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Art Critique Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences

Saving space: strategies of space reclamation at early women’s film festivals and queer film festivals today

By Theresa Heath, 2018

LGBT/queer film festivals provide counter-public spaces for marginalised subjects to formulate community, negotiate identity and rally under political banners. At the same time, screening work by LGBT* filmmakers interpellates spectators into a common subject position and locates discursively ‘homeless’ subjects in space and time. The creation of queer, urban, community space is particularly vital in the current context of rapid urban gentrification which has resulted in the steady decline of queer venues in many Western urban centres. This article argues strategies of space re/claimation mobilised by LGBT/queer film festivals today can be conceptually understood in relation to women’s film events of the 1970s. Women’s film festivals staged a direct challenge to the social reality of gendered access to space and proposed alternative modes of spatial configuration. Focusing on UK- and US-based festivals, I will argue that it was precisely the way in which women’s film festivals, feminist filmmaking practices and theory informed each other that facilitated a multi-layered reclamation of both material and discursive space for women. Drawing on Jose Muñoz’s work in Cruising Utopia, I will further argue that the occupation of space at LGBT/queer film festivals constitutes a radical political act that carries with it the potential of a queer utopia. Keywords: Queer film, festival, queer cinema, LGBT, feminism, women’s film, women’s film festival, LGBT film festival, queer film festival

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