A talk with Dominique Gimberg
Their short films Spark and Snogging both tell the story of a 15-year-old who has yet to discover himself and almost loses himself in peer friendship. Queer film director Dominique Gimberg (1994) wants to use their work to connect with other young queers and offer viewers new perspectives. ‘When I was 15, I did not yet know my own limits or needs. I was mainly concerned with how I thought others wanted me to act.’
Dominique: ‘As a result, you go beyond your own limits. You discover who you are yourself compared to the people around you, you adapt and in this you can lose yourself. My work has therefore been a kind of therapy for me. It very much tells my story, as a kind of translation of my feelings from that time. I only discovered when I was 19 that I was attracted to women. A friend addressed me very directly: you are a lesbian! Whereas at that time I was still very much into boys. All the girls I hung out with in secondary school did. I wanted to be best friends with them, while for me it was sometimes more than just friendship. In those friendships I was on the outside, I experienced them very differently and was therefore more inhibited.
‘I was at school in a small village, but from the second class onwards I also went to the youth theatre school in Amsterdam every Saturday. There, I got to know people with whom I all did have a real click. That’s how I discovered that the world is wider than I thought. At 16, I began to see myself as a filmmaker. I had been editing compilation films late into the night for years. It wasn’t until I went to premed visual arts school, where everyone loved what I was making, that I started to realise I could make this my work. That’s how I ended up studying Directing at the HKU.
‘Filming allowed me to be more vulnerable and I became an open book. Film turned out to be a fine tool for me to use creativity to explore why I thought and acted in certain ways. I have an enormous drive to tell about it, also because it might be useful to others. I now get messages from all over the world, from people who have seen my film Tongues during sex education at school. That is exactly what I myself missed out on before.
‘The stories I tell, the themes I work on that change with me as I grow as a person. My work has also become a bit more poetic, the outspokenness that characterises my style comes back more in other elements of film. There is always a bit of lightness in my work though, a nod to the mundane. I like to tell familiar things in a new way by putting a satirical spin on them. I want to tease the viewer, offer new perspectives.
‘I grew up at a time when very few stories were told from a queer perspective. If that had been different and I had seen films from that perspective earlier, I would also have known earlier that I am a lesbian. Back then, you mostly saw stereotypes and then I never thought: that’s me. That did influence my drive. I want positive queer representation, by showing beautiful, real queer people.
‘The ‘queer’ pigeonhole is still badly needed to improve the representation of that group. One day there will come a time when it is just part of society, I really hope so. Already you see more and more gay couples, for example, where it’s not so much about the struggles they’re going through, but more about the fact that love also comes in that form. Just like in the old days when feminists had to take to the streets to stand up for women’s rights. We are not there yet, of course, but the women and queers before us have already changed a huge amount.’
‘That’s why a festival like QFFU is so important. It connects queer makers, everyone wants to mean something to the community. I would also like to contribute to that, to show that there are more people like us. That’s what’s so beautiful about film: you let someone’s story be experienced by watching. A character turns out to be just a person with the same human feelings as everyone else. Film creates connection, even with people who are not queer.
‘On behalf of the QFFU, I am also encouraging young film talent this year, as a jury member of the Ten Minute Challenge. In September, we will choose a winner from ten submissions of short films. What I will pay specific attention to is originality, authenticity, creativity, passion, daring. Above all, I want to give young makers a message: if you write something and think it’s not good enough, don’t let your doubts stop you. To grow is to keep making constantly.’
Text: Eva van der Meer
Image: Dominique Gimberg