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Histoire contemporaine- 9
Universite Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne

Une histoire des festivals

sous Ia direction de
Ana·ls Flechet, Pascale Goetschel, Patricia Hidiroglou,
Sophie Jacotot, Caroline M:oine, Julie Yerlaine

Ouvrage publie avec le concours du

Conseil scientifique de l'universite Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne

Publkations de Ia Sorbonne
i !

, I

The Queer Film~ Festival Phenomenon in a Global

Historical Perspective (the 1970s-2000s)

Film and Media Studies

Cultural festivals date back to the 19th century, yet film festivals are a more
recent phenomenon-the Venice Film Festival goes back only so far as 1932.
The film festivals that I want to focus on here, namely Lesbian Gay Bisexual
Transgcndcr (LGBT) or Queer film Festivals (QFJ's) are an even more recent
phenomenon. QF'Fs can be classified as a specialized form of the identity-based
film festivals that have emerged from the 1970s onwards in wake of the new
social movements of the 1960s.
QfFs started out as places where independent community films could be
shown and the negative portrayal of homosexuality in Hollywood films could
be countered. These festivals were meeting-places; they created visibility and
aHowcd communities to grow. Today close to 200 QF'Fs2 exist around the world
and they form their own film festival circuit. Here, I will take a doscr look at
the global expansion of this phenomenon and consider how both temporality
and regional politics have impacted the uneven distribution of these festivals
within the complex system or globalization.

Historical Phases

In her PhD dissertation "Pink Dollars. Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals and the
Economy of Visibility", Ragan Rhyne (2007), focussing on the US-American
development, and emphasizing economic factors. She identifies four phases in

l. Marijkc de Valek cl Skacli Loist, « Film Festival Studies. An Overview of a Burgeoning

Field »,in Dina lorclanova, Ragan Rhyne (cli1:), Film Feslival1earbook 1. The Festival Circuit, St.
Andrews, St. Andrews ]~ilm Studies, 2009, p. 179-215; here p. 204-211.
. For a comprehensive, constantly updated listing see All fes-
tival data were researched using this listing as well as, and
homepagcs of individual festivals (all last retrieved 16 septembre 2013). I have charted the
establishment of the global phenomenon of L~lri~/Qfilm f(~slivals on Googlc Maps, pre-
senting all festivals t.hat. have come t.o my altenlJon m one map:
Separate maps based on the given phase model arc shown in this article.
110 Une histoire des festivals, xx"-XXI" silkle

the devclopmcn t of gay and lesbian film f(~st ivals: In t.hc.first phase ( 1977 -1990)
these festivals were established; the second phase (I 991-199G) S<Wi relationships
built between festivals and the commercial industry; the third phase (1996-
200 l) was one of global proliferation of' the gay and lesbian film kstival model,
and finally the fourth phase (200 1-2006) mo-~jor sponsorship links to television
developed. 3
For the \'Vestern and especially North American festivals this (lrrangcment in
four pl1ascs is very insightful. For my purposes here, I will expand this narra-
tive by considering larger global events that impacted on the gay and lesbian
community, film production and the transformation or
the concept "queer".

The Beginnings of Gay & Lesbian Fil'm Festivals (fig. I)

Gay & lesbian film fe:stivals developed from the social movements of the
1960s, similar to women's f11m festivals and Black film festivals. The Hays Code
in Hollywood ended in the 1960s, and the gay liberation movement emerged.
In several Western countries homosexual acts (between adults) were decrimi-
nalized in the 1960s and 1970s. ]n this context, the I ~)70s saw a minor wave of
events and screening series showing films with gay and lesbian content, such as
the 1977 screening at the British Film ]nstitutc in Lonclon,·1 1977 in Montreal,''
and 1978 in Sydnci; In the late 1970s/carly 19BOs the first annual gay film
festivals developed, especially in big cities in the USA and Canada: the first
was Frameline in San Francisco (1977), f()]]owcd by the Gay Film Fc:.;tival in
New York City (1979-1 987), Reeling in Chicago (19B 1), Outfest inl.os Angeles
( 1982), and festiv<~ls in Pittsburgh (1982) and Boston ( 1984).
In the mid-1980s several festivals were (()Unded in Europe. Somewhat
surprisingly the first European gay & lesbian film fe!ltival started in then
Yugoslavia, now Slovenia, in l~jubljana (1984/. This singularity in Central/
Eastern Europe was followed by a number of kstivals in 'vVcstcrn Europe such
as the LcsbenFilmFestival in Berlin ( 1985), a gay film week in Frciburg (1985),
and gay & lesbian festivals .in London ( 19B6), Milan ( 19B6), Amsterdam ( 1986-
1991), Copenhagen (1986), Turin (i 986), and Brussels (19B7). ln the late 1980s,

3. Ragan Rhyne, «Pink Dollars. Gay and Lesbian fillll Festivals and the Economy of
Visibility», PhD T'hesis, New York University, 2007, p. rJ-~.
4. Richard Dyer (clir.), Grrys and Film, London: British Film Institute, 1977; Brian Robinson,
«The Pride and the Passion. 25 Years of" the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival», Sight
& Sound,+, 2011, p. 12-13.
5. Chris Straayer, Thomas Waugh, «Queer Film ami Vidw l·(~stival Fomm, 'H1kc One.
Curators Speak Out>>, GLQ; A }oumal r!f' !.Rs/iirm and Gr!J' Strulir!s, I I I 1, 2005, p. 5 79-603;
here p. 58.2 .
6. cr. http:/ / (20 nnvcmbrc .20 II).
7. Brian J. Pozun, «Slovenia: Lost ami lhund », 'lian1·ilion1 Onlim:, 0 I /01, 2005, http:/ I
WW\ elicnt/articlc/13206-lost-:md-f(mnd.html (21 novcmllrc 20 I I).
Jalons et territoires.Vers une festivalisation ? The Queer Film Festival Phenomenon Ill


Fig. 1 -Global map of queer film festivals established 1977-1990 (!Tul2).

discussions and meetings of queer filmmakers and festival programmers

even led to the creation of the first gay film award at an A-list festival, at the
Panorama section of the Berlinale then led by Manfred Salzgcbcr (1987).
All these festivals were indebted to gay liberation politics and primarily
concerned with providing representation to their own communities. Film was
used as a tool to make g<ly and lesbian lives visible, to provide images where
gays and lesbians could. sec themselves on the screen and help create a local
community. However, these film events also created visibility for society in
general and provided information on issues concerning homosexuality and
social discrimination.
In the mid-] 980s, a brief "Gay New Wave" of independently produced gay
and lesbian films occurrcd.B 'This output and the growing mobilization of the
gay and lesbian ~omn:unity. around AID~, and wi~h this the growing visibility
of gays and lesbians m mamstrcam media, contnbutcd to the further estab-
lishment of more festivals in North America, for instance in Atlanta (1987),
Montreal ( 1988), New York (1989), Vancouver (1989), Toronto ( 1990), and
Washington, DC ( 1991 ).
This first phase, which Rhyne elates ] 977-] 990, "represents a transition from
the informal screenings of the very first festivals in the 1970s to incorporated
and professionalized nonprofit organizations that relied upon earned income
like ticket sales and state and federal arts grants." 9 In the 1980s, federal arts

B. These included independent gay and lesbian fllms made and released in the US, UK and
Germany: Buddies ( 1985), Mala .Noche ( 1985), My Beautffiil Laundrelte (1985), H'estler ( 1985),
Desert Hearts ( 19BG), and Parting Glances (1986).
9 . Ragan Rhyne, «Pink Dollars. Gay and ]Jcsbian Film Festivals and the Economy of
Visibility», of!. cit., P· 4.
112 Une histoire des festivals, xx•-xxr• siede

grants were still available for small festivals in the USA. However, conservative
backlash and fierce discussions about the Nntional Endowment for the Arts
(NEA) in tbc early 1990s diminished the public arts sector in the United States
and brougbt dramatic cuts to the ICstivallandscapc, especially to gay & lesbian
festivals deemed obscene. rn

The Early 1990s: The Growing QFF Circuit- North America, Western
Europe (fig. 2)

For Rhyne, the "second phase ( 1991-1996) was characterized by newly

defined relationships between gay and lesbian film festivals and the com-
mercial industry, as well as the appearance of new funding sources from
individual philanthropic donations and private foundation grants. " 11 North
American festivals had to develop different sponsorship strategies and for
a few years they were able to profit from· the rise of the clot-com indus-
try. This Icc! to changes in organization lormats:Just like the commercially
driven American film industry, the US-film festival scene became more
professional and commercially oriented. This became visible in festival
organizations-at least at the larger established LGBT film festivals-with
full-time employed staff, profcssionalization in sponsorship clevclopnlicnt
and programming, and the introduction or
submission f{~cs.
Aesthetically innovative films garnered attention and critical praise at pres-
tigious international film festivals. They were subsequently grouped under the
label "New Queer Cinema" by .film critic B. Ruby Rich. 12 These edgy low-
budget films became crossover artbouse hits. These lilms ofTcrod proof of the
economic viability of the topic, which was in turn exploited by production of
mainstream LGBT-thcmcd films. The gay niche and "pink dollar economy"
was born, bringing in new sponsorship opportunities in the USA.
In \Vestern Europe, the overall film festival landscape grew in the 1980s and
1990s. International film festivals, or so-called city film festivals, were founded
by local politicians and authorities to promote the city image and to compete
for a global cultural position. J:s In contrast, smaller film f(~stivals specializing
in themes or topics, such as short film fcstiv<~ls or gay & ksbian festivals, grew

l 0. Nadine L. McGann, « framdine Framed!' », /!flr:Jinwgr:, I~)/~), I ~192, p. 2.

II. Ragan Rhyne, «Pink Dollars. Gay and Lesbian Film l•btivals and the EcOJIOITIY or
Visibility», ojJ. cit., p. 4.
12. B. Ruby Rich,« New Qpecr Cinema», S~r;hl & Sound, 2/.'i, 19!l2, p. :10-:1.'i.
13. Thomas Elsaesser, « Film Festival Networks. The New 'H,pographics or Cinema in
Europe», E'urojJean Cinema. Facr: lo Faa with /Jol/_ywoorl, Amsterdam, Amsterdam University
]lrcss, 2005, p. 82-1 07.
, I
! , I
, I
Jalons et territoires.Vers une festivalisation ? The Queer Film Festival Phenomenon 113



Fig. 2 _Global map of queer film festivals established 1991-1996 (

with the help of communal cinemas and adult education centers. H Students or
independent filmmakers formed small collectives to start a festival with mini-
mal financial support from public arts funding. Only a few such festivals have
grown into larger organizations with full-time staiT and film industry orienta-
tion, including distribution and agency functions, one case in point being the
Short Film Festival Hamburg and its KurzFilmAgentur. 1 ~ Most LGBT film
festivals continue being run on a minimal budget, and are largely supported
by volunteer labor. Hi
On the heels of the second expansion of gay & lesbian film festivals in
North America in the early 1990s, another wave of V\lestern European gay
& lesbian film festivals followed, starting up in Paris ( 1989), Hamburg ( 1990),
Oslo (199 I), Dublin ( 1992), Glasgow ( 1993), Vienna ( 1994), Barcelona (1995),
Madrid (1996), and Amsterdam (1996), among others.
While g·ay & lesbian film festivals proliferated in Western Europe, Central
and Eastern Europe underwent severe changes after the end of Soviet bloc
olitics. A re-ordering occurred, that was in part violent, and new national
~ystcms emerged. Thus, _festivals die~ no: pr~life~ate tl~ere. _An exception was
the Slovenian gay & lesbtan film festiVal m Ljubljana, m cx1stence since 1984.
This anomaly can be explained by Yugoslavia's position as a country open to
the West enjoying relative independence from the strict Soviet political agenda

14 . Kai Reichel- Heldt, Filn!fostivaL~ in Deutschland: Zwischen kultwpolitischen Jdealetl und wirtschqfi-
.ljJOlitischen Realitiifen, Frankfiul am Main, Lang, 2007, p. 32-37.
15. Ibid., p. 149-173.
I G. Skadi Loisl, <(Precarious Cultural Work. About Lhc Organization of (Queer) Film
Festivals», Screen, :>212, 20 II, p. 268-273.
114 Une histoire des festivals, xx•-xx1• siede

in contrast to the rest of the Eastern blocY After the f~dl of the Eastern bloc
in 1989/90, Western activists and festival organizers made attempts, in a spirit
of solidarity, to help set up screenings and festivals, but the time did not seem
ripe. There were various attempts to import festivals to Russia. Reportedly US
activists from San Francisco helped to set up a gay film festival in Russia in
1991. 111 A few years later in 1994·, German activi~ts from Berlin organized a gay
& lesbian film event in St. Petersburg, mainly showing German films. After no
sufficient help from local organizers materiaJizccl, the German activists aban-
doned the idea of setting up a permanent festival there. The implementation
of a Western model apparently did not take root. More than a decade later, in
2008, an LGBT film festival was organized by local activists in St. Petersburg,
and it now runs annually and faces strong opposition Ii·om authorities. 1'l
On the other side of the world, annual QFFs started up in Australia in the
early 1990s in Melbourne ( 1991) and Sydney (i 99:1). Notable in Australia is the
naming of the festivals as "queer" rather than "gay & lesbian" from the very
start. The Australian festivals started at a time when discu!'lsion of "queer" as
an alternative term was in full swing-. As a response to the AIDS crisis, politi-
cized activists re-appropriated the derogatory slang term "queer" and turned it
.into a proud term for (sexual) difference and inclusiveness. At th<~l time, queer
theory was starting to take hold in academic discussions in North America as
well as Aust:ralia. 20 Queer-theoretical discussions of representation and identi-
ties were often linked to film programming and film activism found in festival
work.~ 1

The Late 1990s: Queer Globalization & Festival Proliferation in the East
Europe and Asia (fig. 3)

By the late 1990s, gay & lesbian images and products had entered the main-
stream in North America. The myth of afnucnt. single gays created a new
consumer bracket targeted at "pink money". J..:]ollywoocltried to cash in on the

!7. Gcr Zielinski, «Furtive, Steady Glances. On the Emergence and Cultural Politics of
I£sbian & Gay Film Festivals», PhD Thesis, .McGill University, 200/l, p. 159.
18. Peter Stack, « Bringing Gay Movies to the :-ioviets. SF Group l'uls on First Soviet Gay
Film Festival», The San Fmnd1U1 C/mmide, 20 juin 19!) I, p. Section C::-1.
!9. Galina Ponomareva, « Lcsbisch-schwulc Filmkstivals und dcrcn Entwiddung in dcr
Russischcn Foclcration. Eine Analyse am Beispiel cks LGBT lnlcmational Film Festival
"Bok o Bok" (engl. "Side by Side")», BA Th('sis, Univ,:rsit~it 1.-lalllhmg, 20 II.
20. Annamaric.Jagosc, Ql1ecr Them)!; An lntmduclion, New York, N(~\V York University Press,
2 l. Samantha Searle, Qyn:r-ir(t; the St.nen: Srxurdi!J• and ;Ju.rtmlian Film and 'fi:/r.l!iriou, St. Kilda,
Australian Teachers of 1\llcdia, 1997; Patricia Whit<~ (dir.), « (<·r Publicity. A Dossier
on Lesbian and Gay Film lbtivals », (,'!,(!; A ]ouma! r!/1":.rbian om/ ()r!J' Studies, 51 l, 1999,
p. 73-93.
I 1

Jalons et territoires.Vers une festivalisation ? The Queer Film Festival Phenomenon 115 1

! :



Fig. 3 _Global map of queer film festivals established 1997-200 I (

New Queer Cinema crossover success and briefly produced and distributed
gay-themcd ~lms. This ~i~1k ccon~my helped to furtl~er prolifera:e QFFs in
North Amenca, and adchuonal festivals also appeared m Western Europe.
Apart from the continued growth of the QFF circuit in the West, Rhyne
emphasizes that the "third phase (1996-200 I) is marked by the international
roliferation of the gay and lesbian film festival model, particularly in the
pemerging mark'ets o f' E• astern 1-.:.urope an d E~ ast Asm
. " .2-" I t 1s · Iy correct
. certam
to state that after North America and \1\lcstcrn Europe, the subsequent growth
areas have been East Asia and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). However, in
this particular time frame not many new Asian or CEE QJ?Fs actual1y arrived
and stayed on the scene. For GEE the Czech Mczipatra QFF, founded in Brno
and expanded to Prague (2000) is noteworthy. Like several other festivals in
CEE to follow, it is run by a young generation of activists who were trained
academically in the USA or linked to Anglophone queer theory.
The case of (East) Asia is a bit more complex. A few long-running QFFs
have existed in East Asia since the late 1980s/ early 1990s. The Hong Kong
Gay & Lesbian Film Festival was founded in 1989 and certainly profited from
Hong Kong's "freedom" as a British colony. This colonial history, however,
also led to criticism concerning excessive Western importations in program-
ming (by Dutch film distributors linked to the event) and a lack of sensibility to
local issues, demographics and tastes. 2: The QfF in Tokyo dates back to 1992.

. Ragan Rhyne, « Pink Dollars. Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals and the Economy of
Visibility », 0/i· cit.' P· 4 ·
_Denise Tsc Shang, << D:mancl.lor ~u.ltural Rcp,rcscntation. Emerging lndcpcnclcnt
Film and Video ?n Lcsl~tcul D~s.tre.s », 1~1 Ohvm Kl~oo, Scan. Mct~gcr (clir.), Futures qf Chillese
Cillema. Tedmologlc.l" and 1rmjJOmhlu~.l· w Clmu~se Screen Cultures, Bnstol, mtclleet, 2009, p. 169-190.
116 i Une histoire des festivals, xx•-xx1• siEkle

The next generation of East Asian QFF's appeared in the late 1990s/early
2000s. Because of problems with authorities and censors such festivals were
short-lived and often interrupted. Two examples arc festivals in Seoul (1998)
and Bangkok (l998). 2'1 A few years later annual festivals were successfully estab-
lished. However, some of them arc still held underground or as private ses-
sions. In China, a largely underground biannual QFF was founded in Beijing
(200 1). 25 The Qj Film Festival (2002) in Indonesia tries to find ways to hold its
festivals in this strictly Muslim country where homosexuality is not forbidden
at a national level, but is prosecuted under local Muslim sharia law in cer-
tain places. Further festivals appeared e.g. in Osaka (2005), Tokyo (2007), and
Phnom ]Jenh (2010).
Rhyne is not particularly concerned with the mechanisms behind the global
proliferation of QFFs. Rather, she points to the fact that these new festivals
are part of an expanding market for queer cinema, in which US festivals have
their stakcs. 2(; Here Rhyne points towards problematic conncclionil between
internationaJ economics and cultural globalization. On one hand, the growing
international market offers tbe opportunity for filmmakers to show their films
more widely and reach bigger audiences. On the other hand, exhibitors-
often for big-budget LGBT films, usually fi'om the USA or Western Europe-
gain an additional market where they Gill recoup money through screening
fees even if the film is not released in all ten·itories. 'flms, the problem lies not
so much in the global film marketing as in its conflation of the economics of
(queer) film and LGBT rights & activism rhctoric.n
Generally in critical discourse, globalization is seen as a proceilil of
Americanization and homogenization. 1n t.his respect, queer globalization
and the global proliferation of LGBT/Q film festivals would be described as
an expansion of \1\Testern morlcls of LGBT/Q identities <lnd politics and-in

24. Chris Berry, «Bangkok's Alternalive Love Film Ft:stival Raided », fnlt~/Jalions: Gmder,
History and Culture in the Asian Context, 2, l 999, hup://
Sidcbar.hlm1 (23 novcmbrc 2008); Tel., «My Queer Korea. 1c11~11tity, Space, and the 1998
Seoul Queer Film & Video Festival », lntwr.ctions: Gturlr:l; lli.rto~)' ami C1111um in the Asian Contt~:d,
2, 1999, http://intcrscctions.anu.cdu.:m/issue2/Bcrry.html (23 novcmbre 200B).
25. Zi'cn Cui,« The Communist International of (_..8wcr Film», Position.\': Has/ Asia CullureJ
Critique, 18/2, 20 I 0, p. 41 7-423; Yang Yang, « De "Quc~cr" ;t "'J 'ong·1.hi" : l~t ttrle compara-
tive transnationalc des festivals de films thhnalifJUCs ayant tr:tit aux questions de Ia scxualitc
ct du genre en Belgique et clans lcs trois Chines», M/\ Thesis, Universiti~ liiJre de Bmxclles,
26. Ragan Rhyne, «The Global Economy of Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals», GLQ; A
.Journal r!f Lesbian and Gr!Y Studies, 12/1, 2006, p. () 17-6 19; hr:rc p. () 19.
27. Which films and values arc imported or c:xchanged clc:pc:nds on the programming of
each local festival. Further analysis of' the contc11t scrc<:rH:d at those fi:stivals and the agenda
or mission put f'orward in their activities is nen:ssary. Within this space, I am not able to
provide such in-depth review.

Jalons et territoires.Vers une festivalisation 1 The Queer Film Festival Phenomenon 117

extension also of Q;FF operations-with spread of Western products. 213 Peter

Jackson shows in his article "Capitalism and Global Queering" 29 that modern I

gay & lesbian or queer identities in Asia cannot be seen as mere imports or
adaptations from the West. Global sexual identities developed in relation to
Western models as well as to national forms of capitalism, nation building and
local norms of gender and sexuality. There is no linear narrative of progress
to be told about global queer identities. Instead, there are several simultaneous
activisms and strategies in place.:10
Jn this respect, it is noteworthy to consider the names that LGBT/Qfilm fes-
tivals usc internationally. Many of the newer additions to the QFF circuit use
terms that avoid fixed identity categories. Instead, they use terms like "alter-
native," "diversity," "other," or similar metaphors, often in the local language.
The English translations or English t.aglincs of the names, however, often use
the Anglophone terms "LGBT" or "queer" in their festival designation. This,
I would argue, hints at the international QFF circuit and a desire to be reco-
gnized by this circuit rather than marking a direct comparability of identities.
The development of QFI"s did not, however, occur evenly. While these fes-
tivals arc certainly a barometer for queer activism, community building, and
queer filmmaking, each of thoseelcments relics on the political and legal cli-
mate 0 [ each region. Political debates in the wake of the enlargement of the
European Union to the East certainly had an impact on LGBT activism and
its secured status for Central and Eastern Europe. Within quickly modernizing
East Asian societies like South Korea and Japan, new debates about public
movements and new identities influenced emerging film fcstivalsY
Changes in LGBT-rclatcd legislation can evoke the emergence or new public
visibility of festivals. One such example is India. Discussions around homosexu-
ality and AIDS entered the public arena in the mid-2000s. In 2009, Paragraph
3 77 of the Indian Penal Code punishing homosexual acts was abolished. 2

28 . Dennis Altman,« Global Gaze/Global Gays», GLQ; A Journal if Lesbian and Ga)' Studies,
3/4, 1997, p. 4-17-4·36.
29 . Peter A. Jackson, «Capitalism and Global Queering. National Markets, Parallels
Among Sexual Cultures, and Multiple Queer Modernities», GLQ; A Journal if Lesbian and
Gay Studies, 1.5/3, 2009, p. 357-395.
30 . .Joanna Mizicliilska, Robc~t Kulpa, «."~ontcmporary Peripheries". Queer Studies,
Circulation or Knowledge and East /West Divide »,dans Robert Kulpa ct.Joanna Mizicli!lska
(dir.), De-Centring J:#.stern &xuatitie.1~ Central and Eastem European Perspectives, Farnham, Ashgate,
31 . Kim Soyoung, « <Cine-Mania> or Cincphilia. Film Festivals and the ldentity Question n,
in Chi-Yun Shin,Julian Stringer (clii:), New Korean Cinema, New York, New York University
Press, 2005, p. 79-91.
32 . Sonja M;~jumder, Katja Schumann, « "l Care for My Brother Nikhil. .. Do You?"
Queerer Film in lndicn », 1:n Dorothce von Diepenbroick, Skadi Loist (dir.), BildschiJn. 20
Jahre Le.rbisch Schwule Filmtap,e Hamburg, Hamburg, Manncrschwarm, 2009, p. 219-222.
118 Une histoire des festivals, xx•-xx1• siecle

Consequently, the first locally produced queer films and festivals appeared in
the late 2000s: in Delhi (2007), 13angalorc (2009), and Mumbai (20 I 0).
Legislation and/ or repression do not only make new QFFs visible, but can
also explain the lack of such events. Africa, for instance, only has one single
QFE The Out In Africa South African Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (OIA) "was
launched in 1994 to celebrate the inclusion, in the South Afi·ica Constitution, of
the clause prohibiting discrimination on the gTounds of sexual oricntation." 33
After the breakdown of the apartheid regime, South Afi·ica set up one of the
most progressive constitutions witl1 regard to the equal treatment of gender
and sexual orientation, compared with countries in Africa and beyond. That
change made it possible to create a platform for debate and discussion about
representation, sexuality and gender. This marks a stark contrast to the current
political situation elsewhere in Africa. For instance, gay activist David Kato
was murdered in Uganda in 2011. There and in Kenya, there have been recent
discussions of the introduction of the death penalty for homosexuality. Such
discussions are further complicated by international debates on human rights,
international aid programs and the fight against HIV I AIDS.

The 2000s: Differentiation, Reinvention and International Networks -

Latin America (fig. 4)

Ragan Rhyne points in her last historical phase to the economic entangle-
ment of QFl<'s and the mainstream media industry. H)r he1; "the fourth phase
(200 1-2006)" was characterized "by the introduction of cable and pay televi-
sion as primary producers, distributors, and exhibitors of gay and lesbian fiJm
and video and significant corporate sponsors of film f(~stivals.":1 ' 1 Taking this
classification as a starting point, I will expand it to span the whole decade of
the 2000s and widen the view globally. Before discussing new networks spread-
ing to Latin America, let me turn to the development in North America and
·western Europe.
In \Vestern markets, at the mi]]ennium, QFFs entered a new phase insti-
tutionally and in terms of sponsorship. The early success for queer cinema
influenced the content for TV. Cable television produced quality TV series with
LGBT characters: r!)lill and Grace, Oyeer as Folk, the makeover reality show Q!,Leer
E;yeflr tlze Straight G191, and the first lesbian series The L-11/ord. Distinct LGBT
television subscription channels even appeared, including Here! and Logo.

33. Sec the historical account on the festival website: htlp:/ / (18
novcmbre 20 II).
34. Ragan Rhyne, « Pink Dollars. Gay and Lesbian Film Festivnls and the Economy or
Visibility», these citcc, p. 4.
Jalons et territoires.Vers une festivalisation ? The Queer Film Festival Phenomenon 119


.. (.


: North
~ paciilc
i ocesn


~ ....

1 Octnn

i ---------------------------------------------------------------~
Fig. 4- Global map of queer Dim festivals established 2001-2013 (

These changes in the entertainment industry led to two divergent results:

one hand, cable television and niche marketing provided new sources of
income for festivals through corporate sponsorship. With the new funding and
festival growth, Q).'l's also entered a new phase of industry interaction and are
even striving to become film industry players thcmselves. 35 On the other hand,
QfFs repositioned themselves in relation to the available mainstream repre-
sentation of LGBT people, which can often be characterized as homo-norma-
tive, far from representing actual LGBT demographics and issues. Thus, QfFs
are still needed today to provide a different kind of representation and media
Mainstream culture and media production docs not make QFFs obsolete,
but encourages a refocusing of the aims and missions of established festivals.
A differentiation within the QFF landscape took place. A new brand of further
specialized film festivals appear~cl, mos~ notably .transgender film festivals and
ueer people of color film festivals. 1 hcsc fesllvals cater to a smaller com-
~unity of undcrrcprcsented and underscrvcd groups with the aim to provide
different and empowering images in a counter-public space for community
building. Another example is the appearance of genre queer film festivals, such
as queer documentary film festivals, responding to the growing field of human
rights film festivals, and ?enrc festivals such as a queer horror film festival fol-
lowing the niche markctmg of other successful geme film festivals.

. Skadi Loist, Gcr Zielinski, « On the Development of Queer Film Festivals and Their
Media Activism », in Dina Iorclanova, Leslm Torchin (di1:), Fl'lm }cstival 1earbook 4. Film
restivrzls and Ar.livism, St Andrews, St Andrews Film Studies, 2012, p. 49-62.
120 I Une histoire des festivals, xx"-xx1• siEkle

While the festival landscape in North America diflcrentiatcs and creates smal-
ler niche festivals, the continued political discussions around gender and sexua-
lity have had a difTercnt effect on Western European festivals. Here, a number
of festivals reinvented their mission to become less specifically tied to identity
categories such as "gay & lesbian", for instance: Gender Bender in Bologna
(2003) and Festival Cincmarges: Sexc, genres ct identitcs in13orcleaux (2005).
Apart from the off-shoots of the New York-based experimental QFF MIX
that have appeared in Brazil (1993) and Mexico (1996), the majority of Latin
American LGBT film festivals developed in the micl-2000s: e.g. in Buenos
Aires (2004), Asuncion (2005), Montevideo (2007), Santiago de Chile (2008),
Havana (2009), and San .Juan (2009). In addition to general developments in
LGBT activism, this recent spread of QF.Fs was aided by a grant that sup-
ported the distribution of Spanish-speaking LGBT films. Those films were
circulated by the international CineLGBT network, an lbcroamcrican LGBT
film network created by Fundaci6n Triangulo (Espai1a) working with LGBT
film festivals from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries with the objec-
tive of creating social change through movies.:u; In this collaboration, films are
not only exported to new markets, but the recent wave or LGBT/Qfilms fi·om
Latin America:17 arc also finding their way to Europe and North America.
Here, the network structure of the QYF circuit as well as the global col-
laboration of LGBT rights organizations is very visible. Beyond this profes-
sionalized form of international collaborat.ion, personal networks arc also very
important. With increasing global access to the internet, information about
LGBT politics and queer cinema is readily :wailable.:111 In addition, large insti-
tutions, such as the Teddy Award ( 1987) and its queer programmers meeting
at the Berlinale, offer meeting points for in-person networking and exchange.
QFFs in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have been discussed since the
fall of the East bloc. However, the unsteady national, economic and political
developments in the region have delayed the appearance of such festivals in a
consistently supported form. Thus, most of the QFFs in GEE arc young and
short-lived. Only since the mid-2000s has the number of QFFs grown, with
events taklng place in Bucharest (2004), Warsaw (2006-2007), Bratislava (2007),
St. Petersburg (2008), Belgrade (2009), and Kiev (20 I 2); Queer San~cvo in
Bosnia/Herzegovina (2008) was organized only once after it met violent oppo-
sition39. Recent discussions from Russia attest to the prevailing diflicuh.ies. A

36. Cl: (lllnowmbrc 2011).

37. Suzy Capo,« Queer Cinema in Brasili<~ll »,in Dorolhcc von Diepcnhroick, Skacli Loisl
(dir.), Bi!dscMn ... , op. cit., p. 226-229.
38. Chris Straaycr and Thomas Waugh,« Qtu:<T Film and Video i'l:slivall•(mHn, Take One.
Curators Speak Oul », GLQ A }rmmnf '!! !.t.rbian and Orry S/1/{/irs, I I I tj, 200.1, p. 5138-589.
,39 ..Sa1~p .. . « "J>>att Ie r·or.San~Jevo
. K aJimc, . " as "M ct rnpo I'IS " . ('!, osure of· llw I'.•u·sJ ("'·
,.;.! wcr,Sar<~1evo
Festival according to Liberal Press», Artthrojm/r~~y r!/ /~rut HumfH~ Rmir:m, 2H/ I, 20 I 0, p. 62-82.
Jalons et territoires.Vers une festivalisation ? The Queer Film Festival Phenomenon 121
law was approved in late 2011 to ban public debate on LGBT issues in order I

to prevent "homosexual propaganda" ncar children, which in effect bans all i

LGBT activism and cultural events from the public arcna. 40 Similar discussions
are taking place in the Ukraine in 2012.

Tracing the development of QFFs in a global perspective reveals a very com-
plex history. There is no single narrative of progress for sexual rights or queer
film production. When looking at QFFs we need to consider complex struc-
tures of globalization-economic production, capitalism, processes of cultural
exchange, human rights activism, LGBT activism, and prevailing homopho-
bia. Thus, processes of economic growth, differentiation and reinvention on
the side of the older established QFFs in the "West" coincide with simulta-
neous parallel developments of local adaptation, national film cultures and
basic struggles for LGBT rights and community building.

40 . Sec the news section on the Side by Side Inti. LGBT Film Festival St. Petersburg, Russia,
http:/ / I &tid=667 (20 novembrc 20 II).