offers many jumping off points for the reader to inspire them to further exploration and examination of the conversations they are starting to enter. In his essay, ‘Queer Art: Hockney, Tillmans, Gilbert & George…’ João Ferreira writes:
Queer cinema has been a constant presence throughout the whole of cinema history. Since the 1980s, it has gained a certain autonomy as a result of identity politics. To that end, the sharp increase in film festivals devoted to the genre has certainly been significant, as well as the growing interest it has received in the mainstream film industry. Today, queer cinema is present in all the languages, aesthetics, and formats available to cinema. And the same happens to its dissemination in all means of audio-visual distribution accessible to modern societies. Given this reality, there is a (constant human) necessity to categorise and define. The urgency of categorisation however is not necessarily a negative one: naming a genre means offering it its existence, and as such, a place.
So Queer Film and Culture opens up many worlds, many cinemas, like the best kind of teacher, and some of the writing queers its own form, mixing the academic and the critical with the personal; largely free from jargon it provides an eminently accessible guide to its subject and if you’re at all interested in queer cinema this book is indispensable.
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