The largest gay film festival in Asia, the Q! Film Festival, will open its doors to the public for the eighth year in a row on Sunday.
Organized by the nonprofit arts community Q-Munity, the festival will feature up to 120 films from 20 countries under the theme “Queer Life in Asian Culture.”
“There is a huge demand now for Asian films everywhere. It’s a trend, a cool thing, a hype,” said John Badalu, the director of the festival. “People are seeing more Asian films and I see gay people here like Asian films more than the West.”
Festival highlights include “Dolls,” a coming-of-age tale from the Czech Republic, the indie romantic drama “A moment in June” from Thailand, and from Indonesia, “Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly,” a story of self-discovery and hope.
Since 2002, the Q! Film Festival has been the cultural voice of the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) community in Indonesia.
But not all of the movies screening at Q! are gay movies made for a gay audience, Badalu said.
Some of the problems faced by both homosexual and heterosexual Indonesian women are addressed in two of this year’s standout movies: the documentary “At Stake” and filmmaker-activist Ratna Sarumpaet’s “Jamila and the President.”
A special feature of this year’s Q! will be screenings of films influential in fashion, including “The Fifth Element,” with costumes designed by John Paul Gautier, “The Age of Innocence,” which won an Academy Award for best costume design in 1993, and Johnny To’s martial arts fantasy “Heroic Trio.”
“We want to make something fresh every year to keep people interested. And LGBTIQ people love fashion,” Badalu said.
Laura Gerber, director of the Berlin Asian Hotshots Film Festival, Ocean Leroy, the German drag-king actor, and Australian director Kim Munro are among the international guests expected to attend the festival.
Also integral to Q! are discussions, book launches and art exhibitions held at a variety of cultural venues, including the French and German cultural centers, Komunitas Salihara arts complex and Cemara 6 art gallery.
“A festival is not only about screening films and having Q&A sessions. We’re here to promote queer culture and encourage people to be more open-minded. Not everyone likes films,” Badalu said.
Art is on offer at the exhibitions “Japanese Queer Manga sketches” and “Fetish,” and literature at the launch of Jakarta Globe features reporter Dalih Sembiring’s latest novel, “Nel,” about the contrast between homosexuality and militarism in a small North Sumatran town.
American anthropologist Tom Boellstorff will also present the Indonesian-language version of his book, “The Gay Archipelago,” based on his research of Indonesia’s gay community in Makassar, Bali and Surabaya.
Q! Gossips — informal discussions — will be attended by Dede Oetomo, the founder of the country’s first gay group Gaya Nusantara and lesbian activist Ayu Rai Laksmini, who will share their stories.
“The question is how to formulate these events so that people feel comfortable to attend them and are more relaxed,” Badalu said. “We hope the films are inspiring. If a small amount of people become inspired or get more knowledge from attending the festival, that’s a positive.”
The upcoming festival has seen more than its share of challenges due to the new anti-porn bill issued in 2008. An exhibition of sketches by Tom de Pekin was banned by the Department of Culture and Tourism, while a cultural institute claimed the works of some of the artists from “Fetish,” were unusable.
“Because the anti-porn bill is there, everyone’s scared. People who’ve worked with us for years are changing,” Badalu said, referring to some of the international cultural institutes in Jakarta.
But despite the difficulties, the festival is recording larger audience numbers every year.
“Lots of people are also starting to do things outside of the festival. Arus Pelangi [members of Rainbow Flow] were once in the audience of Q! and they wanted to do something more frontal to change the law,” John said of the organization, which now fights for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.
“Our main job is to inspire people and we have managed to do that,” John said.
Q! runs until Aug. 5 in Jakarta, before moving to four other cities in the country.
For complete listings, go to www.qfilmfestival.org.
Q Film Festival 2009 Highlights
Jakarta, 26 July to Aug. 5
Sunday, July 26
7:30 p.m. Opening Film “A Moment in June” at GoetheHaus
9:30 p.m. Screening “Low Beer” at Cemara 6, Kineforum, ErasmusHuis, GoetheHaus, CCF, Subtitles, Komunitas Salihara, Japan Foundation
Monday, July 27
7:30 p.m. Screening “Motherland” at Cemara 6
5pm Screening “Soul Maid” at ErasmusHuis
7:30 p.m. Screening “Innocent” at ErasmusHuis
Monday, July 27 to Aug. 5
Comic exhibition “Journey to Wonderland” at CCF
Tuesday, July 28
7:30 p.m. Screening “At Stake” at ErasmusHuis
7:30 p.m. screening “Motherland” at Kineforum
8 p.m. Screening “Dose” at Komunitas Salihara
Wednesday, July 29
7:30p.m. Screening “Jamila and The President” at ErasmusHuis
6 p.m. Screening “Me Myself” at Subtitles
8 p.m. screening “Silat Lidah Binan” at GoetheHaus
Thursday, July 30
8 p.m. screening “German Gems” at GoetheHaus
7 p.m. screening “Boys Will Be Boys” at CCF
6:30 p.m. book launching “Gay Archipelago” at Komunitas Salihara
Friday, July 31
7:30 p.m. screening “ Give Me Your Hand” at Kineforum
8 p.m. screening “Rush Hour in a Special Musical : Sex Part3” at GoetheHaus
2 p.m. Screening “Me Myself” at CCF
5:30 p.m. workshop “Japanese Queer Comic” at CCF
Saturday, August 1
5:30 p.m. Artist Talk: Pekin and the 7th Blue Artland at Cemara 6
3:30 p.m. book launching “Nel” at GoetheHaus
2 p.m. screening “Pascal-Alex Vincent Films” at CCF
Sunday, August 2
7:30 p.m. screening “Home Made” at Kineforum
Monday, August 3
7:30pm Screening “Jamila and The President” at Kineforum
7:30pm Screening “Q! Gossip : Sex 101” at ErasmusHuis
8 p.m. screening “Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly” at GoetheHaus
Tuesday, August 4
5:30 p.m. screening “Me Myself” at Kineforum
7:30 p.m. screening “Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly” at ErasmusHuis