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Colors of the rainbow on the big screen

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The love for LGBTQIA+ films extends beyond Queer Film Festival Utrecht in the Netherlands. There are three other film festivals in the Randstad which QFFU is happy to cooperate with. Get to know these film festivals with a passion for all things LHBTQIA+ too. 

Kaboom Animation Film Festival
Those looking for queer animated films can check them out at Kaboom Animation Festival. This ‘one-stop shop for everything animated’ screens ten days of “so much animation” every April, in the words of junior programmer Mackenzie Fincham. 

And queer animated film has earned a solid place in the program, according to Mackenzie: “In our competition program every year there are rock-solid queer films. These are not always about queer love or sex life, some films just count for their representation of the queer community.”

Separately, Kaboom always has a lhbtqia+ program. This year, it was called “Conque(e)r the world,” featuring films from around the world, even those places where talking about sexuality is not a given.

Not just having to feel
In short, Kaboom shows a lot of animation and a lot of queer, in the broadest sense of the word. Mackenzie explains why: “Queer film can help claim space to be yourself. If people don’t feel understood in everyday life, they can still feel understood by watching a film with characters like them. This way they can experience that they are not alone.”

Festivals like QFFU are important
Festivals like QFFU are therefore very important, according to Mackenzie: “People crave them. When I participated in a panel discussion by Kaboom and QFFU about queer representation in animation film, the room was packed.” 

Fortunately, according to Mackenzie, ‘independent’ queer animation is going like a rocket: “In our Kaboom program there are bangers every year. There are also good examples on streaming platforms, such as ‘The Owl House,’ ‘Dead End: Paranormal Park’ and ‘Wendell & Wild.’ That would not have been possible five years ago.”

So the trend is positive, Mackenzie concludes. “We just have to keep going: get angry when things get cancelled, keep pushing. We can just grab our space, make the films ourselves and organize the festivals we need. That does eventually bleed through to mainstream film.”

Do you have an interest in films about being transgender and gender diversity? Then you were in the right place in May, at the multi-day film festival TranScreen. “We offered engaging workshops and talks, panels, debates, parties and an expo,” TranScreen’s Femke outlined the breadth of the festival. “Sports was one of the themes this year and we had an actual porno block on Friday night.” 

Did you miss the festival? Then according to Femke, you don’t have to wait until next year: “Throughout the year we also have several screenings, both of our own at Kriterion, and together with festivals in other cities.”

“This should all contribute to increasing gender diversity and awareness around it,” Femke explains, “As well as the visibility, acceptance and empowerment of trans and gender diverse people. Moreover, TranScreen is a valuable meeting place for many people. And that gives me a lot of energy,” Femke proudly states.

Film contributes to empathy and understanding
Femke’s enthusiasm for the festival aligns with her love for the medium of film: “I think it’s a very beautiful way to make a connection. If you only read things or see them on the news, it often remains a bit impersonal. But when you see a film, you get to know a character better and feel more empathy. Unfortunately, that is much needed.” 

In addition, according to Femke, the representation of trans people could still be much better. Femke: “It’s just nice to see someone who is like you.”

So as far as Femke is concerned, there can’t be enough festivals like TranScreen and QFFU. “I wish every city had a festival like this. We’re seeing more and more ‘feature films,’ with big budgets. I hope that develops. That it becomes much more normal to see queer people in everything.”

Roze Filmdagen
Whereas Kaboom and TranScreen each exist in their own niche within the lhbti+ community, Roze Filmdagen specifically opts for a broad and diverse programming that everyone from the community can identify with, explains artistic director Werner Borkes: “But we mostly program gems from the ‘art house’ world, which no Dutch cinema has yet screened.” 

One of the roles Werner sees for Roze Filmdagen in this regard is the role of guide, he says: “There is a lot of LGBTQIA+ offerings but which streaming service do you subscribe to? And which film is worth watching? Let us make that selection.”

Meeting place and safe haven 
Why film? “Everyone needs role models,” Werner replied. “In my youth there were only two television channels and hardly any people I saw myself in. That’s what the festival is for, to share recognition with like-minded people.”

“And in a safe setting,” Werner outlines a third role. “In a regular cinema, the audience can still erupt as soon as a kiss between two men appears on the screen.” 

Dreams to spare
That mindset can be formed early on. That’s why the festival works closely with schools, which Werner hopes will open their doors wider: “Sometimes schools show films, but not for everyone. It would be great if even more schools came to the festival with buses. We offer an immersive setting that is actually indispensable.” 

“Besides students, I would also like to welcome more foreign guests. And perhaps we could become producers, for productions by young talents,” Werner outlines his ambitions.

There is plenty of space
Werner sees a bright future for festivals like QFFU: “There are fortunately more films being made than we can all screen. It would be nicer if we didn’t have to exist, because of an abundance of LGBTQIA+ content at all the mainstream festivals. Until then, I’m only too happy to keep doing this.” 

More than just film
From inspiring panel discussions to splashy afterparties, at Kaboom, TranScreen and Roze Filmdagen, art, culture and community come together in a safe celebration of expression and inclusivity. Together with these festivals, QFFU is building a colorful world of queer stories that reach beyond the big screen.

Tekst: Arjan van Rooijen