Queer Cinema for Palestine 2021 Made History

It’s a wrap! The premier edition of Queer Cinema for Palestine (QCP) lived up to its promise of setting a precedent, and it did so in a big way. QCP made history as a first-ever global queer initiative centering Palestinian artists and standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

QCP showcased an extraordinary collectively-curated program by nearly 30 partners across more than a dozen cities, with film screenings, masterclasses, panel discussions, drag performances, queer indigenous solidarity, Jewish queer solidarity, and more. In person events saw maximum capacity crowds and more than 1500 people participated in the online portion of the 10-day festival, hosted by the Toronto Queer Film Festival.

As Ghadir al Shafie of Aswat – Palestinian Feminist Center for Sexual and Gender Freedoms remarked on opening night, QCP was an emphatic “yes to art that stands with the oppressed against the oppressor.”

QCP offered an ethical alternative to the Israeli government-sponsored TLVFest and featured many of the 250 queer filmmakers who have either withdrawn from TLVFest or pledged not to participate in response to the call from Palestinian queers and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Intersectionality was a recurring theme in all the events, reflecting increased recognition of the intimate connections between liberation struggles of all oppressed peoples and communities. QCP was also a resounding rejection of Israeli pinkwashing, the use of queer and trans liberation to present apartheid Israel as progressive while depicting Palestinian queers as foreign to their own society.

QCP kicked off with a land acknowledgement by Layla Black and opening remarks by Ghadir al Shafie and Hanan Wakeem of Aswat, Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Dania Majid of the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, Jonathan Petrychyn of the Toronto Queer Film Festival, QCP’s platform host, filmmaker John Greyson, and artist S F Ho.

QCP opening remarks

Queer Indigenous solidarity was featured in the program presented by Embassy Cultural House in London, Ontario, with screenings and a panel discussion with filmmakers Indigenous to Turtle Island and Palestine including Qais Assali, Justin Ducharme, Whess Harman, and Rana Nazzal, moderated by Wanda Nanibush.

“What if I didn’t have to articulate and fight for my relationship to land. What if it just was?” inquired Palestinian filmmaker Rana Nazzal.

Land/Trust: A Conversation Across Turtle Island and Palestine – London, Ontario

In Prishtina, 50 people packed Kino Armata for the queer cultural program curated by Dylberizm, featuring slam poetry, drag performances and screenings of international short films.

Activist and writer Agon Rexhepi opened the evening by performing his powerful poem “Shame of the house.” Vera Vendetta, the Albanian drag performer from Skopje, continued the program by performing poems by the Palestinian queer author Fargo Nissim Tbakhi, continuing with the song “Declare Independence,” a song which the singer Björk dedicated to Kosovo at a concert in Tokyo.

Four international short films were screened, including Sebastia by Palestinian director Dima Srouji and three shorts withdrawn from TLVFest in solidarity with Palestinians, Inferno by Andrew Blackman (New Zealand), and Flesh by Camila Kater (Brazil), and Invisible Men by Luis Carlos de Alencar (Brazil).

A discussion was held with activist and historian Gramos Buçinca, feminist activist Trina Binaku, and poet and journalist Arbër Selmani, on the intersectionality and importance of talking about the Palestinian issue and queer rights.

Queers for Palestine // Dylberat për Palestinën – Prishtina

Kino Armata, Prishtina

“Wakeful Rest: Voices for Palestine” took place simultaneously at the Sursock Museum in Beirut and at the Luminor Hotel de Ville in Paris, co-organized by the Sursock Museum and the Festival Ciné Palestine was globally well received by our respective communities. The screening was attended by more than 70 people in Beirut and by more than 50 people in Paris, screening the film Congress of Idling Persons by Bassem Saad, White Elephant by Shuruq Harb and O, Persecuted by Basma Alsharif. All three films touched upon the subject of disenchantment and alienation in the face of oppression and resisting dominant narratives. By drawing these parallels, the event was a call for the convergence of struggles and intersectionality. The screenings were followed by an online masterclass with the filmmakers as a way to open up the discussion on what a ‘queer lens’ in cinema could mean, especially in relation to cinematic practices and archival re-appropriation.

A Wakeful Rest : Voices for Palestine // En veille, une assemblée de voix pour la Palestine – Beirut/Paris
Luminor Hôtel de Ville – Paris

In Montreal, a program of short films from the Arabic speaking world brought a standing room only crowd of 150 to the Sala Rossa, demonstrating a real thirst for this type of space and content. The films included Houria by Raafat Hattab, Blessed Blessed Oblivion by Jumana Manna, Mondial 2010 by Roy Dib, and Cinema al Fouad by Mohamed Soueid. The films and the discussions, both online and in person, were a retelling of Palestinian history from a queer perspective, highlighting how queerness and Palestine are entangled.

As Raafat Hattab said in the online panel, queer thinking or think queerly is also about deconstructing reality and not accepting things as they are.

Queer for Palestine – Montreal
Sala Rossa – Montreal

Independent Jewish Voices hosted a discussion in Berlin between queer Jewish artists and scholars Judith Butler, Lior Shamriz, BH Yael and Marc Siegel on their films/work in relation to solidarity with Palestinians and the weaponization of antisemitism by pro-Israel forces to silence artists and activists. The discussion also examined Israel’s pinkwashing agenda and radical queer rejection of pinkwashing and homonationalism, or a presumed favorable stance on LGBTQIA+ rights used as a sort of progressive measuring stick for states.

As Judith Butler put it, “‘Queer’ no longer marks a single issue identity politics, but a form of affiliation, of coalition, and even a way of trying to establish an intersectional and coalition framework.”

Loud Voices: The Weaponization of Antisemitism – Berlin
Loud Voices: The Weaponization of Antisemitism Q&A – Berlin

The Espaço Cultural Renato Russo in Brasilia hosted a maximum-capacity crowd for Queer Cinema for Palestine, its first event after reopening following COVID restrictions. A series of shorts from Brazilian filmmakers who withdrew from TLVFest in solidarity with Palestinians was screened, including I Have To Say I Love You – Preciso Dizer Que Te Amo by Ariel Nobre, Afronte by Bruno Victor and Marcus Azevedo, Revoada by Victor Costa Lopes, and Bonde by Asaph Luccas. The collective Afrobixas joined the event, along with artists Pedro Ivo and Ricardo Caldeira, and a video by queer Brazilian-Palestinian activist Kais Husein was also screened.

Cinema Queer pela Palestina – Brasilia

Espaço Cultural Renato Russo – Brasilia

Sare Lesbianista in Bilbao hosted a screening of Beyond the Frontlines: Tales of Resistance and Resilience From Palestine by Alexandra Dols, featuring stories of resistance and resilience from Palestine, followed by an online discussion between lesbian activists from Palestine, Nicaragua, the Basque Country, Western Sahara and Mexico.

In Spanish, with English summaries

In Turin, BDS Torino, Maurice GLBTQ, Progetto Palestina organized a Palestinian aperitif and a program of short films, some of which had been withdrawn from TLVFest in solidarity with Palestinians, at CSO Gabrio. The program was followed by a discussion on intersectionality.

Queer Cinema for Palestine – Turin

The Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast hosted QCP closing night, with “Queers and the State: Art and Cultures as Tools for Gender, Social and Political Justice,” a conversation between Ghadir al Shafie, co-founder of Aswat – Palestinian Feminist Center for Sexual and Gender Freedoms, and scholar, novelist, screenwriter and activist Sarah Schulman.

The maximum capacity crowd of 120 people at The Black Box was very moved by what Ghadir al Shafie had to say, reflecting the strong resonance with Palestine in Ireland. A recurrent refrain from the public was, “We need to do more [for Palestinian rights].”

Outburst Queer Arts Festival at The Black Box in Belfast

A pop-up online screening of March for Dignity, the feature length documentary by John Eames which follows the inspiring story of a small group of LGBTI+ activists in Tbilisi, Georgia as they attempt to conduct the first Pride march in the country while facing overwhelming opposition from far-right groups, the government, and the Georgian Orthodox Church. Eames withdrew his film from TLVFest last year.

Mawjoudin – We Exist hosted an in-person event at Cinema Rio in Tunis with a program of short films, including To Starboard, I Vomit by Tarek Sardi, Women And Girls by Cherien Dabis, Marco by Saleem Haddad and Sisak by Faraz Ansari.

Mawjoudin – Tunis

The Seoul Human Rights Film Festival and Palestine Peace and Solidarity in S. Korea hosted a screening of Mother-in-Law by Shin Seung Eun, presented by. Shin Seung Eun withdrew her film from TLVFest last year. More than 20% of the 200 signatories on the Queer Cinema for Palestine pledge committing not to participate in TLVFest are from South Korea.

The Violetki Collective hosted a program of DIY cinema by queers and their friends in solidarity with Palestinians at the Fabrika Avtonomia in Sofia.

QCP Watch Parties were organized in Denver, Ghent, Berlin, Chicago, Toronto, and Philadelphia.

In a typical response from an apartheid regime and in stark contrast to the spirit of true solidarity and equality of the festival, Israeli government-linked lobby groups, a former spokesperson for the Israeli military and right-wing trolls reacted desperately with vile racist tropes and fake news replete with triggering images on social media.  QCP is proud to stand on the right side of history in the struggle for equality and indivisible justice. 

QCP was covered by media outlets including Dazed, Hyperallergic, New York Daily News and Washington Blade.

QCP is already starting to make plans for next year. Contact us if you would like to be involved: info@queercinemaforpalestine.org. And sign up to receive updates from Queer Cinema for Palestine.