Mourning Matters: according to Indigenous scholar and activist Poka Laenui’s groundbreaking manifesto “Processes of Decolonization,” mourning is one of the most essential of the five phases of decolonization and healing from the affects of colonization, preceded by “recovery” of Indigenous knowledges and followed by the “dreaming” phase of decolonization. Join Alec Butler and Rahim Thawer for an evening of short films exploring queer grief in the midst of a global pandemic. We as queer people have a history of being denied occasions to publicly mourn losing our lovers and friends, in the past this was a painful reality of the AIDS pandemic. Decolonizing death and mourning are an important part of coming to terms with the past and dreaming towards a decolonized futurity that must be created as part of global recovery from this latest pandemic.
ghosts by Joseph Medaglia (Canada / 4:00 / 2018)
Ghosts is an experimental video that uses illustration and digitized 8mm film to explore concepts of childhood, sexuality, chrononormativity, indoctrination, and (metaphorical) death. The video disrupts the boundaries of past/present/future, birth/life/death, and humans/ghosts/monsters and encourages a dynamic engagement with such spaces.
Ghosts is based on the novel, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, that many children in Canada read in school. The novel centres on a post-apocalyptic future where people, animals and other living forms that present physical differences are ousted to 'the fringes' by a strict Christian society. Within that society, a group of children develops a telepathic ability, a non-visible difference, that must be hidden from the dominant norm for fear of being ostracized. I was drawn to the non-visible difference as a metaphor for my queer Otherness in an immigrant Italian-Canadian, Roman Catholic upbringing.
Ghosts was edited according to the structure of the novel where the Otherness of the telepathic children becomes visible through their embodied actions, such as speech and movement. The novel is coded, each page equal to one second, and the video edited according to pages where Otherness is made visible. Still images, repetition, and non-linear narratives were techniques used to resist normative, structural time. Illustrations of child-monsters fuse with personal family footage to reveal relationships between embodied subjectivity and regulatory (religious, familial, temporal, institutional) culture.
This project is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Sum (Heart) by Jaene Castrillon (Canada / 2:27 / 2016)
Based on ideas of Zen Buddhism and rooted in the 7 Grandfather teachings, Sum (Heart) is a rumination on death, grief and letting go. Starting out as a visual mourning song to Wendy Babcock, Mr Toqui Wong and Jack, empty landscapes represent the yearning for the company of dead friends. Water becomes a metaphor for grief and mourning, the ebbs and flows of nature reminds us of the cycle of life which transforms into a stark ode to a new day and new beginnings. I put all my sadness, prayers and hope into this trilogy while still aching for their presence. Looking at the sky, the water and the land, the film wonders if maybe they are still with me.
While Jaene's work spans analogue and digital. She has a dedicated practice of using accessible media that compliments her advocacy work around poverty and trauma. Sum (Heart) was made with Jaene's iphone 5S for both audio and visual collection. She hopes to show the power of capturing a moment even with only a mobile phone.
2076 (Elegy) by Karly Stark (U.S.A. / 05:40 / 2016)
In the year 2076, a cyborg finds moving images made by their great-grandmother in the last years of celluloid. Looking at the images, they are struck by the past, causing them to dig into their own memories, history, and identity.
Gleaned from images from the filmmaker's life, 2076 looks at the ways in which familial history and queer identity are communicated through the archive/photographic image. Topically situated as the analog image is quickly disappearing, this film explores its virtues, illustrating the ways in which the past imbues small moments with power and glimpses of our past can speak and serve as catharsis to our present.
Spirit Glitch by Mary Galloway (Canada / 7:46 / 2019)
A queer woman of colour struggles to regain her voice form the void as traumatic memories threaten to glitch her spirit away piece by piece, leaving an empty shell. With every ounce of willpower, she must find the strength to face the reality of another day.
On the Line by Tina Takemoto (USA / 6:43 / 2018)
"On the Line" is inspired by Isa Shimoda, a butch gender nonconforming immigrant who served meals to Japanese American tuna cannery workers in her restaurant on the docks of San Diego in the 1930s. She was known for her masculine attire as well as her skills at naginata, a sword-based martial art practiced by Japanese women. Her restaurant was a refuge for the women who endured gruesome hours cleaning fish and lived in meager housing shelters known as "fish camp." Shimoda has two sets of wartime records from the incarceration camps—one identifying her as female, the other as male.
"On the Line" uses Shimoda's story as a point of departure for honoring the Japanese American women who lived, loved, and worked together during the prewar era and beyond. The film uses hand painted and hand processed Super 8 and 16mm film combined with archival footage from the Center for Asian American Media's home movie collection. It conjures up the homosocial worlds of the tuna factory, the restaurant, and naginata, where women might find same-sex intimacy amid sake and fish guts while the men were off to sea.
Part of the Queer Camp Trilogy.
Silvia in the Waves / Silvia dans les vagues by Giovana Olmos (Canada / 13:00 / 2017)
Noa struggles to honor the identity of his recently deceased parent while his mother tries to uphold the appearance of a conventional family. Grief and fantasy entwine to reveal the complex relationship between history and erasure, identity and memory.
Ritual by Clayton Beugeling (Canada / 5:34 / 2017)
"Ritual" is a non-linear video piece that explores cosmic mythmaking. As the video loops, a cyclical story of birth, separation, transformation, purification, death, and rebirth is told through provocative imagery and lyrical text.
Winter’s End by Wrik Mead (Canada / 12:30 / 2010)
A wintery sun sets on a scene of loss and mourning. The grieving protagonist plummets capriciously from one state of sadness and confusion to another. Battered by forces malevolent and absurd, mirroring his unpredictable emotional states, he repeatedly falls into an avalanche of ice. Down into a barrage of helping hands, down into a winter forest, down into rooms full of memories, and finally down into the place where he must accept the truth.
Loose Lips by Louis Esme (Canada / 5:00 / 2010)
A memory of the land and ancestors around the Annapolis Valley. The animated petroglyphs are from rubbings found at Kejimkujik, while the moving images were recorded near Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, Wabanakik.
Program Still: Ritual by Clayton Beugeling