The film programme focuses on very strong personal stories, was that a conscious decision in terms of the theme for the festival?
I guess the over arching theme that I wanted to tie in with the theme of the festival, Art = Life, was the idea that identity, especially queer identity, which is oftentimes very intersexual, very complex and very messy, is performed and there’s an art to that performance. In telling these personal stories, especially as they are stories that within homo-normative culture we don’t usually have access to, I wanted to show how non-normative identity, its construction and how it’s performance has underpinned a lot of gay progress and is also still quite criminalised because it doesn’t meet up with the new gay respectability politics.
How do you feel about the current representation of LGBTQI people in film? Do you think it’s moving forward?
I think that there is a lot happening in independent cinema in terms of representation and there’s a lot happening in new media. The ability to actually make films and control narratives is still overwhelmingly in the hands of white men but it is shifting a bit, so we are seeing more authentic stories from authentic perspectives, but we don’t see them as represented as much as I would like - even in LGBT festivals. I think that there’s a huge focus on making gay identity and gay lifestyles sanitised and clean and easily commodified. In that, we loose a lot of representation of other identities which don’t fit that homo-normative archetype
When you’re curating films does that feel like a campaigning action?
In a way, yes. The Homotopia festival made it quite easy. Its not like I was working with a festival that at its core is normative and anti-queer. It’s a very queer festival and Gary and everybody that comes together to present pieces and pull things together, they’re very smart about trying to represent criminalised queers and identities that don’t get a lot of representation, so it didn’t feel as though I had to fight a lot of authority working within it.
But working with Liverpool’s gay scene and where that intersects with people who have a vested interest in the arts can still be very white-centric, so there was an element of wanting to challenge that a bit. Gary (Everett, Director of Homotopia) picked a couple of the films for the first weekend but everything in the film programme with bit of dirty sex and a black face is mine!
I think a lot of people in the city are very excited about the festival as a whole and about the film programme. Is there anything you’d like to say to finish?
We need to be a bit more interested in actual queer lives, you know. Queerness is something that is radical, that is all about the mess of intersecting identities and that is one of the things I wanted to pull together and show through most of the pieces. As gays and politically conscious gays, it’s really interesting to show people who aren’t so wrapped up in gay respectability politics and being clean and tidy and it will be really nice to see how many people are interested in these lives. I am!
The film programme plays at FACT and Liverpool Small Cinema as follows: tickets: £5 / £4
My Name is Gerry Potter / 30 October / Liverpool Small Cinema (LSC)
The Bride of Frankenstein / 31 October / LSC
Dior And I / 4 November / 7pm / FACT
Portrait of Jason / 11 November / 7pm / FACT
Pay It No Mind: The Life & Times of Marsha P Johnson / 15 November / LSC
Out in the Night / 18 November / 7pm / FACT
Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story / 22 November / LSC
Bastardy / 25 November / 7pm / FACT
The Queen (+ short film Little Elephant) 29 November / LSC
Khalil West has previously co-curated of FACT’s Queerfest and co-founded the Liverpool-based multimedia project Chew Disco. He is a Trustee of ReachOUT a Leeds-based charity providing support for LGBT asylum seekers and refugees. Currently, he is producing the Arts Council funded multi-media project I Am For You Can Enjoy, which focuses on Queer Black sex workers. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The project will launch at Queer Contact in February 2016.