Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Media, Film and Music


The intersection of queer sexualities with global politics has become a pressing issue in recent years: violence at pride marches in Serbia, India and South Africa are just one vector of tensions among ideas of global citizenship, nationalist politics, and sexual identity. At the same time, film and other visual media have formed increasingly transnational routes to queer cultural visibility. Audiences in the UK can view cinematic representations of gay and lesbian life in Thailand, and vice versa. This project will investigate the role of film and video in negotiating queer cultural identities in the global context.

The project brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars along with filmmakers, activists and film festival programmers. This combination of theoretical approaches with the perspectives of creative industry professionals and media artists will enable a broader understanding of the complex dynamics of queer film cultures, as well as helping identify new ideas for local and international engagement. The research will consist of four main events, spread through 2012. The first is a workshop on queer cinema and the politics of the global. This event, based at the University of Sussex, will bring together a prestigious group of international scholars with specialisms in international cinema studies, media and culture, the politics of globalisation, queer theory, and philosophy to outline the key issues and methods necessary to develop research in this newly emerging area.

The second phase will augment this foundational scholarly work with the perspectives of film curators and activists. Core scholarly participants will be joined by film programmers representing a range of queer cultural activity, such as the transgender film festival in Amsterdam, the MIX experimental queer film festival in São Paolo, and the Margaret Mead Human Rights film festival in New York City. In addition to a workshop with scholars and film programmers, there will be two public roundtables, in Brighton and London, which will bring both local queer communities and film festival audiences into the conversation. These public events will be developed in partnership with the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Duke of York Cinema in Brighton.

The third event will draw on the expertise of both the scholars and the programmers to curate a series of international queer film and video work. This series will screen in partnership with CineCity, the Brighton-based film festival. Films will be curated as part of the research process, and the series will thus form an important public-facing output of the project. The centrepiece of the programme will be East Side Story (2006-8), a two-channel video and photography installation by Croatian artist Igor Grubic which addresses the rights of sexual minorities in former Yugoslavia. Horrified by the violence aimed at gay pride parades in Belgrade and Zagreb, Grubic worked with choreographers and dancers to produce what he calls 'dance interventions' on the exact spots where the violent attacks took place, suggesting a creative resistance to intolerance that expresses the new progressive movements in the region. In a public talk at the Lighthouse Gallery in Brighton, Grubic will discuss his work in relation to queer cinema and activism in conversation with a performance studies scholar.

The final workshop addresses the question of queer counterpublics. Film festivals provide one of the few safe public spaces for queer culture, especially in regions where homosexuality is not legally protected. One of the key aims of this project is to extend that space, both by creating a rare opportunity for scholars, curators and activists to work together to analyse global queer cinema and by asking the group to strategise how we might help grow and develop these cultural spaces.

Planned Impact

The project has a strong impact agenda. It will bring scholars together with international professionals in creative industries and non-profits, i.e. festival programmers, filmmakers, and LGBT activists. It will forge links with non-academic organisations i.e. film festivals, human rights groups, community organisations and the film industry. One of the key aims of the project is to strategise how film and media scholars might communicate with these non-academic fields to influence the media cultures available to queer communities around the world. Film festival culture is an area ripe for these kinds of intervention. Festival programmers already benefit from the work of academic film studies in their curatorial practice, drawing from the knowledge of film histories and genres created by scholarship, as well as its critical debates and educational impetus. Scholars, meanwhile, benefit from the work of curators in creating new archives, circulating significant films internationally, and shaping audiences. By building participation around programmers and scholars from different backgrounds (UK, Brazil, Singapore, India, USA etc.), the network will be able to reach publics in a wide range of global communities, and will have significant impact in increasing public knowledge of queer film and media.

There are several areas of direct impact and influence. The project includes public-facing aspects which will benefit local queer (and other) communities directly. The film screening series and video installation aim to attract a wide local audience, and will prompt reflection on issues of global citizenship and sexual equality. We will also include films that address specific local audiences such as the Brighton transgender community, who are underserved by traditional media. Bringing significant international artists and programmers to Brighton will enable a wider public to take part in this conversation, and our project partners the CineCity film festival and the Duke of York cinema will increase audiences and provide strong cultural contexts. We also plan to hold a roundtable event in collaboration with the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which will bring in a national LGBT audience and enable us to work closely with the educational and outreach aspects of that major cultural event.

The network also aims for broader forms of impact. The non-academic participants will take ideas from the network back to their work in creating and sustaining queer film cultures and community support projects around the world. This influence will be of direct benefit to queer communities in Mumbai, São Paolo, Amsterdam, New York and London, as well as in the wider network of curatorial and human rights professionals who intersect with these participants. The scholarly participants will also draw from the work of the non-scholars, feeding these experiences and perspectives into their own research and thus improving its responsiveness to contemporary social and cultural issues. Outputs from the project will include collaborations between scholars, activists and creative industry professionals that aim to foster greater communication among stakeholders in queer film and media culture.

Finally, the network will lay foundations for the creation of an archive of queer film and media practice that will promote queer cultural visibility and provide benefits to researchers, students, scholars, and queer communities internationally. The archive will bring together resources on global queer film and video that are currently often unavailable commercially or difficult to locate. A web version will provide an invaluable public resource, targeted at queer audiences, as well as film and media professionals and researchers, forming both a database of global queer films and a curated source of information, film stills and other materials. A material archive, held at Sussex, will eventually provide a major resource for researchers and students.


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