Continuing our reporting from this year’s Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest (12 to 17 NOV 2019) we take a look at FISH OUT OF WATER, a wide-reaching programme of short films curated by young people from Project Indigo.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
Arriving at the Rose Lipman Building at lunchtime on the last day of Fringe!, everything has a delicate “morning after the night before” whiff… Due to the change in venue – and thus a change in licensing rules – the bar is shuttered and the chilly screening room feels in need of some animation. Elsewhere, safe sex specialists The Love Tank are gearing up for their popular spanking workshop in the subterranean Love Hub, promising a rude awakening for all.
The Rose Lipman’s community centre aesthetic seems fitting for our next screening programme. FISH OUT OF WATER’s lineup of short films was fully curated by young people involved with Hackney youth group, Project Indigo. The screening room is brought to electric life by their urgent and breathless introduction, participants speaking passionately about gender dysphoria, equating the feeling to a painful, perpetual homesickness: “We want to go home. Let us.” The value of such groups is then celebrated – “When you’re so used to being on the margins… being normal is a blessing” – before a final plea for unity through our collective difference:
“We stand in pride in who we are.”
Opening the films, Holly Summerson’s malleable animation ACCEPTABLE FACE illustrates firsthand accounts of how even accepting friends and family can still expect LGBTQ+ people to fit in. The film’s realisation of how it would “Be nice to be the whole person that you are, the whole time” sets up themes for much of the rest of the programme.
Amrou Al-Kadhi’s ANEMONE tackles this by showing how a young girl struggling to fit within the tramlines of her Evangelical Christian family, discovers an alternative source of inspiration in the gender fluid sea life she encounters in her job in a pet shop: “Mum told me to be honest with her… this is me, always.”
Themes of young people (re)shaping their own lives are echoed in THE ONE YOU NEVER FORGET, Morgan Jon Fox’s cute as polished buttons prom-night comedy with a Shaun Mendes soundtrack. Santiago León’s ALMA is another school-based drama about a young trans woman getting to grips with identity, desire and dating (this time with a deliciously loud death metal score). Project Indigo themselves got hands-on designing and making the claymation characters for animation EYES, a film by Lily Ash Sakula that shows how the micro-aggressions of others can really drag you down.
Two films lifted the roof, in very very different ways… Jake Shannon’s SAMMY THE SALMON (our main featured imaged) is possibly the strangest film we’ve (ever) seen at Fringe! A man struggling with his closeted identity finds relationship advice from a stranded salmon on the shoreline, taking his (un)wise counsel to come out and start anew. Pitched perfectly, this is a surreal cautionary tale about how, even when we make positive life gains, we might need to leave our old ‘friends’ behind… We won’t do spoilers. You just have to see this one.
STONEWALL FOREVER looked back over our collective shoulders at the still recent history of the Stonewall Riots and the origins of Pride events in New York one year later: “What started as a question mark downtown ended up as an exclamation point!”
Throughout these histories, pivotal efforts of trans people of colour like Marsha P. Johnson have been overlooked and marginalised. Painful archival footage of Sylvia Rivera being booed at a lesbian and gay rally takes us back to one of the urgent questions asked by ACCEPTABLE FACE earlier in the screening: “How different is queer?” Director Ro Haber answers this through interviews with contemporary campaigners like intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonos. STONEWALL FOREVER offers a suitable message in this setting about how the roots of activism continue to spread and branch through the generations.
And that’s the meat of it…
ACCEPTABLE FACE | dir. Holly Summerson | UK | 2019 | 6min
A beautiful fluid animation exploring societal expectations, micro aggressions and the acceptable face of Gay.
ANEMONE | dir. Amrou Al-Kadhi | UK | 2018 | 18min
When societal pressure escalates, Anemone finds comfort in the gender fluidity of sea creatures.
THE ONE YOU NEVER FORGET | dir. Morgan Jon Fox | USA | 2019 | 8min
Unsure how his parents will feel about his choice of prom date, Carey nervously prepares for his first dance.
SAMMY THE SALMON | dir. Jake Shannon | Australia | 2018 | 6min
When Spencer meets Sammy his life begins to go in the right direction, but even magical talking fish can get on your nerves.
EVA NON PIACE | dir. Martina Dimitrova | Germany | 2017 | 7min
A camp ’80s tribute, and a near disaster in the hair salon.
ALMA | dir. Santiago León | Colombia | 2018 | 15min
Alma, a young trans woman, takes her first steps towards self love and relationships.
STONEWALL FOREVER | dir. Ro Haber | USA | 2019 | 21min
An intergenerational, intersectional look at the history of the Stonewall Riots and how the beginnings of the modern movement for LGBTIQA+ rights continue to influence and inspire new generations of activists.
EYES | dir. Lily Ash Sakula | UK | 2019 | 4min
A mixed media animation exploring how we move through the world. Are we looked at? Or are we seen? Made in collaboration with Project Indigo.
KIDDY SMILE: SLAP MY BUTT | dir. Pierre Saba-Aris | France | 2019 | 4min
A fun sexy and provocative take on the sex worker/client dynamic.
“Project Indigo is a youth group for young people in Hackney who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex or who are questioning their sexual or gender identity, and aged between 13-25. It is a supportive space where young LGBTQI+ people can make friends, have fun and be creative. We meet every Thursday, at the Off Centre in Hackney, from 17.30 – 19.30.”
Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest
“Since 2011, Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest has been an entirely volunteer-run organisation rooted in London’s queer creative scene. In Novembers, and throughout the year, we showcase an eclectic mix of films, arts and events celebrating LGBTIQA+ stories from around the world, welcoming everybody.”
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