Queerly Beloved launched this week with An Animation Affair, a collection of short animations featuring queer and feminist themes and a conversation with the film-makers.
The new collective is the brainchild of Alexandra Penelope, film-maker and queer activist. A star graduate from Westminster University’s Contemporary Media Practice course, she says: “as much as I enjoy creating my own work, I really wanted the opportunity to amplify other voices and bring together the queer community to share, educate, and inspire.”
This inaugural event was hosted at Hackney’s The Glory, where queerness is celebrated from drag to life drawing. The QB Collective transformed the downstairs venue into a beautiful cinema space with almost 40 people clustered around candle-lit cabaret tables, with the aroma of popcorn and espresso martinis adding to the ambience.
After a welcome by Alexandra, the films kicked off with Kate Jessop’s Parents Chat, part of her popular web series Tales from Pussy Willow. This witty coming out conversation is all the more outrageous because it re-enacts moments that Kate and her friends have experienced in the real world.
This was followed by Erasure (2016) by Birgitta Hosea, which uses repetitive animation to highlight and erase the generations of women who perform domestic labour. The film uses textures of ink, bleach and other cleaning products and has a personal authenticity gained from Birgitta’s own experience as a cleaner before becoming Head of Animation at the Royal College of Art.
The Queen's Tale gave us a traditional fairy tale setting in which a King and Queen preside over a competition for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Nathalie Sandstad and Sarah Hiorns queered the narrative for their student film at Arts University Bournemouth, creating a familiar yet sassy short: the LGBT princess film we've all been waiting for.
From there we returned to experimental animation with George Barber’s hypnotic 2001 Colours Andy Never Though Of (1996). Warhol’s iconic image of Marilyn Monroe is continually manipulated as if shedding mask after mask to reveal another beautiful – if distorted – identity. By disrupting this ‘ideal’ of Western femininity in the context of the evening, the film took on a queer-feminist narrative, that may or may not have been intended in the original work.
Next up was Moi (2013), a lyrical hand-drawn animation in which a woman is literally imprisoned in a man’s body. Artist Inés Sedan uses metaphors of music and dance to portray society’s stiff formality, inevitable repression and ultimate release.
Not Every Princess Needs a Prince brought us back to a world of princesses, but one in which heteronormativity is rejected like a clunky foot trying to squeeze into the glass slipper of queerness. Alexandra Penelope and Lucy Mills used scratch video techniques to edit together snippets of Disney princesses, with a laugh-out-loud climax that will banish your dreams of Prince Charming forever.
The final film was Kate Jessop’s production Queer Heroes (2017), a collaboration in which 14 queer animators celebrate their personal heroes. Using the idea of the Exquisite Corpse game, the final frame of one segment became the first frame of the next, giving a seamless transition between different styles and approaches. Beautifully edited and ending with David Bowie’s Heroes, it left us uplifted and inspired.
After a short break and refuelling at the bar, film-makers Alexandra Penelope, Birgitta Hosea and Kate Jessop were welcomed onto the stage by Leo Crane, Director of London Animation and queer life drawing group Starkers. They kicked off a discussion with the audience on queerness and representation, with themes including:
- Visibility: that we need more films showing queerness, building on New Queer Cinema and finding a voice at festivals and on mainstream television.
- Permeability between marginalised groups, how film should represent the full spectrum of humanity.
- Authenticity: can you truly represent a character if you have not lived their experience? The importance of research, consultation and collaboration.
At 9pm, we moved upstairs to the main bar. The socialising and discussion continued far later than is sensible for a Monday night, proving Queerly Beloved have created not only a safe and engaging space to be challenged and educated through art, but a confident and friendly community.
Queerly Beloved will be back with an event on feminist film in August. for more information follow the Facebook page.
Some of the films from An Animation Affair
And some more queer animations...
Inspired by the evening, we have searched out some more queer animations, from Barry Purves's doomed Achilles to a rollercoaster ride through gay love and a dog who is a cat inside. Have you made a queer film? Let us know!