CN: wh*rephobic language, The Danish Girl, brief mention of horror, swearing
Queers in Shorts is the free monthly LGBT-themed short films night in the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse bar and it has a great poster: firstly it’s orange, and not enough things in life are orange, and secondly it is punny because it uses shorts (rainbow-coloured ones!) hanging on a washing line to represent short films. Good posters make great events even better and bad events even worse, but October’s Queers in Shorts poster did somewhere between the two.
In the very informal bar setting, the night took the format: introduction by the host, trailer for a feature length film, two entire short films, repeat. The first item in this formula became the event’s first problem: the host needed to do some revision. For example, when introducing the trailer for Tangerine, about two transgender sex workers (which looks great by the way!), “trans… hookers, is that the right term?” was not the right way to go about it. So many of us marginalized within LGBT+ circles are getting pretty sick of excusing people for easily-corrected offensiveness like this so it was very frustrating.
A similar display of ignorance on the organizers’ part arose when they showed the trailer for The Danish Girl, featuring Eddie Redmayne playing a trans woman, having clearly missed the uproar over giving the role to a cisgender man when so many transgender actresses are struggling to find work. Thankfully, as soon as the trailer was over someone stood up and said “I’m sure this film may be great and everything, but please don’t support films which cast cis men as trans women” and the room burst into applause, whilst I accidentally blurted out “F***ing yes!” The host and other organizers did not comment.
The rest of the content was a mixed bag with nothing truly exceptional, but perhaps as someone who has specialized their degree in queer cinema I am overly fussy about my LGBT+ films. Trailers included one for Dressed as a Girl, introduced as “about the London trans scene” but actually about a troupe of East End drag performers (misguided introduction again!) and Chemsex, telling the stories of many gay men who have sex under the influence of chems (drugs). The latter is produced by Vice and we were warned that it is not an easy watch, which proved true. The Picturehouse will be hosting a panel talk before its full screening on 11th December, and judging by the trailer it will be a compelling watch. We also got a taste of Carol, whose reception at Cannes, despite winning the Queer Palme, focused negatively on its “fairy-tale” nature. But I wonder, why can’t we have our own fairy-tales? Yes, romanticizing lesbian existence and failing to acknowledge the harsher realities of it is bad, but just once in a while, why can’t we have the two princesses playing out a love story for pure entertainment? You can decide for yourselves on that one, but I want to see it. The most exciting trailer however was undoubtedly for Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (I’ll leave you to figure it out from the title) which awakened much excitement in the group of school-aged queers I managed to get caught up in.
In terms of short films, The Hike stood out for all the wrong reasons: a cringeworthy tale of a gay couple and a straight couple going on a hike in the woods takes a comically dramatic turn when they turn into monsters and end up dead. The audience were in stitches in the face of such a ridiculous, predictable and very American film, which probably wasn’t the intention but was fun. Unsurprisingly for a Cambridge audience, the one film that provoked real, unbroken silence in the crowd was 126 LGBTQ Sonnets, Shakespearian sonnets read by LGBTQ voices and shot at a National trust venue. I did have to roll my eyes, because although 126 LGBTQ Sonnets was a fantastic project, I think all films should get the kind of respect it commanded from the audience, not just ones ticking the Cambridge-approved boxes of “Shakespeare” and “National Trust”. But to be fair to the audience I may have just snob-shamed, the funny, freaky, hard-hitting and aesthetically delightful Monster Mash at the other end of the spectrum got a huge cheer and deservedly so. Then Transgender Man’s Visit To Barbershop Marks New Chapter In Life’s monologue format provided some truths about transitioning that had me in tears- my notebook actually says “WHY AM I CRYING???”-but nobody else noticed so we’ll let it slide. The other offerings didn’t inspire much.
So there. We laughed, we (I) cried, we got pissed off at some poor decisions by the organizers and it was all for free. A few things need changing for next time, namely better briefing for the host and more engagement with problems surrounding the films up for screening. Nevertheless, it’s cool that such a film night exists, and I’ll be going again.
Jas Rainbow, Get Real. Editor
For more information on Queers in Shorts, the films from October’s Edition, and future events, find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QinShorts?fref=ts