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What Came Before #34
by Marinell Haegelin

The oldest, biggest, and queerest of Hamburg’s film festivals has been around 34 years, starting in a University of Hamburg classroom in 1989 enrolled in a seminar about the hardly mentioned "Homosexuality in Film." Subsequently banning together, and with solid support from the Metropolis communal cinema, during the summer of 1990 the Kinemathek Hamburg hosted the “Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage Hamburg.” Now established, the film festival began putting down roots.

Never dreaming that what emerged would, 34 years later, become Germany’s largest Queerest festival and one of Hamburg’s yearly main attractions drawing 15,500 people. The festival features LGBTQ+ long/short films, plus themed discussions and workshops relating to films in that year’s program. What’s especially impressive is that the Hamburg International Queer Film Festival (HIQFF) is a self-managed and organized collective of tireless, avid, and eager lesbians, gays and queers that work, mainly on a volunteer basis, to pull off this fantastical film festival year in and year out.

In 1995 and because the festival was thriving, the non-profit organization Querbild e.V. was formed to keep everything organized, besides sponsoring and providing the festival with the legal framework for acquiring financial support. Additionally, the 360-plus strong active members involved in promoting and supporting the festival christened themselves the Push-Up Club to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2022. This year the special ticket presale event for club members was at 3001 Kino giving them the opportunity to exchange complimentary double- and multi-tickets for films in the program. Invitations to the Opening/Closing Film & Award Ceremony are a given.

Onward and upward the new name chosen in 2021 was introduced in 2022 through rebranding. For the 21st century, let’s face it, the moniker “Lesbisch Schwulen Filmtagen Hamburg” ([LSF] Lesbian-Gay Film Days Hamburg) was a mouthful, plus a phonetic minefield for non-native speakers. LSF had stood strong almost 32 years and, with a new century, new issues, aims, and goals it was, in fact, time to change the whole kit and caboodle. Following many years of discussion, in 2010 “Queer” was attached to its title. HIQFF’s 26.08.2021 statement release read: “…by renaming the festival we want to actively engage in a process of change, instead of standing still. "Queer" will be our focus in the future—a strong, political term, which will be accepted and will agitate, be inclusive but disturbing, a term that brings with it an awareness of the past and is in tune with the present.”

The 34th Opening Night Gala was held at Kampnagel, and its attendees were dressed to the gills and ready to party. The 2023 opening film, ORLANDO, MA BIOGRAPHIE POLITIQUE (ORLANDO, MEINE POLITISCHE BIOGRAFIE) by French director Paul B. Preciado ignores boundaries of time, countries, and gender with 25 actors, between 15 and 70 years, playing the character Orlando. The characters confront, fight for, challenge and question issues that trans* people do daily, and its reminder: “trans* is beautiful.” In its program, HIQFF singles out Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel, Orlando, pointing out she “[W]rote about trans* and non­binary experiences almost one hundred years ago.”

Brazilian filmmaker Gustavo Vinagre’s festival trailer’s theme was “It is Allowed.” According to Vinagre, “I wanted to express the queer community’s capacity to turn negatives (no sex allowed) into affirmations (nose sex allowed, knee sex allowed)—that, to me, is the basis of queer survival. I also wanted to express fluidity and lack of gender.” This he equally applied to the festival’s “playful and silly” poster.

Some highlights from the 2023 program are: Queer Education: LE PARADIS (THE LOST BOYS), Zeno Graton, Belgium | France 2023, together with “the queer school education project “soorum” from the Magnus Hirschfeld Centre and the Working Group on Diversity from the “Landesinstitut für Lehrerbildung und Schulentwicklung” (State Institute for Teacher Training and School Development). Swarm Viewing Destination Queer: Time Traveling to “Destination Queer” for a “swarm viewing” of 1995 onwards films/videos from the “bildwechsel” team’s archives. Bildwechsel’s amazing collection of international art by women+ artist and film/videomakers, plus intersex, trans* and queer collections are also curated. New Queer Brazilian Cinema: curated by Wellington Almeida, a Berlin based filmmaker, programmer, and writer.

Let’s Talk Film Lab: Monika Treut (Gendernauts 1999; Genderation 2021) and Toni Karat talk about Karat’s experiences making NARCISSISM, 2022. Panorama Classic Films included Sally Potter’s 1992 version of ORLANDO starring Tilda Swinton and Quentin Crisp; HIQFF’s small, good online program ran the week afterward in cooperation with Metropolis Kino’s Metropolis+ streaming service. The 2023 and eigth Queerscope Debut Film Award went to WHO I AM NOT by Tünde Skovrán, South Africa | Rumania | Canada | Germany | USA. Queerscope’s an independent union of queer film festivals, of which 24 are in Germany and three in Switzerland.

This year there was special emphasis on choosing films with trans* and non-binary experiences for the program. HIQFF offers an opportunity for looking and listening, sharing and supporting, and combating discrimination through open, honest conversations and informatively entertaining films.