GLITCH: bodies, unrest and emotion

GLITCH is film festival for work by and about queer, trans and intersex people of colour. Blake Backlash was at the opening night and is looking forward to the rest of the festival.


At the opening night of the GLITCH film festival in Glasgow we saw Vivek Shraya’s What I Love About Being Queer. One of the participants looks at the camera and talks to the audience about how he has fun noticing that, when he spends time with his family, they ask his brothers and sisters about marriage but he gets asked about his holiday plans. It’s a sweet and funny moment and one that that touches on ideas about freedom and conformity developed throughout the film.

Now, this is a short film with a light touch and one that revels in the variety of voices it contains. So if I seem to be assigning it a central thesis, I am doing it a disservice. Still, as the film gathers testimonies, we hear several folk talk about how a position defined outside cultural norms encourages, even requires, creative and radical ways of thinking. They talk about being able to being imaginative about what sex means for them and being able to celebrate their bodies in a ways unconcerned about dominant notions of beauty. And they talk about how being queer opened up spaces for then to think radically about gender, power, political dissent and freedom.

You can, of course, think and act radically about art and film as well. GLITCH is a film festival that shows work by and about queer / trans / intersex people of colour. As such, its very existence creates a space for radical thought – especially when filmmakers from across the world will be coming to Glasgow to take part. Vivek Shraya also performed extracts from his book ‘She of the Mountains’, and afterwards he spoke about how just knowing about the existence of GLITCH seemed like a reason to feel hope. And how the Digital Desperados have organised this festival encourages you to engage with film in more active ways. Every event at GLITCH is free (you can get tickets here). For the Desperados this is not only about making a space that is open to everyone – it is about creating a different kind of relationship with an audience, about asking people for a different kind of commitment.

When I buy a ticket to see a film at the Cineworld or the Glasgow Film Theatre, I can easily slip into thinking of the film as a product that I have to consume. That’s why it can be so hard to leave before the end, no matter how I think bad the film is, after all, I paid to see it, I need to get my money’s worth.

Going to the GLITCH opening felt different. I had got a ticket in advance (for free) through the website – so going did not feel like getting what I paid for, it felt more like honouring an invitation I had accepted. And so when I was there, I felt less like a member of an audience, more like a participant.

Which is just as well because this night was stimulating and provocative in the best senses of those words. It began by a performance from Andra Simons that combined film, spoken word and song. Images associated with sex, 70s television and the sea rolled and crashed together – watching Simons’ performance was as riveting and exhilarating as watching a storm. There were moments of hush and quiet too, including a performance of ‘Return of the Selkie’ about (I think) the death of a lover. You can read it here – but seize any chance you get to hear Simons perform it.

Sins Invalid
Sins Invalid

Sins Invalid was also part of the opening night programme. Patty Berne’s film documents a performance project (which she co-founded), based in San Francisco that seeks to celebrate work by performers with disabilities and, in particular, their explorations of beauty, sexuality and the body. The performances we see are by turns erotic (an account of some memorable roadside sex); chilling (a monologue about The Sterilization Act, passed in Virginia in 1924); and tenderly funny (a game of dominos and a discussion of masculinity between father and son). But all are marked by a striking physical dynamism.

The whole evening seemed physically vivid – in part because of how the performances by Shraya and Simons used movement and song. These live performances were BSL interpreted in a way that seemed beautifully in tune with the work. All live performances in GLITCH will be BSL interpreted and all the films are subtitled – that of course required work. So I can’t help but admire the commitment of the festival organisers, for whom working to make the festival genuinely inclusive is, in the best sense, a labour of love.

I left the GLITCH opening night asking myself questions: how do I really relate to my own body, my own sexuality? How open am I to thinking and acting radically about those things? It’d be daft to generalise too much about the content of the festival as a whole from the opening night. But any festival that starts by engaging so fearlessly with how people think about sex, bodies, and politics deserves to be explored.

If you live in Glasgow, or close by, see as much of it as you can. After all, GLITCH is free. I can’t stop thinking about what that means.

Here is the GLITCH programme. You don’t need to pay but you should still get your tickets here. Digital Desperados who organise GLITCH also do other exciting things like providing free film-making courses for women of colour. This is their website.

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