You had to shift the location of Kuirfest from Ankara to Berlin in 2017 due to political concerns. How has being based in Berlin changed the festival? What have you lost, what have you gained?
Hello and thanks a lot for the interview. Just to put it more correctly we must say that we did not move the festival to Berlin but made an additional program for Berlin with an invitation from bi'bak. Last year, we had to cancel the main festival in Ankara due to an illegitimate ban on all LGBTI+ events in the capital. However, after the ban we had a solidarity screening of shorts in 7 cities and we did the festival in Istanbul, Denizli and Mersin. For spring and summer, we have prepared special programs for London, Cambridge, Berlin, Stockholm and Athens. Thus, the ban pushed us to create more areas of transnational solidarity. Let's say KuirFest has spread over Europe.
How does KuirFest seek to unsettle or shake up the boundaries of mainstream LGBT+ cinema?
As a queer festival, we always try to 'queer' all boundaries. In the program, we have been trying to include different forms of queer art and make the festival an area of expression beyond cinema. On the other hand, KuirFest is the only queer film festival in Turkey so we always include some films from mainstream LGBTI+ cinema for our audiences. However, it is important for us to open space for films that tackle the norms of filmmaking, queers them, plays with the rules of normative cinema. Thus, it might be true to say KuirFest is a festival that gathers different art forms, queer communities and raises voices against all boundaries.
What draws you to include a film in the programme? What aspects do you look for?
There are various aspects that we have to consider when we programme. First and foremost, we do not program any film that can be racist, sexist, sex worker phobic, LGBTI+ phobic, that is the golden rule. We encourage self expressive and empowering queer images and stories. When we programme, we care about balancing all issues under the LGBTI+ umbrella in addition to geographical and formal diversity. Each year we have the following selections in our festival programme:
We have also shorts selections from Turkey and each year from different queer film festivals; and also, we screen “Queer Web-series” for three years within our programme.
Do you see form as the main way queer filmmakers can dismantle the dominant norms in the industry, or is there also room to show queer stories and lives through plot and story, in a way that we’re not currently seeing in more mainstream releases?
We prefer not to claim a hierarchy between these mentioned. We may say that not just form, but also narration modes and socio-geographical and political contexts of the story and plot may break and play with the dominant norms in the industry. For example, Rafiki, a film from Kenya tells a classical story of passionate first love between two women and was banned in Kenya with the accusation of encouraging homosexuality. During the 8th edition, it was important for us to show the film considering not just that it is the first lesbian film in the cinema of Kenya and also our mutual case of “bans”, as you might know that all the LGBTI+ related activities in Ankara where the festival was founded in 2011 has been banned by the Governorship of Ankara with an official announcement mentioning “social sensitivities and sensibilities”, “public security”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of the rights and liberties of others” since November 2017.
The festival’s programme is also closely concerned with questions around migration and mobility. Have you noticed any change in the way audiences interact with those questions since moving from Turkey to Germany?
bi’bak is a venue that mostly presents work around migration and mobility issues. Thus, last year they asked whether we could prepare a queer selection that gathers film mostly from non-western countries and tackles with those issues. When you start to think about mobility and migration from a queer perspective, you see how broad the theme is and how much we embed the very reality of migration and mobility in our daily lives. Turkey and its relation to migration is changing very rapidly since the 90s; as a historically emigrating country, Turkey also became a destination and transition country. To think more specifically about queer migration, there are a huge number of LGBTI+ refugees in Turkey and for the last couple of years there are also people who had to leave the country due to their gender identity. In this flux, talking about migration and mobility in Germany, a country that has a long history of migration from Turkey, was mind blowing. It was more of a intersectional discussion - an exchange of shared experiences of different generations of migrants about various forms of mobility.
Who, in your opinion, are some of the most exciting filmmakers working at the moment?
Esra: Shue Lea Chang is amazing. I could not have a chance to see the last work but ‘Wonders Wander’, which was in the selection for bi’bak last year, is extremely inspiring. I am also very excited about the works of Marcio Reolon & Filipe Matzembacher, a filmmaker duo from Brazil. I love the sense of community in their films. She may not be an established filmmaker yet but Buse Kılıçkaya’s documentary ‘Abla Deme Lazım Olur’ (Don’t Call Me Sister, You May Need Me Mister) is one of the films that I am waiting. Buse is a trans activist and one of the sex workers that founded Pembe Hayat. Couple of years ago she has attented KuirFest’s smartphone filmmaking workshop and then she decided to a documentary about aging in trans community. There are of course more names but I will cut it short.
Esma: Soda_Jerk blew our mind. They rebel, queer and un/rewrite mainstream films and stories by terroring them with extraordinary formal styles. We will make the opening in Berlin with them and I look forward to meeting them. And also, Rüzgar Buşki, who is one of our friends from the community, shoots amazing movies raising voices from our community. His film #direnayol chases a trans activist Şevval Kılıç during the 21st Istanbul LGBTI Pride that took along the wind of Gezi Park movement.
Can you tell us some more about the programme for this year?
We will open KuirFest Berlin: Queer Feminist Rebels with a rebellious party with the dazzling performances by queer choruses from Istanbul and Berlin; Korospular and Gazino Neukölln and finest DJ’s from Turkey; Samy Winehouse, Şevval and Elif KK @SO36 and thanks Gizem Oruç, Zeynep Dişbudak and Gazino Neukölln for making this possible.
As mentioned Terror Nullius - a political revenge fable - will be the opening film, followed by a Q&A with Soda_Jerk, the directors and producers of the film, and moderated by Bartholomew Sammut from XPOSED Film Festival and Esra Özban from Pembe Hayat.
We will rebel “the History”, with a capital H, with a screening of shorts selection. The screening of the web-series “Her Story” and the shorts selection of “queer feminist her*stories”. “Her Story” screening will be followed by a talk by Mijke van der Drift on transfeminist practices beyond representations and framing. And, we will have a collective discussion with an interactive play following the screening of the shorts selection.
Pembe Hayat online made a very special cake for you dear followers and audience! You may ask why they did make a cake - to get the answer, attend the event. Nalan and Derin from Pembe Hayat team will be with us.
We will show Voltrans - the very first trans men initiative in Turkey - which will be followed by an Q&A with one of the directors and protagonists raising the question of how the visibility of trans men has influenced on feminist and LGBTI+ movements in Turkey.
The last screening before the closing party is Lizzie Bordan’s documentary-style feminist fiction film “Born In Flames”. After the screening we will have a discussion with AnouchK from TransFormations Film Festival.
And lastly, we will close KuirFest Berlin with a fabulous party which will bring a wide range of genres together with the performances by Ebow, Saye Säye, Alice Dee, 6zm featuring Gazino Neukölln, DJ Ipek and DJ T**lin (queeriental).
Brilliant. See you there. And keep an eye out on DADDY social media for the chance to win a pair of tickets…